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.