7 ways to nail customer service.

Man's hand striking a very large nail with a very large hammer.

3-minute read

The customer may not always be right (sorry, Mr. Selfridge), but if you want to keep her, you better figure out a way to make her happy.

Now! Not later.

With an endless array of resources and tools to make customer care easy — training programs for brick & mortar store personnel, sophisticated technical tools for selling online, sales coaches for every possible niche — there’s simply no excuse for shoddy customer service.

Website chat function not working? That’s a great way to tick off a potential client.  You’re better off not having a chat box than having one that doesn’t work. !#@/%!!!

If you’re a small company or a startup and don’t have a live person answering the phone, make sure your voice message doesn’t dead end people. Give them some options on how to reach you.

I’ve tried to reach a service provider in the middle of a work day only to hear a message saying. “Sorry, we’re closed now (In the middle of a workday), and no one’s here to help you. Please call back tomorrow.”

Seriously?  Not only can’t I get my question answered but I have to wait 20 hours to even speak to anyone.

Change your voice message if you can’t help a customer.  Give them some other options for how to reach you. Email still works. Or a contact page on your website.

Think “how do I help a customer right now?”

Tomorrow is too late in a world where business is done 24/7 online.

Customer Service Chat
I recently joined a customer service Twitter chat called #CustServ. It “meets” on Tuesday night at 8p CST and lasts for an hour. It’s been around for fourteen years and is still going strong. So you know it must be worthwhile.

Every week features different questions about customer service. So if you ever thought we’d beaten the topic of customer service to death, think again.

Shoutout: In case you’re interested in joining #Custserv chat on TUESDAY 9 pm ET/6 pm PT, reach out to hosts @MarshaCollier and @GregOrtbach on Twitter.

Back to today’s topic…..

Obviously, you’ve never going to be able to make all of your customers happy. But if you don’t satisfy most of them, you’re going to be in trouble.

And satisfying really isn’t sufficient.

Why you need to delight your customers.

Quite simply: if you don’t, there are always eager competitors waiting in the wings!

Think about why you return again and again to shops or websites or service providers. What is it that makes us want to spend our money in some places and not others.

Most of us have favorites. Ever think about why?

As someone whose business depends on excellent customer care, I’m very aware of the type of customer service I receive. And I make it a point to either mention it….to friends or on social media.

Anyone who spends time on social media knows a company can suffer a lot of damage when bad reviews go viral.

So how do you encourage the smiley faces and minimize the bad reviews?

HOW to delight customers.

Here are seven ways:

  1. Be responsive.
    Especially to negative reviews or angry phone calls. The customer may or may not have a valid reason to be angry but that’s not the point. If you don’t respond, you won’t know.
  2. Acknowledge the error.
    If the customer’s anger is justified, this is your opportunity to turn things around and create a fan for life. People forgive. Acknowledging the error or oversight is the second best response on the road to delight. No error? If the customer is wrong (sorry, Marshall Field), address their anger. But don’t apologize for something that’s just a creep sounding off. Say “we’re sorry you had a bad experience” and let it go.
  3. Be authentic.
    In today’s woke world, insincerity feels just plain wrong. We want to do business with people we like and respect. Pretending to give a damn when you really don’t will not win you clients or friends.
  4. Ask for feedback.
    If you’re sincere about making the customer happy, asking for their input on how you can do better says “We want to make things right. We care about you. Your business is important to us.” Who doesn’t want to be heard?
  5. Listen.
    Once you get the feedback….assuming it’s legitimate, do something with it. Asking for input and then ignoring it is worse than if you’d never asked in the first place. But addressing something that would make your business better is a smart move.
  6. Learn from the people who do it best.
    One of the best ways to improve customer service is to learn from the companies that do it best. Pick up the bios of CEOs who built billion-dollar companies. Never a bad idea to learn from the superstars.
  7. Make delighting customers a part of your company culture.
    Then be sure to incorporate it into your branding and new employee onboarding.

How to build delight into your messaging.

I’ve always been intrigued by clever messaging. Especially when it focuses on the customer (as it should).  So the first time I picked up a piece of art I had framed at Artists Frame Service, the little black and yellow tag attached to my package caught my eye (hint: great choice for good grabby design colors).

It said something like “we don’t want you to be satisfied, we want you to be thrilled”. Stuck with me over the years. Today they’ve added stores and  expanded their tagline. It’s now a Thrilled Guarantee.

“We don’t want you satisfied, we want you thrilled. If you’re not 100% thrilled with your order for any reason, let us know and we’ll make it right.”

If that doesn’t tell the client you want them to be happy, I don’t know what does!

And that’s a perfect way to end an article on customer service.

But wait. What would ChatGPT say?

After I wrote this post, I asked ChatGPT for examples of good customer service.  This is what I got.

Text Description automatically generated

Pretty spot on, right?

Took less than 60 seconds to deliver that info. Next time I’ll check with it before I start researching.

Want to read more on customer service?  Here you go:
How to deliver a remarkable customer experience.
Understanding Customer Care.

If you liked this article, we hope you’ll share it with some colleagues. We’d certainly appreciate that!

And you can sign up for our chock-full-of-interesting-news right here.

Thanks for reading and see you next month!

Leave a comment

How to get and maintain a competitive advantage.

Woman athlete leaping in air shows agility during long jump.

Updated March 7, 2023
3 minute read

Ever feel like the world around you is changing too fast for your company to keep up and you’ve lost your competitive advantage?

Of course you have! Every small business owner or entrepreneur has probably felt this way at one time or another.

It’s a scary feeling. Especially if you’ve spent years getting your business up to speed — your staff well-trained and efficient, your processes streamlined and in place or your products ideally matched to the wishes and whims of your target market.

Technology leaps forward, and suddenly your services (or products) are on the way to obsolescence. Or falling behind a new-to-the-market, more agile competitor.

The Chicago Tribune reported a few years back that Fresh Market was closing stores around the country. The chain jumped on the organic food trend when it launched and rode it as long as it could. But when all the other grocery chains jumped in with farm fresh products, Fresh Market could no longer compete.

Whole Foods, on the other hand, became more competitive. Acquired by Amazon, they lowered some prices and offered customers Amazon Prime specials, discounts and delivery.

This is how companies stay successful. They can reinvent themselves on a dime…..or so it seems. They’re agile.

Fresh Market wasn’t the only company in distress. Think about some of the once successful businesses that have closed — or are in the process of closing. You’ve no doubt purchased from them in the past.

If you had kids in the 80’s, you shopped at Toys R’Us. Needed sports gear? You went to Sports Authority. Owned a business or simply needed to manage your schedule? You had a Palm Pilot. Then maybe a BlackBerry.

Today, millennials probably have never of those devices. They were replaced by iPhones and Samsung Galaxies.

So how can you avoid being on the short list of doomed businesses?

You certainly don’t want to wait til a crisis hits to start trying to figure out what to do. You need to be constantly vigilant and always proactive. You have to have a plan.

And if you’re not sure how to do that, the best way to learn is to look at successful businesses.

Here are four things that successful businesses in highly competitive industries do to stay on top:

  1. They’re nimble.
    They’ve streamlined the chain of command to make decision-making simpler. They’ve implemented technology solutions to make processes flow better. They’re making use of AI (artificial intelligence) for improved efficiency. They’ve honed communication skills to make meetings shorter, emails simpler and calls briefer.  Amazon comes to mind. Why? Check out how Jeff Bezos likes to run meetings
  2. They’re inventive.
    They’re constantly looking for a better way. To make products more efficiently, to bring a product to market faster, to SELL products to a broader market, to make customers happier. Whatever it takes to stay on top of the competition, a successful company finds a way. Yes, Amazon comes to mind once again. But so does Southwest Airlines, which is always looking for new ways to improve the customer experience. Read about how they handled the post-Covid meltdown.
  3. They never sit back on their laurels.
    Successful companies don’t get complacent. They’re not satisfied with status quo. They’re smart enough to know that a savvy competitor can appear almost overnight – with a cooler gadget, a smarter business tool, a glammier spokesperson, an everyone-needs-this must-have, a smoother system. Once Uber was the only game in town. Then Lyft appeared. While Uber is still #1, when a negative news report hits the  airwaves, Lyft gains market share. Uber’s problems in 2017 were a boon for Lyft’s bottom line. But Uber management is sound. They’re quick to respond to negative news, and the company continues to hold the  bulk of the rideshare market.
  4. They’re humble.
    Successful companies take responsibility for their mistakes. They own up to their misdeeds. They ask their shareholders and supporters for forgiveness and promise to do better.

Over the years, we’ve seen far too many cases where this didn’t happen. Take for example, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, and Fox News as covered in fortune.com in 2017. Both men had been accused of sexual harassment. More than once. But it wasn’t until advertisers began to bail that Fox did anything in response. And they never said they were wrong. No humble pie here.

So how would your small business rate on the capabilities cited above? You may not compete with big companies, but you can certainly learn from them. Especially from their mistakes.

If we’ve encouraged you to think about this, we’ve written a good post.

Leave a comment