Stellar customer service is the difference between keeping clients over the long haul and losing them at the first bump in the road. Use these strategies to keep your customers happy, encourage referrals, and build a business on solid relationships.
Customer Service is Subjective
Anyone who has spent much time in Europe knows that customer service here is very different from The States.
As an American living abroad I can’t help but compare the standards of the two continents when it comes to things like this. This particular topic represents a huge, massive, MONUMENTAL difference.
I want to share with you an experience I just had with some really really terrible customer service. Afterwards, I’m going to show you how you can use what I learned from it to keep your customers happier, longer.
As most of you know, we moved from Berlin to Stockholm about 8 months ago. Customer service in Berlin was just generally awful (with a capital A). I’m going to give Germany a pass this time and focus on something that happened here in Sweden which has a much clearer problem/solution relationship.
When we got to Stockholm we leased a car. The service we experienced when we were shopping for it was bad. Really bad. Across every brand and dealership we dealt with it was so bad we actually felt personally offended by many sales people.
Looking back now, I can understand where that negativity was coming from. Brands that do not emphasize education for their sales teams, breed sales people who are uninformed and frustrated. Think about it. Having the tell people “I don’t know” over and over again has to be frustrating.
It’s a vicious cycle that creates bad customer service every step of the way.
Brands that don’t emphasize education for sales people create a vicious cycle of bad customer service. Listen & learn from customers #Hustle
— Olivia Derby (@OliviaRDerby) October 3, 2016
Eventually desperation set in ( we could only rent crazy over priced cars for so long). We just decided to block out the rude and uninformed sales people, march into Skoda and push the process forward ourselves.
The Worst Case Sales Scenario
After an exhausting 6 hours (6! To lease a car!) we walked out with a disappointing car. It was way below the standard we were looking for, and our ideal price point.
This is super important if you are involved at all with sales.
When customers walk away with a product they need, but aren’t in love with, spending less than they planned, everyone loses. You have failed.
The immediate losses from bad customer service:
1. You as a sales person have lost income. Money in your pocket has been voluntarily given up. Simply put, your customer wanted to spend more with you, but didn’t.
2. You as a business have lost income.
3. The customer is unsure about their purchase, and remains unconvinced. This begins the relationship on a foundation of hesitation and uncertainty.
Those seem like pretty substantial losses to start with. The most serious losses, however, compound as time goes on.
The Long Term Losses from bad customer service:
1. Customers who aren’t happy have no blinders. Unhappy customers who have left the sale wondering if they made the right decision will look for problems.
Small issues that would have been overlooked had the customer been thrilled, get exaggerated.
2. That customer will never be happy with the purchase.
Face the facts here. We all like a deal. But, no matter how small your budget is, if you walk away with a product that cost less than you planned on spending, but is less of a product than you need, that product is going to frustrate you.
3. No referrals for you.
For business owners like us, referrals are straight money. If I’m looking for an awesome espresso machine and a friend friend says “I have X and I freaking love it”, I am buying that espresso machine. End of story.
Customers are never quiet. Good or bad, they talk. When social media is so accessible you can bet that those comments will reach more people than ever.
Customers are never quiet. Good or bad, they talk. Social media is so accessible you can bet that those comments are going to reach people.
— Olivia Derby (@OliviaRDerby) October 18, 2016
4. No follow up spending.
As a marketer, I can promise you this old cliche you heard in college is 100% accurate. It is cheaper to keep clients than to find new ones. When your clients are pissed, or even neutral about you and your product, they will not become repeat customers.
A Lesson in the Silver Lining
So, back to the story. When we left that dealership, nobody was happy. We should have known right away that we would never be satisfied with this purchase. The car we got was not what we wanted. It did not have the features we expected from a family car, and left us feeling like something was missing.
When we went back to the dealership for things like oil changes, tire changes, picking up a spare key, we experienced really awful, ruin your day kind of service every single time. In our minds, the whole experience continued a downward spiral. Throughout the whole process a lack of organization and a lack of information was at the heart of every problem.
And I kept thinking to myself, “there is a lesson here”.
What that lesson was didn’t quite reveal itself until I had a client tell me that she felt like i needed a better system of organization in place to keep track of her account.
This amazing client of mine (whom I have tremendous respect for and a great relationship with) gave me a killer opportunity. I could either continue on the path I was on, offering my clients the same problem I was seeing with that dealership, making me an angry hypocrite…or, I could put my preaching to the test and actually fix it. It seemed so easy for the dealership to fix their problem, it should be easier for me to fix my own.
That was the day I hired a VA and implemented a CRM.
So, what’s the takeaway here? How does this help you?
The Customer Service Secret
Every business has customers (in one form or another). Every business can have stellar customer service. But customer service is not about giving your buyer every single thing they ask for and revamping your entire process to meet the demands of other people.
Awesome customer service is about listening to people.
If you can develop ways for your company to really listen to your customers you will end up with a whole lot of happy people saying wonderful things about you.
This seems a little vague though. And I’m not one to spout a lot of theory and then leave you hanging.
Skoda could have turned that entire experience around if they had listened to us voice our frustrations about lost paperwork, unorganized communication, and lack of information by simply writing down a few key notes on our account record.
— Olivia Derby (@OliviaRDerby) October 18, 2016
Listen and Respond
As a small business owner, listening to your customers should be even easier than that for you. Since you personally spend so much time with your clients you have the opportunity to listen and demonstrate that you’ve listened every time you make contact.
There are a million different ways to get feedback from your clients, and I’ll list a few of those in a minute, but before that, I have one little challenge for you that will dramatically improve every single one of your client relationships right now.
The next time you communicate with any of your clients, reference 1 thing they have said to you in the past.
“How did that conference go?”, “Is you son feeling better?”, “You mentioned you were having trouble with our tracking system, we’ve got a developer working on it.”, “How did you like that new software you were trying out?”
Work related or not, reference something that came up in your last conversation and your clients will suddenly feel like they matter.
Keeping all that information straight is the only challenge here. This is where a good CRM comes into play.
If you don’t have one already I strongly suggest you implement one. Like today.