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On this episode of the Coders’ Startup, Carter and I tackle the subject of customer service, which has lately been a hot topic for both of us.
I have had a few customer service interactions recently, in the roles of both customer and service provider, and some have been positive while others have been negative. I’ll get to these examples later in the post.
In general, Carter and I want to pass along to you what we have learned through our experiences as business owners. And the first topic we want to mention is response time.
Quick Response: Letting the Customer Know They Matter
When I consider what is crucial for ensuring good customer service, I immediately think of responding to emails promptly. I like to answer emails right when they come in, and I pride myself on a quick turnaround.
Carter has studied the metrics of what people value most in a customer service experience, and the leading metric is response time. This doesn’t mean a rapid solution to a problem, but simply a rapid acknowledgment that your problem has been noted and will be handled as soon as possible.
There are a variety of existing tools and services you can use to assist with customer service for your business. For example, back when Carter ran his moving company, he routed his telephone number to a call center that would receive calls for him 24-7 and pass along all the details.
There are also a number of help desk products you can purchase to organize your customer service interactions.
I have used Rhino Support in the past. It features a ticketing system for tracking customer service emails, and it also lets you embed a live chat widget on your website.
Carter suggests Zendesk, which is similar to Rhino Support but also allows you to create your own knowledge base on your website (which is like an FAQ page). You can purchase Zendesk starting at just $1 per month billed annually, or $2 for month-to-month.
The ticketing systems that programs like these offer are really crucial for scaling your business, because email is just not a good solution anymore once your business gets bigger. This way you don’t lose track of whose problems you have already fixed and whose you have yet to address.
All of the big corporations use ticketing systems because they work very well. You should incorporate these solutions into your business as early as possible.
Setting Customer Service Expectations
However, there is a flip-side to prompt customer service responses. I may pride myself on quick turnaround, but sometimes I am quick to a fault. I have been known to immediately answer emails that I receive at 2 a.m.!
My point is it can be difficult to set boundaries for myself, and Carter feels the same way. He likes to go above and beyond for his customers whenever possible, but he is beginning to realize there must be boundaries.
Many of Carter’s clients are high-dollar amount monthly retainers with whom he has built a relationship over time. There is a friendship and trust there that makes for a strong business relationship. The downside of this relationship is it’s easy to make yourself completely accessible to the client whenever they want.
For a while, Carter was answering business calls on the weekends, late at night, and even on dates. This is not OK for a few reasons:
- It is not scalable.
- It’s going to affect your mental health and your personal life.
- It sets you up for failure because you train your clients to expect an unrealistic type of service.
It’s important to set customer service expectations from the start. Be clear and up-front about when you will and will not take calls, and when you will be able to respond to emails.
This way you will avoid frustrating your clients with inconsistent standards of service, and more importantly, you will keep your sanity!
A Positive Customer Service Experience
I use LeadPages to create the landing pages for my products. Sometimes when you log in to LeadPages, you’ll receive a message regarding app updates, new features, special promotions, and so on.
The other day, I was experiencing an issue with one of my LeadPages failing to load correctly. It just so happened that I received a message alerting me that LeadPages was experiencing issues with connectivity to the Google app engine, and that the team was working to fix the problem.
The message did not mention the exact issue I was having with my landing page, and I was concerned about whether or not my problem was related. I was beginning to think that I should contact them just to be sure my problem would be dealt with.
Just then I noticed a chat box embedded in the message. I was instantly connected with a customer service rep, and I was able to ask her my question and get an answer.
The amazing thing about this interaction is it came through the app itself instead of an email that I probably would have ignored, it was positioned in a way that didn’t feel intrusive, and I was able to interact with someone and get a response.
It struck me that a simple live chat widget like this offers a myriad of practical applications for marketing, converting leads into customers, customer service, and more. The LeadPages team uses the Intercom app, which starts at $49/month.
This interaction also illustrates another important facet of good customer service, which is…
Take Ownership of the Problem!
The LeadPages team took the initiative to make their customers aware there was a problem with the application and assure them it would be fixed. In other words, they owned the problem instead of placing blame on the customers.
This is extremely powerful in any customer service interaction. You should always address issues from this standpoint instead of getting defensive and accusing your customer of making a mistake.
Even if it turns out the customer was in error and there is no problem on your end, they will still appreciate your respectful, approachable attitude.
During Carter’s trip to Ireland, he was dining in an expensive restaurant when the manager came out to inform them that the credit card machine had gone down and they would need to pay in cash.
The machine going down was not the restaurant’s fault, but the manager did nothing to alleviate the burden of the problem for her customers, such as offering to take money off the bill or directing them to the nearest ATM. Instead, she passed the business’ problem on to the customers.
If she had only taken ownership of the situation, she could have made her customers’ experience so much better and really wowed them!
A Frustrating Customer Service Experience
And now for a negative customer service experience I had.
When you purchase the Infusionsoft sales and marketing application, you also have to pay a fee for a training session. I purchased the app, but when I did the training, I discovered I already knew everything in the itinerary.
I asked the rep if I could get more advanced training instead, and he told me that should be possible and he would contact me about it later.
I never heard back from the trainer.
Eventually I followed up via email and was put in touch with someone else, but again I did not hear back from them regarding my advanced training.
I did this two more times. By this time, two months had passed. I had already paid the company for a service I had not received.
Finally I called the company and explained my situation, and the person I spoke with apologized and took ownership of the problem. This was certainly a step in the right direction.
However, I then learned the ticket for my problem had been closed even though I was never informed of this. In the end, I had to write an extremely detailed email explaining everything I had gone through, and finally I received a credit on my account for four free months of the software.
I never received the advanced training I asked for, but by that point I was too exasperated by the whole situation to care.
The lesson to take away from this story is to always follow up with your customers. Implement ticketing systems to ensure they are not lost in the shuffle. Always remember that your customers want to feel like they are being heard.
Carter’s Book and App of the Week
Book: Tax-Free Wealth by Tom Wheelwright. This is one of the best books Carter has ever read about taxes. It gave him a clear understanding of how taxes work and taught him the government is not out to get you. In fact, the book teaches you that tax laws are written to help you take advantage of reductions in tax payments. It is easy to read, easy to understand, and is 100% not sketchy or about tax evasion.
App: Meerkat allows you to live stream video over the internet, which Carter predicts will become a very popular marketing strategy in the near future. Mercedes-Benz recently live streamed a test drive from the interior of one of their new cars. Go download the app and check out the cutting edge of marketing!
That’s all for this week’s post. As always, stay tuned for more business advice from Carter and myself. And always remember to treat your customers right.
Tax-Free Wealth by Tom Wheelwright