When a product arrives damaged; when there are questions about a product or service; when there are billing issues; when troubleshooting or some other kind of help is needed – this is the stuff that drives consumers a bit nuts. Why? Because they have to wade into those horrible waters of customer service departments. And if there are any complaints registered about companies on review websites and all over social media, they are about poor customer service and not having problems and issues resolved.
Indeed, it seems sometimes as if “customer service” is just a dark hole that customers enter and then eventually extract themselves because it is just not worth the hassle.
Companies Are Beginning to Come Around
Before the Internet and especially before social media, companies did not have to worry too much about consumer dissatisfaction with their customer service departments. That has all changed now. Companies can be trashed and their reputations ruined by just a few bad posts, and recovery can be a long process. Rather than recover, the “big boys” have taken customer service much more seriously and have put features in place to attend to this function more effectively.
Small businesses can take some tips from what the “big boys” are doing because they are not expensive and they will “buy” a lot of good will.
Millennials Like to Solve Problems Themselves
This is the biggest consumer group right now and it will continue to be so for a long time. And the generation coming up behind? It has many of the same values and certainly as much tech expertise.
Given a number of tech smarts on the part of consumers, companies have put many of their customer service functions online, rather than force customers to wait on hold or for email responses.
- If a product is defective or does not meet customer standards, the method for return and refund are published on the company website.
- FAQ pages on company websites address the most common questions and issues that customers have. And there is a search feature so that customers may find their answers quickly – consumers are impatient and want answers now.
- Companies have discussion forums on their sites so that customers may help one another. These are quite popular and save time for everyone.
- Companies are adding tutorials and explainer videos to their websites so that customers can get the information they need without going through a conversation (or many) with customer support reps.
This is a category of its own because delivery of online products and services is such a big component of e-commerce. When downloads don’t work; when a web-based service does not work as it is supposed to, then consumers want a quick fix right now. Consider, for example, the web presence of Yahoo. Consumers want the features to work. When they don’t, there is frustration and anger. So, Yahoo has developed a huge customer service site with their own yahoo support number that allows customers to identify their issues, select categories for resolution, and become “self-service” repairmen. These same features are a part of other large companies too. AT&T offers to troubleshoot for its cable, phone and Wi-Fi customers on its website. Frustration reduced!
Here Are the Important Takeaways for Smaller Businesses
Smaller companies can incorporate a lot of these customer service features at a relatively low cost.
- Use video to explain and to train your customers
- Have all processes for returns and exchanges streamlined via your website.
- Offer a “call back” feature. If a customer must call and speak to a live representative, and your phone lines are often busy, taking a customer’s number and calling back when a rep is available fosters a huge amount of goodwill. People can go on with their lives while they wait.
- If your business involves the need to download products or service, have troubleshooting steps in place to resolve any issues
- Have Q & A and discussion forums on your site
- Provide follow-up customer service surveys. When a customer can vent directly to you, s/he is less likely to trash you all over social media.
- Commit to responsiveness. Have staff in place to monitor your social media platforms and to respond to customer complaints and issues quickly.
All of these things are low-cost endeavors. They take some time and some site design work. But your reputation is at stake – don’t risk it.