Is customer service neglected in your start-up or small business?
Several months ago I was struggling to get through some complex identity theft issues with TransUnion and Equifax. They had mixed some of my files and were reporting to anyone that checked my credit history. Of course I was attempting to get credit for a very important purchase, so the whole process was very frustrating.
Needless to say, TransUnion has probably the worst customer service known to mankind because of how difficult it is to talk to anyone who has any ability to help you (be that their inability to speak English clearly or their inability to listen and identify what your issue is). Through this whole process, I ended up calling LifeLock for some help with my situation.
I spoke on the phone with a salesman about what he could do to help me. Initially he was very friendly and understanding, but the call quickly escalated into a sales pitch that I wasn’t ready to bite on. He kept attempting to offer me different deals. The phone call ended with the sales associate saying with a hint of frustration “You know what Hannah, why don’t you just call us back when you are ready to buy one of our packages?”
A bad taste from that phone call remains in my mouth for a service that I actually still stand in need of. But I’m not going back any time soon because of the negative experience I had with this one phone call. I’m a customer that should have been caught but will now take my money elsewhere.
If you aren’t proactively taking measures to provide a pleasant customer experience at every stage of the sales cycle, then you have lost and will continue to lose customers like me.
Where Service and Sales Meet
Successful companies know to their very core that the ultimate law of business is service. Everything a business does should be done as an act of generous service to customers. And it turns out that when a company can create that kind of culture will see results in increased financial performance and market value. After 30 years of study, the Society for Human Resource Management has found robust evidence to support that claim.
Positive customer experience should not be a separate team in your company, but rather it should be the duty of every employee that works for you.
So what does this look like? Let’s take a look at a variety of companies at different stages of their development to see how this is done:
Apple – Quality Products
One of the quickest ways to lose a customer is to sell them a shoddy product. Having a quality product is the core of an effective customer service strategy, and no business embodies this principle like Apple.
Business superstar Steve Jobs was so committed to his users having a positive experience with Apple products that he constantly pushed the envelope to find the materials that were just right. Do you like your iPhone screen? That’s called Gorilla Glass. In 2005 Steve Jobs approached Corning Glass about a new type of LCD screen. Though CEO Wendell Weeks told jobs that the technology was too new and couldn’t be mass produced, Jobs pushed Weeks to produce an astonishing amount of the product in 6 months. I love this example of uncompromising effort to satisfy customer needs.
Their attention to quality has reaped untold dividends and led to numerous customers coming back, and more importantly bringing their friends and family along with, wooing them with tales of high quality Apple products (See Simon Sinek’s analysis of Apple in his popular Ted Talk: How Great Leaders Inspire Action).
L.L. Bean – Standing Behind Your Product
L.L. Bean is famous for their 100 percent satisfaction guarantee. Importantly this is a guarantee that they stand behind. Numerous stories have been circulated by the company and, more importantly, by customers who have years later taken them up on their word. These customers have had all manner of items replaced by the company, simply by asking.
This show of loyalty to the customer has led to L.L.Bean being one of the most respected, not to mention most successful, clothing brands in America.
Lowes – Customer Face Time
A simple visit to any Lowe’s clearly illustrates their focus on the customer. It’s no accident that you’ll regularly find associates who are experts on what you are shopping for close by: part of Lowe’s strategy is to link up customers with experts who can provide useful information. Human to human interaction goes a very long way for how a customer perceives your business.
The profile for the Lowe’s customer is a DIY enthusiast who doesn’t know everything about what they want to do. Their customer service strategy is the perfect match for who Lowe’s sells to.
20/20 NDT Inc. – Give Education with Service
Employees at this industrial service business believe in educating their clients in relation to the services they provide because what they provide is so unique.
20/20 NDT inspects all kinds of industrial equipment for imperfections that could lead to future issues. They use a variety of advanced technology like radiation, ultrasonic waves, and magnetic particles to inspect equipment. Naturally, this field of work gets fairly complicated. But that doesn’t stop them from going the extra mile to help clients understand what technicians understand.
For this company, sharing the knowledge they learn with the clients they work with is essential to their business relationships. So many businesses aren’t taking advantage of this opportunity: people want knowledge, information, and tips. So businesses should be willing to open up and share their specialized knowledge.
Invest a liberal amount of energy trying to convert your business into a service oriented environment. The evidence shows clearly that customer experience will fuel your company to higher revenue and stronger customer loyalty.