August 2, 2011
How do you handle grumpy, ranting customers? While some entrepreneurs believe that the customer is king, others aren’t yet sold on the idea that the customer is always right – even when they are dead wrong.
But the facts are, a dissatisfied consumer decides to tell between 9 and 15 people about their experience and 13% of dissatisfied customers tell more than 20 people. (Source: White House Office of Consumer Affairs) Research also suggests that, attracting a new customer costs 5 times as much as keeping an existing one. (Source: Lee Resource Inc.)
Given numerous studies insist that the better you are to your customers – the better off your business and bottom line will be; what have you done for your customers lately? Not the ones you love but the ones you wish you never encountered? We asked hundreds of entrepreneurs to share their perspective on customer service and curated some of the most revealing insights to help you tackle some of the hardest customer service issues affecting your business.
1. Listen and understand their perspective. Seems like a simple enough idea, but its often ignored. Ensure that you’re not only hearing what they say, but understand why they are saying it. Sometimes you’ll solve a problem and the customer is still unhappy. That’s because you haven’t solved it in their language.
Dina Moy, CEO of Inkba.com @teaminkba
2. Turn a negative into a positive. When we field complaints, we focus on owning up and correcting the issue, while also re-directing the complainants attention to an agreed upon positive. We cannot afford to let anyone walk out the door focused on a negative aspect.
Brian Meissner, Owner of El Diablo Tranquilo Hostel & Bar @DiabloTranquilo
3. Be eager to make less money on each deal. If you’re in a business where a long-term customer relationship is important, be comfortable losing money on your first or initial deals. The value the customer perceives when working with a company that put their satisfaction first will act as its own marketing. Your business will grow and you will find ways to make other streams of more profitable revenue.
Brennan White, Co-Founder of Pandemic Labs @pandemiclabs
4. Invest in the right CRM software. Customer relationship management software enables you to track different information about your customers. Even for a small company, CRM makes it easier to serve them and sell more products or services.
Thursday Bram, Consultant of Hyper Modern Consulting @thursdayb
5. Make like the Four Seasons and kill customers with kindness. It is a cliché, but the customer actually ‘is’ always right, even if he/she is ‘wrong.’ Unsatisfied customers generally stem from actions an organization has taken that the customer has misunderstood. An unhappy client gets his money back, no questions asked. A less-than-happy client gets everything that he/she wants, and more. Every disagreement, setback and argument is a new chance to make a customer even more loyal to our organization.
Jon Frank, Founder/CEO of Precision Essay @precisionessay
6. Get on the phone! So many people communicate over email nowadays. It’s often easier to pick up the phone and call your customers. They will love you for it and it really strengthens your professional relationship with them. I try to call 5 of my clients every day, even if it’s just to check in. When it comes time to talk about money again, this makes discussions much easier. They know you actually care about their companies because you’ve gone out of your way to show it.
Mitch Gordon, President of Go Overseas @GoOverseas
7. Be clear and transparent. Clients want to be sure that their dollars are well spent. Having open communication about their expectations (even your expectations) will eliminate any confusion, misunderstanding, or doubt from the door. Being transparent with communication also lets your clients/customers know that you can be trusted with their money and their business.
Chi-Chi Enigwe, Founder & Director of The Phoenix Public Relations LLC @ThePhoenixPR
8. Speed is an asset. In the hyper social era, people expect rapid responses to their inquires and feedback. While you cant solve every issue immediately, its critical to quickly acknowledge your customer with at least, “Im sorry” or “Thank you.” Simply by providing an initial response you will generate good will and build a runway, if needed, to continue troubleshooting.
Ashok Kamal, CEO of Bennu, LLC @bennuworld
9. Remember the golden rule. Put yourself in the position of the customer, and treat them as you would want to be treated.
David Pitlyuk, Founder of Carbon Fiber Gear @carbonfibergear
10. Knock their socks off. If you’re the CEO, and you’re replying to emails personally, respond promptly and sign the emails with your personal contact information. Most customers expect to speak with an overseas help desk, so a response from the CEO will surely impress. I include my cell phone number in all customer correspondence, and have never encountered any privacy issues.
Benjamin Sann, Founder/CEO of BestParking.com
11. Just respond. I’m always shocked when I call a company for a quote or to buy something and don’t hear back! Sometimes just responding makes you the winner. Same applies when clients email and call. Responding in a timely fashion earns respect and referrals.
Brian Forrester, Owner of Dynamic Web Solutions, LLC @rbrianforrester
12. Keep an ongoing log of customer input. Insights gleaned from individual conversations add up to something. They may point to inequities in your product and service offerings, or conversely point out what you are doing right. Both circumstances present the opportunity to improve your offerings and herald your success.
Ryan Goodin, Owner/Marketing Director of FFWD Brands, LLC @ffwdbrands
13. Chat early and often. Utilize a live chat box up, such as olark.com, so that you can attend to users who are having issues immediately. This is been so useful for us to identify the most common problems users are having so that we can improve our website.
Cheryl Yeoh, CEO of CityPockets at @citypockets
14. The customer is usually right. Although most say the customer is always right, I say the customer is usually right. Occasionally you will encounter someone trying to take advantage of you. It is important to not let people, even your customers, walk all over you.
Roxanne Klein, Founder of Can You Imagine That! Inc.
15. Never give excuses. It’s inevitable that you will have unhappy customers. Frustrating as it is, never give excuses for the problem even if it is not your company’s fault. Take responsibility and offer solutions.
David Hendrickson, Founder of Hendrick Boards @HendrickBoards
16. Get social. Use social media for customer service as much as possible. It’s efficient, transparent and provides accountability to both your customers and company to always be on point since its one hundred percent public.
Justin VanBogart, Founder of Mediafeedia @mediafeedia
17. Provide extremely speedy responses. We aim to get back to every single email within 12 hours, and reply to most queries within 2 hours. Studies show that there is a steep drop-off of interest once the customer waits more than 4 hours.
Fan Bi, Founder + Chief Shirt of Blank Label @blanklabel
18. Don’t send automatic responses for customer service complaints. I respond with a personal email, from my email account with my cell phone number in the footer and tell them to call me anytime day or night if they have a problem. The customer has to know that you’re listening and that you’re not afraid to let them have your contact information.
Sam McBride, Founder of SafeMart.com @samacmcbride
Did you enjoy this article? If so, subscribe to YFS Magazine and never miss an update. Don’t forget to make our friendship official and join Young, Fabulous & Self-Employed entrepreneurs on Facebook.
Photo credit: © Andy Dean