This blog post is being brought to you by Visa Small Business.
You may not know this about me but one of my first entrepreneurial endeavors was a customer service auditing business where I would help improve the customer experience for large corporations.
I really enjoyed playing the role of customer service auditor because I got to help businesses reward employees who were doing a phenomenal job serving customers, and identify those who were treating customers horribly. I was sort of like a customer service police officer, and I loved it because bad customer service really fires me up, as I’m sure it does to most of us.
Have you ever had a terrible experience with a company because of how a front-line employee treated you, and wish you could speak to someone at the company who took your poor experience very seriously and made sure another customer wouldn’t be treated that way? That’s what happened every time a company failed my expectations while I was in this role.
How Not to Serve a Customer
One conversation in particular stands out in my mind:
I was auditing a large mobile phone and service provider. I walked into the store looking to buy a new phone and the employee working there was talking on her cell phone to someone who sounded like a pretty good friend. She didn’t say hi or acknowledge me coming into the store, which this particular company scored as a negative 25% on the evaluation of the employee.
When I did try to get her attention to ask her some questions, she rolled her eyes at me as if to say, “Can’t you see I’m on the phone?!” I was required to wait for up to 30 minutes for an employee to help me out, so I sat. And waited. For 29 minutes.
Once she knew I was probably sticking around to have my questions answered, she told her friend that she would call her back. She glanced at me and said, “What do you need? Do you want to buy a phone?”
It only got worse from there, and long story short she wasn’t working at the store anymore during any of my follow-up visits. That’s an extreme example of one of the most memorably awful experiences I had while running that business. If I wasn’t being paid to wait those 29 minutes, that probably would have been one big sale for the company gone because of one person’s attitude. She did everything wrong, from not greeting me to making me wait to not being able to give me any accurate information about the product I wanted to buy.
She scored a perfect zero, the only zero I gave in any audit.
Improving on Negative Experiences
I shared the story of one of the most horrible customer service experiences I’ve had with you because it’s somewhat entertaining, and because the company actually did a great job of using the negative feedback they got on this audit to improve customer service. These are some of the things they have since implemented to better serve customers:
Happy employees are #1 -The company recognized that happy employees were more likely to treat customers better. They set out to determine how they could be a better employer first.
Develop a social media customer service team -If you have a customer service problem, chances are people are discussing it on social media and sharing bad experiences with their friends. Businesses need to be monitoring all the chatter, and following up on multiple social media platforms.
Talk to customers -It sounds so simple, yet so many businesses don’t actually take time to talk to customers. More importantly, they don’t take time to listen. This particular company made it a mission to call customers, email them, and talk 1-on-1 any opportunity they could get to see what they could be doing differently.
What the Best Companies Do Differently
The top-performing companies I used to audit did a few things differently to make the customer experience 5-star. These are things that you can incorporate into your business to keep your customers happy too.
Know customers on a first name basis -The top-performing companies addressed me by my first name if I had an account with them already, or the sales associate would introduce themselves so they could find out my name and use it from that point on. They also addressed me by my name in email newsletters and direct mail campaigns.
Never make customers talk to a robot -Telephone customer service has really been going downhill, with some companies trying everything to avoid the costs of having customers be able to speak to a real person.
In fact, the Visa Small Business infographic shows 90% of people want a person on the other line:
Reward loyalty -Customers that care deeply about a positive customer experience know how valuable it is to have loyal customers. After all, it does cost 7 times as much money to acquire a new customer than to keep a current customer.
Be of service, even if it doesn’t boost your bottom line -One of the best customer experiences I had in my role as CS auditor was when one company was not able to meet my needs but helped me find what I was looking for at another company. They were passing along a sale to a company they usually compete with, just to meet my needs. Guess what? I definitely went back there!
Do you have a story to share of really great customer service, or a really bad customer experience you have? I’d love to hear it in a comment below.
Disclaimer: I am blogging on behalf of Visa Business and received compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa’s. Visit http://facebook.com/visasmallbiz to take a look at the reinvented Facebook Page: Well Sourced by Visa Business. The Page serves as a space where small business owners can access educational resources, read success stories from other business owners, engage with peers, and find tips to help businesses run more efficiently. Every month, the Page will introduce a new theme that will focus on a topic important to a small business owner’s success. For additional tips and advice, and information about Visa’s small business solutions, follow @VisaSmallBiz and visit http://visa.com/business.