Ten Online Customer Service Tips
By Andrea Wilson
Other than the current buzz words, customer service has changed very little since commerce first began. If you want a customer to buy from you again, and to recommend your product or service to others, complaints or problems must be handled properly.
"A satisfied customer will tell five people about their experience, a dissatisified customer will tell twenty-five!"
Customer Service on the Internet
The Internet is an impersonal place to shop. Because of this, the online customer feels little loyalty to you or your company. Many online shoppers won't restrain their anger and upset either. They feel safe behind their anonymous email address. Therefore, in responding to a complaint, you must quickly establish rapport with your customer. To do this, your phone skills and email etiquette must be exceptional. You won't likely get a second chance to make the right impression.
Here are some tips to put you on the right track:
1. Don't give stock responses when customers are not asking stock questions! Take care to answer every question or concern that a customer poses in an email. There's nothing worse than getting back an email from a business owner or their customer service representative that doesn't address the concerns you stated in your email, gives canned responses to what you asked, or makes you feel like a nuisance...or a dummy!
2. End the call or email on a high note for the customer. They'll remember your last words best. In other words, don't end the conversation by saying, "And I'm really sorry you didn't receive your widget when promised." Say, "Martha, your widget is on my desk right now. I'll be packaging it right after this call and I will take it to the post office myself." Now stop talking! Don't be tempted to apologize again and remind them of the problem. Leave customers with the good taste of a resolution in their mouths.
3. In emails, use "exaggerated courtesy." Since the person can't see your expression or hear your tone of voice, your words must do everything for you. Read emails at least three times before hitting the send button.
4. Remove or reword phrases in your email that could be considered rude, such as, "As I said on the phone,...." (Ouch, that's a reprimand! We expect the sentence to end like this, "As I said on the phone, Stupid!")
5. Consider outsourcing your customer service. I was a customer service professional for fifteen years in the high-tech industry. As a hiring manager I looked for two customer service "virtues" in candidates: patience beyond measure and a genuine liking for people. If you do your own customer service for your small business, you need to determine if you have those qualities. If not, you might want to outsource your customer service to someone who does!
6. Ask customers what they want! Often their request will be more reasonable than whatever it was you were going to do to make it right. And it will be the solution they want, not the solution you think they want!
7. Acknowledge their pain and make it right! In my experience, customers rarely demand something more than what they originally expected. So don't start offering all kinds of freebies to try and make them feel better. What they really want is for you to acknowledge their pain and make it right. Making it right usually means getting what they expected in the first place. And it doesn't have to be accompanied by a free gift. Don't substitute "bribing" the customer for genuinely caring about their pain. You can't buy their loyalty, but you can earn it.
8. Avoid over compensating for your company's mistake. Gushing with apologetic words and offering them the sky because of a small shipping error can leave your customer doubting your professionalism. And if you've given them the sky for such a small mistake, what the heck will you do when you really mess up?
9. If possible, give customers a choice as to the solution to their problem. They'll view their experience with less pain that way. If they couldn't download your ebook because of some technical difficulty, they might want a full refund, they might want the chance to download the ebook again, or they might prefer that you email them the ebook.
10. If you do it carefully, you can use some customer service situations to upsell customers. "Martha, did you notice on our Web site that you can get a second widget at half price? If I ship them today, both widgets will arrive in plenty of time for Christmas. Gift-wrapping is included, by the way." Now stop talking and let Martha sell herself on your offer. This is not the time for a hard sales pitch!
How does good customer service increase your revenue? Every customer service encounter gives you another chance to:
- improve customer loyalty
- correct problems in your buying cycle
- upsell customers.
By retaining customer loyalty you now have the chance to sell this customer something else, and you can rest assured they'll say positive things about your company. Remember, a satisfied customer will tell five people, but a dissatisified customer will tell twenty-five people!
About the Author
Andrea Wilson is a former customer service professional who now owns Able Webs, an online Web design business. Visit http://www.ablewebs.com and subscribe to "Web Marketing Today" to learn proven tips and tricks to marketing your business on the Web.
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