How important is customer service?

Customer service is an essential aspect of contemporary business. It’s easy to write this statement but seemingly quite difficult to deliver top class customer service seven days a week.

I’ve been musing over the customer service conundrum for real

as recently I’ve been in serious buying mode. Having moved house inevitably a lot of online shopping would follow. I’ve seen some first class customer service in the process.and some pretty shocking efforts too. Does it actually matter? I would say the answer is a resounding yes. Here’s why.

Why does great customer service matter?

Great customer service demonstrates a company values its customers. This might sound obvious but look at it this way it’s been quite a journey for your potential clients to reach you in the first place. They have masses of choice. So why would you upset them once they’ve actually found you and like your products? It really is a simple as that.

 

Customers have wide array of choices.

 

In fact they often have far too many choices and you can see just why the supermarket cost cutters have been so successful. Give people too much choice and they become both confused and paralysed in their decision-making. Therefore carefully curated goods, easy communication, simple complaints procedure and money back guarantees are just the beginning.

 

Before a customer even considers buying from you do you think about the promises you make?

 

One of the cardinal sins is to over promise and under deliver. It’s much better not to raise unrealistic expectations. If you promise one thing then deliver another, be prepared. You might be shocked at what is unleashed on social media. Damage limitation is vital yet preventing reputational damage  in the  first place is more desirable.

What makes good customer service anyway?

Let me tell you a less than positive story. I ordered a mattress from the well-known company. I was in a hurry as visitors were due to arrive and there was a new bedstead in the house but nothing to sleep on. Imagine my delight when I discovered a  mattress would be delivered in just two days. Perhaps I have been spoiled by Amazon Prime, but nevertheless, the stakes are raised when it comes to Internet shopping. ‘I want it and I want it now’ may well describe many people’s expectations. I’m afraid in this instance it described me.

How likely are your customers to recommend your business?

This two-day delivery promise swung it for me and I duly placed my order. Sadly, my visitors arrived but a mattress didn’t. The whole reason for choosing this supplier was no longer relevant. I was forced to run out and buy a blowup bed, struggle with a stupid foot pump then watch my visitor pass out on the floor having run out of breath as we struggled to inflate the thing. A weekend of intense discomfort followed.

 

On the Monday I let rip and told customer services just what I thought.

Emails went back and forward, apologies, promises and money off vouchers appeared but sadly there was no sign of the mattress. Imagine my frustration when a delivery date finally emerged and I was going to be away from home. It’s psychologically damaging to cancel an order that you have been waiting ages to receive! I won’t bore you with the rest of the story let’s say two day delivery ended up being two weeks. Do you think I am likely to recommend this company or shop with them again? Exactly.

 

So by overpromising and under delivering this company managed to alienate a customer. Instead of the praising their delivery and customer service I took to Twitter to complain.

A partial refund and a 10% voucher hasn’t really made a difference.

 

Next Home understand customer service

On the other hand here’s a fairytale. I ordered some furniture from Next Home. Delivery was quick, easy and extremely well-planned. You can track your delivery lorry so know exactly how to plan your day. The guys turn up on time complete with overshoes to avoid damage to carpets and floors. I was delighted by every aspect of this service. In fact I was so impressed, even though I looked in local furniture stores for another sofa I decided my loyalty lay with Next. They gave me a complete rundown of all my past furniture order details and I ordered my new sofa.

 

customer service get it right

How far will your customer service take your company?

To my horror it appears I made a mistake in the order process. When the furniture arrived quickly and on time and the guys on wrapped it I saw the material was incorrect. I tried hard to like it but sadly the whole texture was wrong. I

The delivery team gave me a customer service cards where there was a number upon which to call the product care team.

 

‘They’ll help you’ they said’ They are brilliant.’ Let me tell you, dear reader, it’s true!

 

On the card it says: ‘whatever the problem, we’re here to help. “ I called and was told the wait for an answer would be more than 15 minutes. It was suggested I set up a call back. I was skeptical but did as I was told and got on with my work. About 45 days later a very pleasant customer service agent, called Denise, asked me what my problem was. I explained and she said, ‘Ah, you made a mistake when you ordered the sofa and it has now been made especially for you.’ Oh no I thought. She went on, ‘I think they have also discontinued the fabric you like too.’ I could feel the day diving into a stagnant pond vibe. But the customer agent was very cheery and said she would talk to her manager and see what she could do. With the promise of another callback she rang off. I didn’t feel very positive and cursed my stupidity.

 

Will Sunday be ok for you?

Imagine therefore, my delight when she rang back almost immediately and said, ‘good news there’s a two seater sofa already made up in your fabric at one of our warehouses. Would you like it? In the meantime if you wouldn’t mind not using the sofa and covering it over that would be brilliant. I will arrange for someone to deliver this replacement sofa for you on Sunday. Would that be okay?

 

I was so happy and slightly overwhelmed.

It had been my fault and Next went out of their way to resolve my problem. This is what great customer service is all about. After my first dealings with Next I decided to order again. So great customer service delivered a repeat purchase. Superb customer service that went above and beyond expectations created an advocate. I’m sitting here writing this and intend to communicate my pleasure via social media.

Brian Solis

This is the Future of Business, so read it.

It’s a practical example of what I talk about as a marketing consultant. I talk and advise a lot about customer expectation and what Brian Solis calls The Zero Moment of Truth too. Any business that makes false promises to deliver the highest level of customer service will experience their very own version of the ZMOT. That’s when the order books are empty and social media is filled with the kind of comments that will take forever to disappear.

 

Take a leaf out of Next’s book and treat your customers like they really matter. Eventually it will pay dividends.

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