Fast forward to 2010. We have a “real” phone system with multiple lines at our warehouse now, but we still don’t answer the phone. Greg checks the messages daily and responds to the person via email if he can, or phone if he can’t find an email address. We still have essentially no phone support. We’ve doubled in size several times since that post. Seemingly not having phone support hasn’t hurt us. In my opinion, the time freed up has helped us scale better.
Some online retail companies couldn’t dream of life without phone support. “Our customers will revolt” they say. Maybe. Or maybe the premise that you need phone support is masking the real issue: customers want their problem solved, they don’t want to pick up the phone and call you. They call you because whatever they were trying to do didn’t work. So the real solution to having happy customers is to make whatever they’re trying to do easier. Build a more user friendly website. Put up how-to guides for beginners. Write better FAQs. Put the answers to questions in the exact spots where the questions arise. That reduces customer inquiries AND leads to happier customers.
Some customer support is inevitable. As we’ve grown, even the emails have become more and more time consuming, particularly for Greg who handles the majority of them. The nice thing is though, that the majority of those customers that do contact us have the questions/problems that we want to hear about. The things that they really do need our help for. And we take care of them…fast. That’s what they care about – that their damaged order got re-shipped or that we fixed a mistake we made – not whether or not they were able to pick up the phone and chat with us.
Like with anything else, there’s a small percentage of people we’re going to alienate. The “phone people” who don’t like to place orders on the web. For us though, those people aren’t our target market. Not even close. And I bet it’s the same for most small to mid-size online retailers. In most niches, there’s such a large market of web-savvy customers that it doesn’t make sense to spend magnitudes more time appeasing a comparatively small customer base.
We’ve been collecting customer testimonials recently to put into rotation on the site. Any time someone says something nice on email or Twitter or Facebook or on the forums, we’re trying to save it. It’s awesome to hear how loyal our customers are. A lot are related to our personal customer service (again, mostly Greg), but we also get a lot of compliments about the ease-of-use on our site and the efficiency of our operations. Here is just a quick sampling:
“My order was placed on December 30th and was at my office door on the 31st!” – Brad P.
“Nice job with the website, very efficient and user friendly.” – Greg S.
“You have an EXCELLENT web site” – Jim
“The most intelligent educational pages, least BS, and most thorough writing.” – Jim K
“Thanks for the detailing education you’ve provided. Priceless.” – Sean B.
“Thanks again for all the help. You’ve won a long-term customer!” – Rex A.
“Greg’s service attitude is so refreshing. I’m sure it is a big part of your success.” – Chris O.
“It’s nice to have a relationship with a business that takes such good care of their customers” – Mike S.
“Incredibly helpful, lightning fast shipping. Can’t find a better vendor!” – Chad G.
“One of the most customer friendly commercial websites I’ve seen.” – Todd K.
“Great Product selection, website layout and delivery times!!” – Chris A.
“Just want to let you know how great your customer service is.” – Jeffery J.
“The best detailing store ever! I’m on my second order because you guys blow everyone else away.” – Dan D.
“The level of customer service simply cannot be beat. You have me as a customer for life!” – Andrew F.
“Your Daily, Weekly, and Monthly Deals are AWESOME and on top of that you even have sales and free shipping!” – Dustin R.