I am not an expert in customer service. However, I own an e-commerce company and a law practice so I do know something about customer service. In my role as an owner of an e-commerce retail company and an immigration law practice, I have learned at least one very important thing about business: it is very important to listen to your customers carefully. In my law practice and my e-commerce business, my employees and I try our best to deliver excellent customer service. All of my clients are able to reach me directly on my personal email or cell phone whenever they need. My e-commerce customers can call or email and they will speak to a real live person. In today's economy it is very rare for customers to be able to speak to a customer service person or business owner who is knowledgeable about the product or services offered; cares about actually helping the customer; and who has the training and authority to solve the customer's problems. This is something that is much harder to do for large organizations but it can be done and there are some who do it well. A few examples are Cabela's and American Express. Call either of these companies and a real person will answer the phone and they will be knowledgeable and helpful. So being a large company is not an excuse for delivering poor customer service. There are several small local Jackson companies that also understand the importance of good customer service. I am sure there are several but a few that come to mind are Jackson Pak N Ship, the Toy House, Dupuis Et Fils and Anderson Printing & Creative Promotions.
What Do You or Your Company Get Out of Good Customer Service?
If you provide good customer service hopefully you will get a return on this investment in the form of happy customers who will return to purchase whatever it is you are selling. If you do a really good job they may also tell their friends about you. This is all wonderful and a very important part of good customer service. However, the most important part of good customer service does not involve what you say to your customers: the real value to be achieved from good customer service comes from listening very carefully to your customers. If you provide good customer service you will have the opportunity to listen to what your customers have to say.
Listen to Your Customers Carefully and they Will tell You What They Want
Many customers are not shy. They will tell you exactly what they want and they will tell you exactly what they do not want. All you have to do is listen carefully. Irritating phone trees, voice mail messages and email auto-responders do not do a good job of listening. Customers who are passed to one department to the next will get frustrated, hang up and no longer want to speak. To provide excellent customer service and provide your customers with the products and services they want to buy and in the manner they want to buy and consumer them, you must listen carefully to what they have to say.
How to Ensure that You are Listening to Your Customers
Listening carefully to your customers takes a little work but it's not too hard. The most important thing you can do is make it easy for your customers to communicate with you or your company so I would avoid the following at all costs:
There are also a few things that I would strongly encourage you to do:
The Risks of Providing Poor Customer Service
The risks of providing poor customer service are enormous. The immediate risks are that you will lose a customer who may have been a good source of revenue for your business for many years. The bigger risk is that this persons will discourage prospective customers from becoming customers of your business. These are both valid and very serious consequences of providing poor customer service and not listening to your customers. However, the biggest risk is even more dangerous. If you do not listen carefully to your customers and provide them with the products or services that they want someone else will. One day you will wake up in the morning and go to work—to the same place you have gone for the last 20 or thirty years—and some nimble competitor, perhaps under the cover of darkness, will have snuck in overnight and grabbed your market share right from under your nose. If this happens, do not be angry at the competitor—it's not personal, it's just business.