Customer service: An often overlooked aspect in business

By | November 24, 2007

In the course of our daily lives, how many of us encounter bad customer service? Frankly speaking, bad customer service is a lot more prevalent than we believe, and growing by the day. How many times can we name the store, service, or website that didn’t provide good value for our money? And yet, this aspect of business continues to be the Achilles heel for many a store or service, be it online or offline. After some “not so good” experiences concerning customer service, today is a little examination on it.

Why is it so hard to provide good service to customers and to maintain that level? In a crowded marketplace, good customer service is the SOLE thing that will differentiate you from the rest. People remember you because of it, and they return to you because of it. They recommend you to others, because of your customer service. Give customers good service, and they wind up as your customers for life! But why are so many businesses failing in this regard?

Good customer service results in many downstream benefits that keep on building on its own over time, even if the results are not immediate. In order to provide good customer service, you need to understand your customer. It’s really quite simple to understand, but many businesses (large or small) keep messing up on this. From a customer’s standpoint:

  • Personalize if possible – At its core, good customer service is all about relationships. The more intimate your relationship with the customer, the better you can communicate with them. No two customers are alike. So if possible, don’t adopt a one-fits-all approach to your customers.
  • Don’t alienate your long term customers – This is often underestimated by businesses; they think just because a customer has been around a long time, its alright to treat them shabbily (“they will understand…”). Long term customers are gold, they are the ones who would in all likelihood recommend you to others, spreading your brand via word of mouth marketing.
  • Respond promptly – Show me someone who doesn’t mind a response that takes days, or weeks to answer, and I’ll show you that the cows do come home. We are all impatient creatures by nature, so if you run a business and you fail to respond to queries promptly, it just implies you don’t take your customers’ business seriously enough!
  • Don’t underestimate word of mouth press – A lot of marketers, or small businesses, fail to understand that word of mouth marketing is truly powerful stuff, and that goes for bad word of mouth press. It’s viral, both for good or bad.
  • Treat customers equally – There is no solid excuse not to treat customers equally, no matter where they are from, even for customers originating from poor regions. I’m touching on this, because it is one of the major perennial problems afflicting Web based businesses. No doubt, some regions are more prone to things like fraud, but remember that some of the most loyal customers you can have, are actually from these regions/countries where choices are limited!
  • People buy based on their emotions – Once more, businesses tend to forget this. A customer who buys based on logic and how many features your product has, is a rare breed indeed. Most of the time, people buy based on emotion first. If they feel good about your product/service, if you impress them with your good service, if you made them feel special – they buy from you, and they remain a customer, for a very long time. Even if your product is mediocre, good customer service will actually get you sales, and keep your existing customers on board for longer.

Many times, a product I am seeking has so many choices; I am spoiled for choice, and have no idea which one is best. In that case, I usually go for the product that made me feel best about it.

Never underestimate good customer service; it can make all the difference between a sale (and many others stemming from it) or no sales, and worse, upset customers spreading negative news about your products or services. Literally speaking.

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