Great customer service is not some top-secret formula that only the best business owners can access, nor does it have to cost your company a lot or be difficult to implement. In fact, customer service boils down to one simple concept: keeping your customer informed. Customers who are well-informed feel confident–about making a purchase, about what they can expect from your company, and about remaining loyal to your brand. If you’re not sure if your customer service is at its best, use this list to test whether you’re really telling your customer what he needs to know.
Eliminate the fine print. No one likes to feel like they are being tricked, especially not when money is involved. Engaging in complicated pricing strategies, difficult to understand package deals, or annoying return policies feels to the customer like he risks being swindled. Make everything that matters to your customer clear. Use simple language, easy to understand examples, and knowledgeable staff to help explain anything the customer has questions about. When I opened Metal Mafia 10 years ago, most competitors in my industry were playing pricing games–different sales reps got you different discounts, different quantities meant different prices, and everyone was out to meet and beat. The customer lost in every scenario, either because they paid more than necessary or wasted precious time trying to get a fair price. We set a clear and fair price for every item and eliminated the back and forth of discounts and deals. Customers found our clarity refreshing and made the switch with no hesitation.
When something changes, spell it out. Change is hard for most people, and customers are no different. Hiding change or figuring your customer won’t care is a no-no. The best way to get people to accept change is to be honest about it–even when it might be unpalatable– and to make clear exactly how the change you are instituting will affect them. Just this week, a leading cable company lost $40 of my monthly business because they increased my rates without communicating that to me in advance. When I got the sticker shock on my bill and investigated the cause, I ended up finding a different plan that was less expensive–something I never would have sought had they just told me in advance they were raising the price of my current plan and why.
Be proactive. People like surprises only if they are good ones. If something isn’t going to happen the way the customer expected, your company should be the one to tell her, rather than letting her find out on her own the hard way. Not long ago, I ordered something for my son on a flash sale site, and was looking forward to receiving the notice letting me know it was being shipped. Instead, I got a note from the site letting me know that due to an inventory mistake, they had sold out and I would not be receiving what I ordered. I wasn’t happy, but in the same email, they also told me my account had been credited an extra $10 in addition to the cost of the item. I wasn’t happy about not getting what I ordered, but the way the company handled the situation meant I was still willing to buy from them in the future–and not just because I had a credit to spend.
The bottom line is this: great customer service means never leaving your customers in the dark. Think of how much less angry you are to learn a flight is delayed if you learn of the delay before you have left for the airport instead of after you arrive at the gate, or how much happier you are to subscribe to a cell phone service knowing you can change your plan to suit your needs on a monthly basis. Informed customers are not only willing to make repeat purchases, they tell others about the great experience they had when dealing with your company.”