One of the hallmarks of a strong b-to-c company is the reputation of their customer service approach. Think how much the CS interaction defines the brand for customers. As an example, two companies highlight this clearly – L.L. Bean = Good! Comcast = Bad.
Comcast may be delivering an outstanding, clear, signal over a vast network of installations, over 99% of the operating time – a competitively good product in many people’s eyes. But mention their name to a customer who’s had a problem, no matter how minor, that they tried to resolve over the phone, and they will inevitably bend your ear for an hour about how hard it was to communicate and get issues resolved quickly and effectively. Horror stories abound, and multiply daily.
Now, mention L.L. Bean to a customer who’s tried to send something back, or return something to a retail outlet, and they will smile and say that it couldn’t have been easier, and they were nice about it. Bean ships globally to millions of customers a year, from a huge fulfillment facility with hundreds of different products, sizes, colors, styles and variations, leading to millions of pick-and-pack combinations for a given order. Inevitably mistakes occur, but it’s how they handle them that matters to customers. Their policy is that they will take returns of their merchandise and refund or replace, no questions asked. They LIVE that policy every day, and it shows.
If your marketing department is working in concert with your customer service department as they should be, your company can harness the power of the CS relationship with customers to build your reputation, and polish your brand to it’s desired brilliance. If they’re not, you could be languishing in the basement with the likes of those who outsource their CS, ignore complaints, abuse customers, and lose revenue as a result.
Customers will tell you some amazing things, about your own products, sometimes even come up with new uses for your products that you can use to market them! But you have to build in the mechanism for that information to find it’s way up to those who can use it.
Good customer service starts with the ability to empower CS personnel to resolve problems immediately and effectively. The customer is not the enemy, but you’d be surprised how many CS depts treat them that way. It’s not about policy, its about people. They don’t have to be all sweetness and light, but they should be professional, reasonable, helpful and genuinely want to assist the customer. If the response they are trained to offer includes the words “our policy won’t allow for that” – rewrite the policy and retrain the whole crew – it’s defensive, it’s confrontational, its antithetical to “serving” the customer.
Think how many evangelists you’d create if each and every customer interaction was a positive one. How many upsells, how much pass along, how many influencers would you create in the world if every time your company touched a customer, they came away better off for the effort. Think of the sales increase you’ll create, what that would do to the lifetime value of a customer! You can effectively take what is commonly treated as an overhead item and turn it into a profit center, with a few adjustments to the training, scripting and approach of your customer service team.
Tell us your worst customer service stories, and we’ll share them and use them to help make better companies with them.
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