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Life & Business

Why Customer Service Matters Now More Than Ever

by Sabrina Smelko

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Val Geisler has been planning and organizing for as long as she can remember; from being the (self) assigned cookie-sales organizer at Girl Scouts to being a stage manager of various operas. She was even the woman who organized bringing lululemon to the US! So it was a natural progression for her to open up her own consulting and support agency, aspire&grow, to help creative “solopreneurs” achieve their goals. No stranger to systems and technology, her 12 years of experience has led her to work with everyone from multinational companies to nonprofit groups and small-business owners, all in an effort to help them reach their goals, big or small. And the number one thing she thinks all businesses should have, big or small? Great customer experience. Today Val is sharing the three things you should be aware of — or implementing — to up the ante of your business. –Sabrina

It’s no secret that a business’s customer service can make or break them. Southwest Airlines, Zappos, Nordstrom, Amazon, Freshbooks — all of these big brands have a never-ending supply of happy customers. Their attention to detail and commitment to excellent service is priority, and you can learn from their example. You don’t have to be a big name to provide big-time happiness for your customers. And, some great news for small businesses with small marketing budgets: your happy customers become a free sales funnel as they rave to their friends and family about YOU! How do you make it happen? Here are three key points in mind for a top-notch customer experience.

Communicate More Than You Think Is Necessary

Clear communication is key in any working relationship, and it’s no different with your customers. Our email inboxes are flooded every day and you don’t want your company’s emails to end up buried in the mix. There are three touch points for major communication:

1. First point of contact: Do you have a personalized thank you page on your site connected to your contact form or opt-in? This is one of the best ways to start infusing your top-notch service into your brand. Get creative and say hello. Let them know they matter and that you got their message. At the very least, send a personalized opt-in reply via your mailing list platform. Keeping separate lists for different types of contacts is a nice touch and allows for very specific personalization (and very specific followups — see below).

2. Remain top-of-mind: Stay in touch with your peeps! When someone first shows interest in you (signs up for your newsletter, sends a contact form request, etc.), their interest is high and they are more willing to hear from you often. I recently visited the Dollar Shave Club website and put my email address in their opt-in form. I got about three emails that first week just saying “hi” and pointing out key features of Dollar Shave Club. They wooed me with their fun and playful emails that kept the sales process enjoyable and not annoying. After that first week they touched base with me a few days later and then a week again after that point. The key is to provide the information and reminders without being too pushy. Just remember…we all get a ton of emails, so it’s a fine balance. Providing high-value information in each email keeps the communication simple and honors the reader’s time.

3. Follow up: After any individual contact, don’t just let those new community members fade into the mix! Send a note immediately following the call or Skype session with a big thank you. Include details to anything you reviewed on the call (links, downloadables, etc.) that you want to be sure they get. This is a micro-view of working with you and your brand, so make it shine!

 

Admit Your Mistakes

Tech happens, and it’s important to go with the flow when it comes to your online business. Platforms fail, WiFi drops, audio ports crackle, chat features stop working… any number of things can go wrong when it comes to working with the interwebs. This isn’t meant to discourage you from moving forward, this is simply a fact of running an online business.

The important part to remember is humility — admit the mishaps when they happen and offer a solution. For example, I was co-hosting a webinar with a list of people waiting and ready. My co-host and I got online together to test the platform one last time 15 minutes before the webinar…and her audio wasn’t working. And the “go live” button was inexplicably missing. We re-loaded, re-started, and waited. Nothing. At 5 minutes after our start time, we sent a quick email to our list of attendees explaining the tech mishaps and rescheduling. And get this: we got THANK YOU emails in reply. Not a single unhappy email! One subscriber even wrote to us saying she LOVED the entire process — even when things went wrong.

Own the realities of working with technology and your community will love you and support you no matter what happens.

 

Love Your People

A coupon code, an irresistible free offer, a giveaway — whatever you call it, you better have one on hand to gift to your people. While you might be tempted to only use this bonus up front to encourage signups on your website, be sure to go the extra mile and share even more with your attendees. Expand on your bonus and have something with a higher value for those you interact with directly. Often the highest value is your words, so be sure to give a personal touch to each person who reaches out to you.

For instance, if you have a PDF downloadable available to go along with a webinar you host, perhaps you offer a bonus video lesson as a follow up. Or a three-part email series might include a quick free call for a certain number of those webinar attendees. Whatever you choose to offer, be sure the value is high. Your future customers deserve a taste of your very best.

 

So remember…

It’s often said that it’s not the destination that matters, it’s the journey along the way that is the most important. While this is certainly true for travel lovers, it’s also incredibly true when examining your customers’ experience with you and your brand… and that experience should be the ride of a lifetime.

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Comments

  • I so agree about admitting the mistakes! When I first started out I made my tie clips with the map upside to fit a man’s shirt. I’m left handed and was mortified when a customer pointed this out. We quickly sent an apology email and told each customer ( about 50) they would receive a new clip in the mail within 2 weeks. We got the nicest, most understanding…and funny emails. We sent out the correct clips along with a generous coupon for a future purchase. Many of those buyers are still customers of ours today!

  • Great post! Just wanted to point out that lululemon started in Canada….it’s first store opened in Vancouver in 2000.

  • Great article, Val! I’m especially fond of the communication piece – so important to keep up the communication AFTER you’ve converted that client, too!

  • Thanks for confirming my recent discovery about going above and beyond in terms of communication! When working with clients I’ve noticed that the ones I sent very frequent updates to on the status of the project are the ones that refer me the most! Great post, Val.

  • What is also important is to practice listening. So often we are in conversation and we are “listening” while formulating what we will say next or how we will respond. Then with all that wonderful listening we can paraphrase and empathize to gain full understanding of a situation (“it sounds like…fill in the blank…Is that correct?”).
    Using complete sentences when communicating is also important, which really ties into the “over communicating” piece. Instead of nodding, shaking your head, saying “yah”, “uh huh”, “yep” or “no” and “nope”; using a full sentence to confirm or deny. Taking that a step farther and trying to eliminate the word “no” from the vocabulary as well as “no problem” and changing it to pleasing statements or offering alternatives or explanations instead of saying “no” and saying “my pleasure” as opposed to “no problem”.

    • Ohh yes, Kendra. I recently removed “no problem” from my vocabulary. It’s replaced with a “happy to be helpful” or “glad I could be of service”. Such a big difference it made! I find people are less likely to ask for free help when they realize that it’s a service instead of “no problem”.

  • The problem I have most often from companies (big or small but most commonly big) is that when a mistake is made, it reflects on the whole company and it is every employees’ responsibility, as a representative of the company, to acknowledge then fix it. But instead the response I almost always get is — “I wasn’t the one who made the mistake,” so they feel no responsibility to fix it.

    I think this is the result of lack of real respect in the business / employee relationship nowadays. Employees are a dime a dozen to most companies and to employees their jobs are just about collecting a paycheck.

    If employees are treated like they are an important part of the business, they will pass that along to clients.

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