Having more customers is a good thing, but it will also mean having to service them. They will call you, email you, and leave comments on your social media pages. Some will love your products and be supportive even as they are having an issue, and others will be extremely difficult to please. Some will have legitimate grievances that will leave you feeling mortified, others will come with complaints that seem so petty that you’ll want to tell them to get lost (but you won’t).
Customer service can make or break your brand. In fact, it’s been shown that customers’ positive sentiment towards a brand increases after an issue with a product is resolved to their satisfaction. With word of mouth being so important in the era of social media, creating goodwill through strong customer service can go a long way towards increasing buzz and sales for your brand.
On the other hand, if you get a reputation having poor customer service or for being stingy, it will also be amplified by social media. As you watch the negative comments and 1-star reviews pile up it will leave you feeling defensive and make your business feel like a tightening noose around your neck. Don’t let this happen to you.
How to provide amazing customer service
There is nothing worse for a customer relationship than leaving someone who is upset hanging as they await a reply regarding a product or shipping issue. Customers expect to have their inquiries responded to within a reasonable timeframe: one business day and ideally faster. Ensure you have the resources and tools in place to address inquiries through whatever channel they may arrive, be it social media, email or phone.
As you deal with customer service inquiries you will notice patterns around issues that arise. While not every situation is black and white, having specific written policies in place for how you deal with issues will save you time, stress and money. Do Your best to stick to them, while keeping an open mind to updating them as required.
In many cases, customers just want to be heard, and taking the time to sincerely listen and understand their issue can go a long way towards resolving it. This means keeping an open mind so that you can see things from their perspective. Maintaining this posture not only prevents you from becoming defensive, it can help you develop better products and policies for dealing with issues as you learn to incorporate customer feedback into your decision-making process.
Take the time to explain to the customer why the issue occurred and apologize. Whether or not it was your fault, people just want to understand what happened. Providing them with background information will make them more empathetic and help them remember that we’re all human beings trying to do our best inside complex systems.
Dealing with Bullies
Some people will persist in trying to get their way with a demand that is clearly unreasonable or defies your stated policy. They will describe how they used to think you were the greatest but now they’ve lost their love for you, and they’re going to trash your brand online if you don’t give them what they want. In general, I would suggest sticking to your policies not giving into these people. Most don’t follow through with their threat or, if they do, they end up looking petty beside the other (hopefully) glowing reviews you’ve generated.
If you are dealing with any volume of inquiries and/or have more than one person fielding incoming inquiries, you may benefit from help desk software, such as Help Scout, Zen Desk, or Fresh Desk. These tools help you keep track of customer communications in a communal environment and template standard responses to frequent questions. See the Tools and software section for more details.
Dealing with Product Quality Issues
Product quality issues can be extremely painful, both financially and emotionally. Whether or not the issue originated through any fault of your own, in the eyes of your customer, you are responsible. Here are some suggestions on what to do when you start to notice a pattern around a specific quality issue.
- Try to reproduce the problem yourself
- Identify the extent of the problem
- Identify whether it is a design issue or a manufacturing issue
- Discuss and list options for addressing the issue
- Identify the financial implications
- Design a formal response
How to provide amazing customer service: Conclusion
Not everyone will love your product and sometimes it’s impossible to understand the context or motivation behind people’s ire. Listen, practice empathy, be consistent and keep your commitments. However, keep in mind that some people are just unhappy and will take it out on whoever happens to be in their line of fire. Do Your best to reach a satisfactory conclusion and move on.