My last post was about what makes customer service experiences great. In short, it says: The service you provide your customers or supporters represents your business. These people tell your story — in-person and online.
(Just in case you’re still not convinced about how important your friends’ opinions are compared to other advertising, check out the chart in this article, Lessons in Customer Service From the World’s Most Beloved Companies by Gregory Ciotti).
And then I give examples of great customer service. Examples are important because even though many of us know that customer service is crucial to our organization (and can lead to super fans), it is too often neglected. These examples can open your mind to different ways of treating your customers or supporters, even when you’re busy with other things.
(Again, how crucial? In one of Paul Jarvis’ recent Sunday Dispatches, he talks about a vegan cheese company and his experience with them. Definitely going to be ordering that, thank you! Or check out the stories on Help Scout by Gregory Ciotti, including the one about the three-and-a-half-year-old re-naming bread for Sainsbury’s, and United Airlines holding a flight so that a son could say goodbye to his dying mom.)
It’s harder to find these great stories than the bad stories. Bad stories are everywhere. And yes, bad stories are going to dominate this post. But only because I want to make certain points about each one.
And all these points seem simple to me, but organizations are not doing them. When you read this post, [Tweet “Take time to think about your customer service. Is it working, or have you been neglecting it? “]
Here we go.
Here’s the Part About the African Elephants
I tried very hard to sign up to use the fitness center at our local recreation center.
Notice something wrong with that sentence? And I’m not talking about my own motivation here.
I’m talking about it actually being difficult to sign up to give the fitness center my money to use its equipment. It shouldn’t be. In fact, it should be so easy, you should be able to walk in and immediately sign up.
After this experience, I’m still wondering whether the recreation center need customers. However, it does advertise discounted passes during certain seasons, so I’m assuming it does.
The brief version is that I stopped by to sign up. But since it’s been a few years since I used the center, I needed an appointment with one of several fitness directors to show me how to use the fitness equipment again. To make an appointment, I had to talk to someone else through email.
Then I went through an email exchange, with the result being that I had to call again to make an appointment. Several calls later (the appointment book was missing, or the staff hadn’t updated it for the following month), I still couldn’t seem to make an appointment.
The next time I called, I got someone who told me I had to fill in forms before I could even make an appointment. I was ready to give up, until this lady told me she used the fitness center. She said you can log into your routine online and every week you received an email telling you how many African elephants you had lifted. Well, after hearing that I was sold again. Who wouldn’t be? Who wouldn’t want to see how many African elephants they could lift every week?
I went in, filled out the forms, made an appointment, scheduled a babysitter (as, of course, fitness directors only work afternoons during the week). Then the day of the appointment, a staff member called to reschedule. Should it really be that much effort just to sign up to use a fitness center?
What’s my point? The barrier of entry needs to be way less than this. Make it as easy as possible to sign someone up. But if you mess up, there’s still a chance to fix it…until there isn’t.
Don’t Mess With the Chocolate Chip Cookie Order
This one is simple. You’ll see why great customer service is expensive.
The second time I bought a batch of what turned out to be hard, stale chocolate chip cookies from our chain bakery down the street, I emailed nicely to say what the hey? Instead of answering my email directly, I received a form response. There was nothing wrong with it; it was actually quite good.
But it so totally ignored the subject of my email, that I emailed again. The next time I did receive a response, but it was just a simple apology. This time I would have appreciated them at least throwing me one free cookie on my next visit (similar to what the pizza chain did).
What’s my point? Taking the time to customize a reply takes much more time than sending a form response. However, it makes a huge difference — the difference between perhaps now a non-customer (I’ve decided not to go to this bakery much anymore) and a super fan. And a super fan who probably would have continued to suggest this bakery to her friends, as she has in the past.
And really, don’t mess with chocolate chip cookies! We want them soft, gooey, and chewy!
Shouldn’t Ordering Online Be Simple?
I recently ordered business cards online, and it was a miserable experience.
I picked what I thought was the simplest option — only my blog name, website, and email. I was then offered choice after choice for quantity (did they really need nine choices here?), and paper quality — glossy, matte or signature (I’m not entirely sure what signature is and had to Google it. Still not sure. Maybe there were more options if I clicked it. I didn’t).
Then I was offered item after item with my name and blog on it — business card holder (three varieties), magnets, letterhead, a notebook, a business package deal with three accessories, pens, a large stamp, sticky notes, a window decal, a mug, a hat. You get the idea. That was not the end of the list.
You had to read through them all because you didn’t want to accidentally add a plaid design to your business card!
I think the company gets away with this because once you have a business card design you’re happy with, you’re unlikely to cancel the order. It’s much easier to finish it than start again somewhere else, especially if you’ve already used a design they offered, created an account, and customized it.
What’s my point? That may be one way to do business, but I wouldn’t go back to that company even if it had a design I liked. I don’t want to support a company that acts that way. I care where my money goes.
You also get the customers you deserve if you do business this way, a point Bernadette Jiwa mentioned in her book, Fortune Cookie Principle: The 20 Keys to a Great Brand Story and Why Your Business Needs One.
It’s better to gain a reputation as an organization that treats its customers or supporters awesomely, and doesn’t try to sell you everything under the sun when you only want one simple thing.
What did I miss? If you’re out there reading, let me know I’m reaching you in the comments below.