Cat on a phone pretending to be tech support

Tech Support Cat

I am a big believer in great customer service and I am very hard on those companies that have poor customer service.

Yesterday I read a news story about an Australian company called Kogen who went above and beyond in their service. An elderly man wanted to make a purchase online. However, not knowing how, he simply mailed in his money with his item purchase. Kogan founder, Ruslan Head, not only sent his purchase but a $100 gift card and an offer to help teach the man how to make purchases online. Wow. Amazing customer service.

Going the extra step and giving your employees the ability to go the extra step means great customer service. I worked as a customer service agent for years and I know that even the most pleasant phone call can go one of two ways – up and positive or down and amazingly negative. So I thought I’d give some advice on how to ensure your company has great customer service.

  1. Listen. The first rule of customer service is listen. You’d think that’s self-explanatory but after I once spent over a week on the phone to Microsoft I learned that it sadly isn’t. Customer service people get bored hearing the same complaints over and over so they stop listening. They already know the solution. However, for the customer, this is a new event and they want it to be treated as something special. Here is an opportunity for the owner to listen to their agents and find out where the problem areas are. A common complaint means there’s an issue to be fixed.
  2. Be active. “There’s nothing we can do” is one of the most irritating and escalating phrases I can think of. A mildly annoyed customer will quickly escalate to angry upon hearing it. The customer doesn’t know your day to day operations and doesn’t care. They have a problem. They want the problem gone. Do that. Dump that phrase out with the kitty litter. A customer is often happy with an explanation as to why the problem can’t be fixed. Here you have that opportunity to create great customer service. Perhaps there’s an alternative or a discount that can be given. Knowing you’re doing something goes a long way with customers and if they get that service regularly, they’ll be loyal customers.
  3. Empowerment. Empower everyone! If your customer service agents feel like they have the weight of the company behind them, they’re happy. Happy customer service agents means happy customers. Origin is always a good experience for me. Their agents are happy and having fun. When I call, I can joke around and laugh with them. Microsoft, by comparison, is a complete misery. I’d rather disembowel myself with a chopstick than call them. If your agents feel empowered, they pass that along to the customer and they will do that little extra that means so much to the customer.
  4. Ethics. I’ve worked in some situations where an unethical employee tries to get one over on the company. For those companies that were lax and didn’t pay attention to the customer service, they got away with it in spades. However, one company I worked for had such a strong sense of ethics that no matter what the employee tried, he was stopped by the other employees. The employees believed in the company because the company had a clear sense of where it was in the world and what it wanted to accomplish. Customers enjoyed interacting with employees because it was always a pleasant experience and they knew they could trust this company.
  5. Follow through. I once had to call a company four times before they did what they said they were going to do. I don’t shop there anymore. On most things I’m willing to be patient but my patience only stretches so far. Customer service means nothing if you don’t follow through and do what you say you’re going to do when you’re going to do it. I’m convinced this is where a lot of companies lose customers.
  6. Be timely. No one wants to wait, least of all your customers. Do what you say you’re going to do when you’re going to do it. A reputation is quickly made or broken on how well a company keeps its word.

Good customer service is worth more than any marketing plan ever devised. Bad customer service is a demon that will destroy a company quickly. It takes so little to go that extra step and means so much to your customers.