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The Magic of Owning a Customer-Service Problem

People are less likely today to make buying decisions based on brand loyalty and more likely to choose a company with great customer service. Customer service is the most important factor influencing buying decisions and how much people trust a company, according to a recent study by Dimensional Research based in Sunnyvale, Calif.

Setting the bar for outstanding customer service has never been more challenging. Today, there are more ways than ever for customers to reach you. But startups can reap immense rewards when they wow customers with great service.

Here are three things you can do to impress and delight your customers:

Set expectations early.
Customers become easily frustrated when their questions remain unanswered or their problems take too long to resolve. My company, CrowdSPRING 's customer service team helps thousands of customers every week. After answering hundreds of thousands of customer support requests, we've discovered that a big source of customer frustration is silence, not the actual time it takes to answer a customer's question or resolve their problem.

How can you set expectations early? When a customer writes to us, we immediately respond to let the customer know we received their note and assign their request a unique number they can use to communicate with us. We also tell customers we typically respond within 60 minutes during normal business hours and encourage them to time us.

Some customers run into difficult problems that require more than 60 minutes -- sometimes even more than 24 hours -- to investigate and resolve. We communicate with customers daily to let them know when we expect to resolve their problem. If you want to delight your customers, always look for ways to temporarily fix their problems so as not to inconvenience them, while you look for a more permanent solution.

One customer service agent should own the conversation.
We've also observed that people become frustrated when they are passed from one salesperson to another. People assume that when this happens, they'll get mediocre customer service. In most cases, their assumption turns out to be true. In the above study, 72 percent of survey respondents blamed their bad customer service experience on having to explain their problem to multiple people.

The best startups allow every customer service agent to help any customer. But this is not always practical. Sometimes, a problem cannot be resolved without help from engineering or accounting, for example. In such cases, we ask that the initial customer service agentpoint-of-contact, whenever possible, should own the conversation with the customer. This means The initial customer service agentif you were the first person to speak with a customer, while you can and should involve others people towho can help resolve the customer's problem, they should stay personally engaged and involved until the customer is happy. 

Resolve problems quickly.
Customers are happiest when their questions or problems are resolved quickly. In the above study, 69 percent of respondents attributed their good customer service experience to a quick resolution of the problem. You can do this by offering multiple touch-points like toll-free phone support and live chat.

To deliver great customer service, set a goal to respond to all customer requests during business hours within 60 minutes. That goal lets you rise above most other companies who typically promise a response within 24 to 48 hours. At crowdSPRING, our effort to respond to customers within 60 minutes is a big reason why 96 percent of customers report that they are happy with our customer service.

The most successful startups do whatever it takes to make the customer happy.

In what ways do you impress and delight customers with your company's customer service? Tell us in the comments below.
 

The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.

Ross Kimbarovsky co-founded crowdSPRING, a Chicago-based online marketplace for custom logo design, web design, company naming and other design and writing services. He blogs at rosskimbarovsky.com and co-authors the crowdSPRING blog, a marketing blog for entrepreneurs and small business.

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