We’re a community of “glass is half empty” kind of shoppers.
I was watching an old rerun of “The Big Bang Theory” Friday night, where Sheldon described himself as being a person of infinite patience, having once waited for two-and-a-half hours on the customer support line with Hewlitt Packard just to complain about their customer support. That’s our collective voice in a nutshell.
As social media has continued to grow, the venues people have for making their voices heard is much wider than before. And people like to complain about bad customer service. Personally, I’ve made myself a nuisance a couple of times. Once was on Facebook, after RueLaLa.com sent me the wrong pair of sunglasses and refused to give me credit for them. So I let their community know what had happened via their Facebook page wall. I ended up with a refund and a $10 credit…but I’ve placed three more orders with them since then.
Last week I posted a picture on TwitPic.com showing my laptop, black screen and big white typewriter letters reading “Operating System Not Found”. I tagged it #DellFail. I later got an @-reply back from Dell’s customer service team asking me to call in. (The fact that I’m not going to has to do with previous bad customer service experiences with that company.)
So all this isn’t to show how nit-pickingly annoying I can be as a customer. But I wanted to point out how a single failure to make someone happy can cost your business credibility. The problem is that good experiences don’t get shared nearly as often. In fact, you have to make excellent customer service a cornerstone of your business, like Zappos does, in order to get noticed for it.
Does this mean you have to go to Zappos’ lengths and offer 365-day returns and free return shipping? No. Most stores can’t afford that. It does mean the following.
1. Your customer service team needs to be NICE. Professional, helpful, and courteous.
2. If a customer request is outside your policies, explain that to them and if at all possible, offer an alternative solution. Even better, if the request isn’t unreasonable, go ahead and let it slide.
3. Be available during business hours by phone, email, and on-site chat. Nothing irritates people more than answering machines and “no one available” chat status messages. (OK, maybe overseas call centers and a static-y connection.)
4. Ask customers to tell their friends if they’ve had exceptional service from your store. It’s ok to beg a little!
5. Try to let the bad experiences become water under the bridge. Some people cannot be satisfied. When you get one of those, don’t get irritated and let it affect your feelings with other customers. Keep your standards up.
What challenges have you faced when dealing with customer service issues? Tell your stories in the comments below.