If you are spending your hard-earned money somewhere, you deserve to be treated with the utmost respect. This is a hard and fast rule. Any company that makes a customer feel less than valued will simply not survive.
A little back-story: Over one year ago I joined a gym. After three weeks of attending the gym, I opened Bath, Body, and Candle Moments. Between working two full time jobs, I needed to find a way to exercise much closer to my home to save time. I didn’t want to pay for something I was no longer going to use, so I sent a certified letter requesting my membership be canceled – exactly 21 days after joining. Put it this way, I am still fighting with this gym and I’m out $300! A franchise of this gym is now opening within walking distance of my teaching job; I could literally just walk right there after or before work – but there is no way I would give them my business.
Treat Every Encounter as an Interview of Your Business
Whether you’re meeting someone new, attending a party, or responding to an angry review, every single person you encounter is an interview. Each interview you have is a potential customer, the possibility of networking, a judgement on how you run your business. The way you treat people, the way you behave, the way you dress is all forms of customer service because whether it’s direct or indirect, each action is being perceived and people translate those perceptions into your business. For example, let’s say you’re out a lunch meeting with a group of people and one person snaps at the waitress, what are you thinking about that person?
Sometimes the Customer IS Wrong, but Turn it Around
Most of the time when customers complain about something, they’re right, but sometimes, they’re not. Use the opportunity of a customer’s error to show how you go out of the way to help them. For example, I offer free shipping to Staten Island customers – it’s a way for me to connect with my local community – but I don’t have the option of limiting that choice at check-out to Staten Island zip codes, so all of New York State sees it. A few times, I’ve had a customer from out-of-town choose that shipping option, instead of denying the customer, I wrote an email explaining about our local policy, but offered free shipping for that one time only. Most customers will appreciate the extra courtesy and accept their error with grace; you’ll create repeat customers by going the extra mile to correct their error.
Be Honest and Transparent
Seems like a given, right? But far too often there is fine print or convoluted messages that are turning your customers off. Be clear in your product descriptions, offering details, ingredients and measurements (if applicable). If there are certain fees, make it bold and clear. A customer is much more likely to make a purchase if he/she understands the fees to begin with. Going against the grain here, get rid of subscription fees! When we decided to offer the Soap-of-the-Month Club, we could have gone with recurring billing, but why force your customer into a situation where he/she would have to go out of the way to cancel something when he/she no longer wanted the item? Instead, we opted for a one-time up-front fee, so the customer knows that all he/she has to do is make this one purchase and then the goodies just keep showing up in the mail. No hidden messages, no gimmicks – that’s how you build trust in your brand.
I was recently at a vendor fair and I overhead these water-filtration vendors telling a customer that their water cured cancer. I wish I was kidding. Along with that, they were using all kinds of cryptic scientific language that may seem impressive, but could be overwhelming to someone who doesn’t understand what’s really being said. While this foot-in-door technique could be effective to gain initial sales, in the long run, you’re going to end up with a lot of returns and disappointed customers who feel jilted and cheated. Explain what your product CAN do (and remember the LAWS), be honest about what it CAN’T do, and let the customer make a choice. I often get questions about whether or not our body butters will help with eczema or psoriasis – these are dangerous questions in the cosmetic industry because now we’re talking about over-the-counter drugs. I simply respond: “I make no claims about curing ailments; I made this product to moisturize your skin.Would you like to learn about the ingredients to understand how it softens your skin?” Teach about ingredients, teach about process, explain, and educate.
Keep the Negative Reviews
There’s no way a company can satisfy everyone all of time. A courteous customer will inform the business about his/her problem first before posting a negative review, but there will always be negative nancies who go straight for the throat. It’s fine. Take a deep breath, and RESPOND to the negative review with courtesy, explanation, and an offer to assist the customer by phone call or email. By taking this action you’re simultaneously diffusing the situation while demonstrating to potential customers that you do care about what they have to say.
Follow-Up After All Encounters
Every neutral interaction you have with a customer is an opportunity to educate them about your brand, every positive interaction is an opportunity to bring further joy, and every negative interaction is a chance to turn it to a positive. All of these opportunities can arise from one simple customer service tool: Follow Up. An email or a phone call can go a long way in letting the customer know that he/she has been heard. For a neutral interaction (a customer asks a question, for example) – follow up in a day or two to see if he/she has any further questions. For a positive interaction – send a quick email just to thank the customer for making a purchase/using the service, etc. For a negative interaction – a phone call in a day or two to see if the problem has been adequately resolved. One of the best examples of this is something a local real estate agent does – After her customer closes on a home, she sends them one of our candles and a couple of bars of soap with a note that says: “Blessings for Your New Happy Home.” It’s a simple gesture which goes a long way, and leads to referrals.
What do you look for in exceptional customer service?