Everyone in the world has a unique idea about great customer service. The seller and the buyer relationship exists only because of a purchase of products or services. Interaction following that sale can determine how the customer perceives the value received. Great businesses offer more than an email address to the customer after the purchase.
Customer support is assumed to be part of the exchange. When a business initiates the next contact, the customer is often surprised and pleased.
Can you remember a time when you spent money and became friends with the seller?
What effect did that have on your future buying decisions?
Online Service and Support
In recent years, companies have broken new ground simply by refusing to offer any type of customer support. For some unknown reason, customers will still choose savings over service.
When the world’s largest online retailer burst onto the scene nearly 20 years ago, the customer who placed an order was not allowed to return the item without paying a restocking fee.
Many customers avoided ordering from this giant unless the item was well-known and presented no risk of dissatisfaction. Once the company started asking why only certain items were selling well, the customers answered those questions loud and clear.
Great Customer Service IS Required
Few people are willing to place an order for unfamiliar items while accepting all of the risks of that purchase.
Multiple ways to reach customer service might seem overwhelming to the online business, but without supporting the customers’ purchases, sales will cease.
The thought of avoiding difficult customers might seem easier to accomplish online, but the unhappy online customer can cost any business far more than providing valuable support.
Customer support has always been considered a ‘business expense’ because contact with the customer happens after the sale. Those encounters can create lifelong customers and ambassadors for the company willing to provide great customer service.
The expense of customer service offered to retain more customers can reduce the cost of advertising and acquiring new customers. Happy customers are less expensive to retain.
High quality online customer service and support must follow standard practices to create a consistent customer experience. Even though extra effort is required to establish those standards, the customers will appreciate knowing what to expect when contacting customer support.
In-Person Customer Service
The Customer Service Desk is visible from virtually anywhere inside a major retail establishment. The amount of activity that cycles through that center of knowledge leaves most customer service professionals exhausted by the end of the workday.
A warm smile is the best calling card when the frantic customer seeks answers to questions that vary from ‘where do I find’ to ‘please refund this purchase.’
Few people can offer great customer service while dealing with people who are assuming an agreeable answer will not be easy to find. Emotions can run high when the same issue surfaces repeatedly for days on end.
Clear signage is very helpful to the customer who might be able to see the answer to her question while standing in line. Current information can be posted in the areas around the customer service desk for those who need more details.
One-to-one contact is less important when the customer has other ways to find answers. No one wants to stand in line, so the better approach is to offer answers that eliminate the need to talk to the person behind the desk.
When the customer service desk is surrounded by bulletin boards, walls and free-standing signs, the customer can be searching for answers even before reaching the desk.
Creative approaches can reduce the need to stand in line when the customer service team is encouraged to answer questions that have not yet been asked. Unfortunately, there are still dozens of exchanges that require the customer and the expert behind the desk.
My Role in Great Customer Service
Every customer has a unique question and situation that creates stress because money is involved. Large purchases can be especially risky for the new customer who is uncertain that issues will be addressed.
After years of working in customer service and support, I have gathered a few expert methods for creating my own superior experiences from either side of the support desk.
As customers, here’s what we can do:
❓ Know, in advance, what is unacceptable as an answer. Anything else, I can work with the support rep to fix the situation.
- as an example, I will not accept having my question batted back at me just to get me to leave
❓ Check my own mood and attitude before contacting support. If I am frustrated, I will wait a couple of hours to send a request or pick up the phone.
❓ Write out my questions and what I expect before I contact customer service. This step causes me to think more carefully about the problem that requires support.
❓ Be patient and friendly to the customer support professional. I always assume that the issue will be addressed to my satisfaction.
My role in a great customer service experience is larger than that of the person who is attempting to help me. Once I know my questions, the entire encounter gets much easier for both of us.
I won’t pretend that some encounters aren’t complete disasters, but I can find answers from anyone willing to ask good questions.
Great Customer Service Still Exists
As the world has shifted from walking into stores, the need for visible customer service has never been greater. The access points must be offered from multiple places, which can create too many questions about the same issue.
Without being reachable, the best customer service can be ruined by lack of assistance in critical situations. Some major issue that affects multiple customers must be handled proactively with real solutions to the problem. Great companies will absorb the expenses to retain customers and regain trust.
Customers rarely assume the best when no one is available to answer questions. Responses to the email and chat channels will reduce frustration and provide help to customers with questions.
We all saw sales channels emerge within a matter of days, but what about customer service where the desk is not the primary point of contact?
Have we found that great customer service is available to support the new shopping trends?
“Business is not just doing deals; business is having great products,
doing great engineering, and providing tremendous service
to customers. Finally, business is a cobweb of human relationships.”
~ Ross Perot