The Essence Of Great Customer Service: Treat Your Customers Like Kings and Queens

by on July 3, 2008 · 5 comments

Customer photoIt was once said that you can succeed in any business or industry if you learn how to do one thing well: treat your customers like kings and queens.

Businesses establish reputations for themselves based upon how well they treat their customers over time. Getting off on the wrong track can seriously harm a business, while doing it right can produce amazing amounts of “goodwill”, admiration and long term success.

Real World Customer Service

My favorite example of excellent customer service is Amazon.com. If you ever watch an interview with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, you’ll notice something: he always talks about customers. And often he talks about customers and customer service for the whole interview. He is “obsessed” with customers.

Jeff Bezos at Web 2.0

We’ve all had our customer service experiences – good and bad. Here’s one of mine: several years ago I purchased a large order of books and DVDs on Amazon.com for a friend’s birthday. He was in the military, stationed in Saudi Arabia during the gulf war. After I picked out a bunch of great books and movies for him, I carefully entered the address of his military base and completed the order.

30 days later, he still hadn’t received it, so I contacted Amazon customer service on their website and told them about my problem. They got back to me within 2 hours, and said –

“No problem, we’ll have another order shipped right away.”

In less than two weeks, my friend emailed me telling me the package arrived. Amazon had shipped it with priority status. A few days after he received it, I got a thoughtful email from Amazon telling me why my first package did not get delivered. They wrote me saying: “We wanted to let you know that your replacement order was shipped and delivered successfully. Upon investigating your order, we found why the first package was not delivered. For shipments to military bases, the country should be USA, and not the actual country the military base is in.” They went on to show me an example, and how that was different from what I entered, and very delicately suggested I keep this in mind in the future. Of course there was no charge for my first order.

Another week later, I got an email from my friend – he had just received the original shipment too!

For an even better story about a customer experience with Amazon, read this story in the New York Times: Put Buyers First? What a Concept. The author Joe Nocera shares an experience about ordering his son’s Christmas present from Amazon that he’ll never forget. In fact, now he’s writing about it in the New York Times where hundreds of thousands of people will read it!

Customer Service benefits both the Customers and the Business

Although customer service is expensive, it pays off.

As we all know, a dissatisfied customer will tell all their friends – on average 9-15 people – about their experience. According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, 50-70% of customers who complain will do business with you again if you resolve their problem. And if they feel you acted quickly and to their satisfaction, up to 96% will do business with you again, and they will probably refer other people to you.

Since getting new customers costs six times as much as keeping an existing one, customer service is a very good investment!

According to a Forrester Research study, 52% of people who shop online do their research at Amazon.com. This is an astounding statistic, when you consider the number of people who shop online. That’s over 50% market share! And it is directly related to the trust and reputation Amazon has built through great customer service.

How To Engage Your Customers

Dell, recovering from a period where they lost sight of the importance of customer service, is using some unique and interesting ways to build connections with their customers and get their feedback. Idea Storm is a site Dell created where customers can submit their own ideas, and other customers vote and comment on them. The ideas that bubble to the top with the most votes get implemented by Dell.

Screen shot: Dell IdeaStorm

Some popular items that Dell implemented from this feedback was to make Linux available on some of their systems, and to offer PCs with clean installations of Windows (without any of the “crapware” ads that clutter up your new PC when you get it.) They also pressured Microsoft to allow them to install Windows XP on new computers after Vista was released as a result of customer feedback.

In 1998 I was one of the early members of a web content management start up called Interwoven. When I joined we only had a few customers, and one of our most important goals was to build a base of “Wildly Happy Customers.” We did whatever we could to keep our precious initial customers extremely satisfied, and exceeded their expectations at every turn. This was a philosophy from the founder and the CEO, which became ingrained in our culture. It really payed off as our company grew, and eventually led a successful IPO.

Tools for Small Businesses

But you don’t have to be a huge company like Dell or Amazon to be great at customer service. There are a number of tools and services out there to help you engage your customers inexpensively, or even free.

The key to great customers service is to be proactive. Engage with your customers, listen to them, and make them part of your process for improving your business or service.

One interesting new service designed to help you do this is called Get Satisfaction. I met the founder Thor Muller about a year ago at an iPhone BarCamp developer event, and he introduced me to his new company. I’ve watched it steadily grow in popularity in the past year and gain some serious momentum.

GetSatisfaction Logo

Get Satisfaction’s tag-line is “People-Powered Customer Service.”  You can create a profile for your business for free. Customers can share ideas, report a problem or start a discussion about your company. One intriguing new startup called LaterLoop is using this service on its website to solicit feedback from its customers by embedding it in their website. Thousands of other companies are using the service as well.

LaterLoop Feedback using GetSatisfaction

But What About Bad Reviews!?

Many people ask: “but what if someone leaves a negative review about my business?” It’s a logical concern. If you look at it as an opportunity to turn them into a happy customer, a service like this can be a powerful tool indeed. The fact that a customer took the time to complain about your business is a huge benefit for you. Typically, a company only hears from about 4% of its dissatisfied customers — 96% just go away. And based on the statistic mentioned earlier, if you resolve their complaint quickly chances are they will stay with you as a satisfied customer! Oh and by the way, with services like Get Satisfaction, a customer can go there and say something about your business whether you’ve created a profile there or not. So play offense instead of defense here and lead the conversation!

Image of Google Local Reviews

All businesses get the occasional “bad apple” customer who can never be satisfied. But you make it hard for those complaints to stand out when you handle your customer service openly and transparently, because you’ll have a proven track record of being proactive with your customers and handling their issue quickly and effectively.

You can even use a system for collecting online reviews from your best customers to help your business stand out from the crowd. See my article Using Online Reviews To Get New Customers for an example of a Chiropractor who gets up to 80% of his new business from online reviews on Google Local, Yahoo Local and CitySearch. In the article I detail a step-by-step process you can use to solicit these reviews for your business, including a template and examples.

Tips for Providing Excellent Customer Service

Here a summary of ways you can encourage customer feedback and provide great customer service:

  • Be proactive – engage your customers so they will tell you their issues and give you a chance to resolve them, and make them into happy customers instead of losing them to your competition.
  • Employ tools like Get Satisfaction – here is a link to my Expand2Web GetSatisfaction page – to allow your customers to give you feedback and to handle customer complaints quickly and effectively.
  • Make it easy for customers to contact you. Services like RingCentral allow you to sePicture: RingCentral RingMe buttont up a very effective and inexpensive ($9.99/month!) customer call center, with call routing and professional voice messaging. You can add a “RingMe” button to your website that people can click to call you instantly. When you are easy to contact it allows you to head off customer issues before they get bad, and this also makes it easy for new customers to get a hold of you to ask you questions about your products and services.
  • If you are a local business with a storefront, employ online reviews to help your best customers tell everyone why they like doing business with you. This can be an excellent source of new business referrals. Create profiles in Google Local and Yahoo Local – here’s how to get listed in Google Local and Yahoo Local.

Jeff Bezos was once quoted as saying:

“If you do something nice for one customer, they will tell 100 customers.”

If you think of the marketing budget you’d have to set aside for this type of publicity, customer service is a good investment indeed!

Article by »

Don is an entrepreneur based in Silicon Valley. He founded Expand2Web and is the publisher of the Expand2Web Blog, and the GetFiveStars Customer Feedback and Reviews service.

Don has written 313 articles on Expand2Web

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

pyrmont July 4, 2008 at 7:50 am

Your very timely post has just arrived after my partner and I were in the process of putting in the finishing touches to our first major brand building exercise.

It prompted us to go one step extra.

Reply

Israel Herrera July 4, 2008 at 7:01 pm

Well said. By providing excellent service to your customers, you are creating loyal customers. The success of any business is greatly helped by loyal customers.

Reply

Marcus Nelson July 6, 2008 at 6:32 pm

Hi Don –
Great post – wonder if you might consider a look at UserVoice? Might be a great alternative for companies looking to consolidate feedback or replicate Dell’s IdeaStorm concept.

Marcus
UserVoice.com

Reply

Don Campbell July 7, 2008 at 10:39 am

@pyrmont, @Israel – thanks for dropping by!

@Marcus – this looks interesting. I’ll take a look at UserVoice and sign up an account for Expand2Web to check it out. Thanks for the recommendation.

Reply

ELIZABETH NZEKWUE April 14, 2013 at 7:38 am

splendid ideas,i need more of that.

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