Saturday, 28 May 2011

Customer Service Failures And What We Can Learn From Them

I've mentioned before that I've been having trouble with payment gateway CyberSource, who are absolutely lousy at customer service. They're not the only ones. But are we any better than them?

Think for a moment about the best user experience you've had as a customer. What made it great? Now think about the worst. What made it suck?

5. Visible contact details

Remember the report I gave on the North West Business Show when I mentioned the snotty company rep who told me he likes to know who he's working with -- but whose company don't make their contact details readily available? According to the Business Link people, it's best practice to put a phone number and email address at the top of each page of your website because most people can't be bothered to search for your contact details.

Personally, one of my chief browsing beefs is a lack of communication options — and having to dig for them. What is it, some kind of commitment test? Smart people will go elsewhere to do business.

4. Multiple communication options

I love Live Chat. People can talk to someone in real time over the internet and discuss their needs. As I said in an earlier post, it's better than pinging emails and waiting for the response. I've got this in addition to my email and phone number being in the header.

3. Swift response

I gave Emma at CyberSource a bit of a mouthful today because, as I told her, it took a week to get a reply to an email I sent, then the tech call she promised me never materialised. This has been dragging on for two weeks, yet what I want is a simple API to add to an OpenCart online shop. There really is no excuse for this. "Your company doesn't do customer service," I told her. "You just don't like talking to your customers. How are you still in business?" I never keep customers waiting, and if something is taking a long time to get done, I let the client know what's going on so they're kept in the loop. It's basic courtesy, people. Sheesh! I'm sure it's not Emma's fault, but that company has a very poor customer service ethic and I recommend avoiding them. If they read this they can flippin' sue me!

2. Nip trouble in the bud

Treat all customer concerns seriously BEFORE they turn into a complaint. If someone is not happy with your service, they're not nuts or out to cause trouble. Whether you want to admit it or not you have failed. BUT you can make lemonade out of that lemon by dealing with the matter swiftly and completely, paying careful attention to every aspect of the matter so it's dealt with properly.

When P. Botter told me he wasn't happy with my redesign of North West Land Rovers' logo because the image didn't stand out very well, I didn't argue or make excuses, I promised to fix it, then did. When he asked me to use the original, I pointed out that the redesign had been sparked by a letter from Land Rover telling client J. Taylor not to use that image.

1. Go holistic

I know you're not supposed to put all your eggs in one basket, but you should make every effort to meet all your customers' needs. That's why I have adverts directing people to companies I'm affiliated with. And I'm on the lookout for more business partners to work with so that any time a customer asks me for something, I can say, "I can do that," then get my partner involved.

Typically, I partner with domain registrars, hosting companies, developers, and SEO services companies, either subcontracting or directing my customers to them to get their needs met. Doing this spreads the load so you're not inundated with a load of work that is not in your core skillset and therefore more time-consuming than work you're actually good at.

Like a waiter in a restaurant who wanders over every once in a while to ask if all is well, it's good to check up on your customers to see if they are happy. This could lead to, "Actually, I need a new page done, and can I have a blog?"

This is not to say all customers are ideal, but if you treat them as you want to be treated yourself, you'll never be out of work because they'll recommend you to their friends. See my testimonials page to get an idea of what this looks like.

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