Do You Smile for Your Customers?

Yesterday Nev left a comment on my last post regarding AMEX’s customer service:

By the way, have you ever called the AMEX 1-800 number? I think AMEX hires only the MOST FRIENDLY PEOPLE ON EARTH. I think they slip something in their coffee.

I haven’t ever called them, but I’m kind of looking forward to when I can!

There have been plenty of instances where I’ve had that same feeling Nev is describing:  where the person you’re interacting with is so happy, so helpful, and so friendly that it makes your day to talk to them.  It’s freaking unbelievable, and it’s really really uncommon.

For example, I think I’ve been to every coffee shop in the Albany area, but now I spend most of my time at Starbucks.  For the life of me, I can’t understand why people hate on Starbucks.  I’ve been to all 100 (or something like that) around here and every single employee in every single store has been super friendly.  They always seem like they’re having the time of their lives…while working as a barista serving people coffee!  It’s unreal.  Aside from that, the tea I drink is under $2, the place is always very clean, they bring around free samples all the time, and now they have free wi-fi.  I love the place.

We also recently had the pleasure of dealing with Waste Management. That’s right, a dumpster company.  Mike made most of the contacts, and he went on and on about how everyone he dealt with was overly nice.  When they finally came to drop off our new dumpster, I was there and I swear the guy was the happiest person on earth, hands down.  He had a smile from ear to ear, was extremely patient and nice as we debated where to put the thing (something we should have discussed earlier), and gave us a bunch of friendly pointers.   When he left, all we could talk about was how nice he was.

These things really make a difference.   It makes your customers talk about you.  It makes your customers think about you next time they go to make a purchase.  I actually look forward to ordering my drink at Starbucks because the experience is a pleasure!

Now as an e-commerce company, it’s a bit different.  For now, we (intentionally) don’t take many phone calls.  We don’t see many customers in person.  But we sure do interact a lot via email and on forums we sponsor.   Without being able to see your face or hear your voice, you’re at an immediate disadvantage and risk being cold to your customers.

There are two big things that I’ve found help a ton.  Always always start the message with either “I apologize for the inconvenience/trouble” (if it’s a complaint) or “thanks for contacting us” (if it’s a general inquiry).  Those statements diffuse any tension and show that you’re sympathetic to their troubles and appreciate them as a customer.   They no longer are on the defensive, as many customers are when they contact you.  Second, always close with something like “feel free to contact me with any other questions and I’ll be happy to help” so that they feel like you really do care and that they can ask you anything.  Of course, what you say in between also matters.  Make sure you go above and beyond to answer the question that they asked, including doing relevant research and putting in links so they can quickly access more information.

Customer service isn’t rocket science, but most companies suck at it.  Some customers suck and will never be happy, but most of the time a customer contact is an opportunity to win over a customer.  Your approach to customer service speaks volumes to your approach to your business.  If you approach business with a “one satisfied customer at a time” mentality you’ll likely value your customer service immensely.  If you don’t look at your business in a micro fashion like that, it can be hard to see the importance of good customer service.

5 comments on Do You Smile for Your Customers?

  1. Adam Holland says:

    Starbucks is my “new cubicle”.. haha.

  2. Adam McFarland says:

    It’s nicer than most cubicles…

  3. Nev says:

    Take any super-large corporation, and you can often see just on the surface why they got to be so big:

    McDonald’s – I can go anywhere in the world and get the cheapest meal around in a comfortable environment and in record time. Of the hundreds of times I’ve been to McD’s I’ve never ONCE had an issue with anything.

    Wal-Mart – You need a bunch of different items at a good price, they always got it. If something goes wrong with an item, they give you a full refund, no questions. Of the hundreds of times I’ve been here also, not a single incident. If there has been, they rectify it immediately and fully.

    AMEX – Now I see why people pay high fees for high-end AMEX cards with concierge services. If they treat lowly-little-ole-me THIS WELL everytime I call…I can only imagine how they treat their top customers.

    Same goes for your Starbucks and WM examples.

    One of the small things I did recently was actually pick up all phone calls for my biz and treat the customer nicely instead of thinking in my head, “OH MY GOD WHY DO THEY KEEP CALLING.” You can see a direct increase in profit from this. If they hear a helpful voice on the other end, they often order MUCH more, or feel they will come back.

    It’s crazy how much it helps!

  4. Jay Lin says:

    I agree with Nev. AMEX has the best customer service ever. Usually, I hate calling customer service numbers but AMEX is different.

    Costco also has amazing customer service.

  5. Adam McFarland says:

    Man, I really want to call AMEX now. Maybe I’ll call and wish them a Happy Halloween…

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