Customer Service the Old-Fashioned Way

Did you ever wonder what happened to customer service?  Sometimes I think I’ll go crazy the next time I receive one of those automatic-response emails or hear, “dial one for technical services, dial two for international queries…” Where did all the human beings go? There are more people than ever inhabiting this planet.  More goods, more services, and you’d think surely more people working to help you out.  What on earth happened?

With quickly-evolving technologies and new industries sprouting like toadstools on an almost daily basis, maybe we can understand why service initially got swept under the rug.  But no more.  These days, there is so much choice. The big boys, the monopolies, are not as strong as they used to be.  The words “boutique” and “micro” are what sell.  Smaller companies that know they need to put a human, understanding face forward in order to survive.  And the worst customer service offenders are finally learning that they are already and will be losing business because of their extremely lax policies. Finally the pendulum is beginning to swing the other way!

In the olden days…

A)    Customer service was king. Always.

B)     Customers were special. Maybe your butcher would set aside the choicest cuts for you without having to pre-order; or the owner of your favorite clothing boutique would greet you by name and give you a small discount; anything to make you feel important, cared for, looked after.  We have all experienced service so great that price becomes less of a factor and we return…again and again. The best customer is a repeat customer.

Connect A to B, and you have a winning equation.

Experts are predicting a sweeping change in the business world.  In the beginning the internet seemed like (and for a while really was) the ideal place to “get rich quick.” We all know in our gut that for almost all of us, that will not happen.  There is no such thing as a free lunch, and you will not get rich without putting in the work. What a concept! 🙂

How to (Re) Connect with your Customer

  • Employees – If you employ even one person, it’s essential to remember that your customer service will only be as good as you treat your employee.  Your employees are the front line.  As low down on the totem as they may be, they are one of your best yet most variable assets.  Pay well, offer benefits, make them feel valued – and they will do you proud.  And arm them with social media tools and guidelines so they can become your online raving fan. Pride and a sense of ownership in a company goes a long, long way in providing customer service.
  • Know Your Customer – Remember your clients’ names, their special preferences, likes, dislikes, purchasing history, personal facts. Make them feel known and welcome. There are all sorts of fun little programs to keep track of this info, and if you have a CRM or database of some sort make personal notes on your customers profiles.
  • Be Visible – Whether you have a corner shop, a corporate office, or an online business, make sure your customers know who you are. Hiding in an office or the far corners of the web without proper SEO tools can hurt your business.  Walking the floor, picking up the phone, sending a personal email or using a live chat software on your site can go a long way.
  • Go the Extra Mile – Keep track of your customers, their purchases, and their personal milestones.  Thank you cards, reminder cards, birthday cards are so important.  If you see an item a client might love, let them know.  If a customer makes a special request, do your very best to deliver. I love sending certain articles I find online to my clients when I know it will help them.  These steps in particular will make you stand out.
  • Know how to deal with complaints – Irate customers are unhappy customers. Learning how to effectively diffuse these situations is very important.  Listening to them, responding with sympathy, and doing your utmost to ameliorate the situation is key.  Having procedures in place to handle these situations will help your employees as well.  Make sure you don’t neglect what is being said about you online.  Try tools like Google Alerts, Twitter Search and Technorati to see what is being said about you online.  And when you see something make sure and contact the person who complained with a solution.  There is nothing worse than having no idea what people say about you online.  And remember to reward those who love you too with discounts and thanks you notes!
  • Feedback – Don’t be afraid to ask your clients how you’re doing.  For instance, at the end of every project you could provide a questionnaire. I like Poll Daddy or Survey Monkey for setting up free and easy online polls.  WordPress has some great free poll plugins too.  Just go to plugins from your dashboard and search for “polls”.  Even something as simple as telling your customers to always feel free to knock on your door with a suggestion will make them feel that they have a stake in improving your services.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.  Mark my words, the good ole days are indeed on their way back in.  It’s important that we all stay informed and stay on top of our game and “fall in love” with our customers again.

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