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February 13, 2012 / Steve Hennigs

Good customer service

It has been a while since I have written a post that directly relates to this blog’s title of “WhyshouldIbuy”.  Many posts have provided my opinions on how to improve a website or increase sales.  This post however IMHO discusses what separates good companies from bad in the market we work in today.

Good customer service is easy to recognize, appreciated beyond anything a product or service can do and is very hard to do well all the time.  For these reasons  I believe good customer service is the single most important factor in any company receiving repeat business and gives the company a great answer for prospective buyers to the question “Why should I buy from you”?

When was the last time you had an issue with a product/service that you count on in either your business or personal life in which it was necessary to seek help.  Were you able to solve your issue through an owner’s manual, on the company’s website, through email or did you have to call the company for help?  Whatever channel you went through to get help if you had a good experience I am confident you may even be smiling as you read the last sentence.  On the other hand if your experience was poor try not to throw your laptop, tablet, phone or desktop monitor across the room out of the frustration you may be feeling.  Maybe I am getting more worked up than other people but nothing upsets me more than when I encounter poor customer service.

I said earlier in the post that good customer service is easy to recognize.  People and organizations who provide good customer service do many of the same things.  If you are reading this wondering how you can improve here are a few tips.

Acknowledge that the problem has been heard

This seems like a really simple thing to do but it is easy to forget.  By letting the customer know you have heard their issue and are working on it they receive peace of mind that the issue will be solved.  On the other hand if you start working on an issue without telling the customer their voice has been heard they will be frustrated.  This frustration, if multiplied over several instances, will lead to the customer wondering “Do they even care about me?” which at some point will have them taking their business elsewhere.  Even if acknowledgement takes time away from solving the issue the customer will be happier in the long run.

Provide a time frame for resolving the issue

After you have communicated with the customer that they have been heard the next step is to provide them with a time frame for resolution.  This allows the organization to take into account all other issues in the customer service pipeline, prioritize this particular issue and communicate the resolution time frame with the customer so that everyone’s expectations are on the same page.  That way when you have resolved the issue (of course on time) the customer is satisfied!

It is very important that you are honest in your time frame so that the customer does not feel like they are being jerked around.  If resolution of their particular issue will take a longer time period it is wise to provide the customer with an explanation.  In some cases the customer may not be thrilled with the time frame you tell them but at the very least they know what to expect.

If the time frame changes be sure to communicate with the customer the new time frame and reasons for the change.  This transparency let’s the customer know that you care enough to keep them in the loop and don’t view them as just another support ticket.

On important or time consuming issues; over communicate

There will always be some issues that are difficult to solve, high priority or take a long time to resolve.  When encountered with these types of issues it is critical that you keep the customer informed.  Again the purpose here is to ensure the customer feels that you care about their issue, are doing all you can to get it resolved and making sure everyone’s expectations are in line.  I recommend keeping in touch by visiting the customer’s office if possible or if that is not an option call them on the phone.  I realize that email is convenient but good customer service is not about what is convenient to the organization, it is about serving the customer in the best way possible.

By speaking with them directly not only will you be able to communicate the status of the issue better but give the customer the opportunity to ask questions.  This will ensure that the customer knows you are listening to them, working on the issue, and do care that it gets solved in a timely manner.

Solve the issue!

You would think this goes without saying but I thought I had better be thorough with this post.  Make sure you solve the issue to the point that the customer is satisfied.  If you cannot solve it yourself you need to enlist the help of someone who can.  Customer service in many cases is simply about effort which is why many organizations fail.  Put the work in to get the job done every time and you will be rewarded with satisfied customers and a great reputation in your industry.

Follow up

The last step in good customer service is to follow up to ensure that the issue has remained resolved.  Depending on the issue it can make sense to follow up in a day, a week, a month or even a year.  I would again recommend doing so in person or by phone.

When you follow up well you provide the customer with extra service they may not have been expecting.  What is a better way to ensure customer satisfaction than by exceeding their expectations!

There will always be new products, better technology, cheaper solutions, etc.  Your organization can only control so much when it comes to the products/services that you offer.  What you as an individual and the organization as a whole has complete control over is how you serve your customers.  This will never change.  If you serve them consistently well you will reap the benefits of repeat business, a great reputation and provide perspective customers with a great reason to choose you over all your competition.

Why should I buy from you?  If you answer because we serve our customers better than the rest then my next question would be where do I sign up!

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