Adventures In Customer Service

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DSC_0305_2Big companies do it.  Small companies do it.  But most companies don’t do it.  I’m talking about making customer service a strategic advantage.  LL Bean did back flips to make sure my order was delivered on time, even when their contractor did not.  Amazon takes returns, within a certain time frame, no questions asked, and processes refunds when promised.  My neighborhood small retail store will order another size, even if the item is on sale.  The wine shop next door will find your preferred wine and order it for you even if they don’t currently carry the vintage.  A single location coffee shop knows my name and when I order there, the barista automatically deducts the price from my prepaid account.  Plus, I get a free cup with every $10 I spend!

Customer service is the number 1 reason that companies like LL Bean and Amazon have grown and flourished so successfully.   LL Bean is a family owned business with over $1 Billion in revenue and Amazon is a publicly traded company with revenues over $25 Billion.  There’s proof that companies can grow very large with customer service as their cornerstone, whether they are public or private.

Research shows that 50% of small businesses last 4 years or more.  This is across all industries and across all reasons  (including mergers and acquisitions).  The neighborhood boutique, wine store and coffee shop are all independently owned small businesses that have lasted more than a decade while businesses around them have come and gone.  Proof again that customer service works, even for small companies.

Why is it, then, that so many companies don’t even have a customer service strategy?  Or if they do, it is based on the assumption that unhappy customers can always be replaced?  Adventures in customer service happen every day!

The number one reason for poor customer service is cost cutting.  Companies can cut all the customer service agents if they hide their contact information well enough and make it extremely time consuming, complicated and unpleasant for unhappy customers to reach them.  For example, when my Internet was out, I tried the phone.  “Press 1 if you are a new customer, press 2 if…press 9 if…”  I pressed 0 to see if I got an agent.  No luck.  I called back and pressed 9 to see if I could get an agent.  Nope.  Eventually I tried all the digits, but found myself in a circular series of instructions, never reaching an agent.  There was only one thing to do. I switched carriers.  But is my new company investing in customer service?

Every company should have a customer service strategy.  How are you going to treat customers?  How are you going to track recurring customers and customer referrals.  Those are the best ways to track whether your strategy is working.  A high level of customer churn may mean you need to rethink your strategy.

All the best!


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