May 10, 2012

How Bad Customer Service Can Kill Your Business And What To Do About It

I was speaking with a Speechpad customer yesterday–let’s call him John–who said, “I was just so happy to get a response. Some of the companies I contact I don’t even hear back from.” This customer does two to three weekly webcasts. He wanted to get them transcribed so they would be searchable and indexable in Google.

John told me that he’s tried a number of different transcription services. Sometimes he’ll submit a transcription and never hear back! Imagine it–a customer ready and willing to buy, a customer with a budget who never gets a response.

Our goal is to respond to customers within minutes after they contact us. Sometimes it takes us a few hours. But we make it a goal to respond very quickly. Responsiveness differentiates Speechpad from other companies in the industry.

In contrast, this morning I was on the phone with Garmin customer service. A few weeks ago my Garmin 500 bike GPS stopped working. I called Garmin and they set me up for a replacement. The Garmin rep on the phone told me that they would ship out a new unit to me right after they received the one I was sending in.

Sometimes customer service people just want to give you good news since they know you’re having a bad experience. Any good news. The problem with this approach is that it sets a high expectation. And in this case, Garmin failed to deliver on that expectation. I had to call today because I still hadn’t received the replacement unit even though Garmin received my GPS on April 23 — over two and a half weeks ago.

When it comes to customer service, the best approach is to tell people the truth. Can’t give them a discount? Tell them that. Don’t come up with excuses, just tell them the truth. Don’t set expectations you can’t deliver on–set expectations you can beat.

Bad customer service can kill an otherwise great product. Great customer service is part of the Whole Product Experience: everything that encompasses your product, from the product itself, to how that product is marketed and sold, and the service that goes with it.

Delivering great customer service increases customer loyalty, which in turn generates new business through referrals as those happy customers tell their friends and colleagues what a great experience they had with your company.

Great customer service can also help overcome early issues with a product. If a file upload fails or a web site doesn’t work with a particular browser version, customer service can go a long way toward addressing those issues. And customers love getting fast replies. It shows that you’re on it, you’re with it, and that your company takes their business seriously. Plus, they’re used to getting such slow replies from other companies that fast responses really wow them.

Customer service impacts how people perceive your product and company, and ultimately has a huge impact on whether they recommend your company to other people. Don’t just think about the product — think about how you’ll deliver it as part of the Whole Product Experience.

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