Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, in the 1980s and 90s would talk about how great Walmart customer service was. This always confused me. Not once have you ever gone to Walmart and experienced what I would consider “customer service”. If you’re like me, Walmart customer service was nothing more than a game of hide and seek where, when you did track down an employee, you’d ask him where the product is and they point in a vague general direction. Most of the time it was the wrong direction. Even at Walmart’s Customer Service desk or at the registers it is hard to find somebody who is more than just an automaton.
Fast forward to today.
In our anonymous Internet world, far too often we expect some form of customer service but we end up getting none. Many of my clients, when they have to deal with one of the tech juggernauts like Google, tell me tales of confusion of the lack of help…or no response at all. It’s true on the Internet today everyone wants to scale and mass produce customer service.
You can’t mass produce a great experience.
A great experience is great because it’s customized and personalized to you. If you’re looking for an advantage online or want to stand out above your competitors, I suggest customer service.
It’s easy; you can begin with something as simple as chat on your website and then follow up with great support once a customers purchases. If you get the customer’s name when you ask for their email address to send them offers, use their first name as much as possible in future correspondence.
Bill gates in his book The Road Ahead talked about mass customization replacing mass production. The goal is to figure out how you can exceed your customer’s expectations on a massive scale. Companies like Zappos have created an entire empire out of policies just like this.
If you’re reading this you’re probably small and don’t have the resources of a large company. That’s OK. In fact, it’s your advantage. Imagine the service people received in Amazon’s early days? If you had an issue then Jeff Bezos might likely take care fo the problem himself…and I’m sure it would be done with enthusiasm. Addressing people quickly and with compassion will set you apart from everyone else.
Final word on this if you do a good job, your company will grow and that’s when customer service becomes extremely challenging. It’s important that your team know how to address customers properly the way you want them to, but also your company policies cannot contradict what your team is preaching. I understand the need to have a 14 day return policy to restrict returns but if your customers are telling you they need an extra couple of weeks…change the policy. There’s nothing worse than having a customer service team have to justify strict policies that they don’t believe in and more importantly your customers don’t believe in.
There’s a lot more to be said about customer service online.