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Have We All Forgotten The Service Part Of Customer Service?

Written by: Julie Traxler and Corey Harris, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

We spend a significant amount of time In the digital world which makes it easy to forget that we’re still dealing with other humans on the other end of our communications. People send off emails and messages consistently without regard to who may be the receiving party because we as consumers are often left with automated and AI replies to our questions and concerns. Add in an ever growing number of people who have oversized expectations (thanks Amazon!) of next day delivery and free returns, and it can become downright ugly. The really disturbing part is that disregard for civilized and polite conversations online has been bleeding out into the real world for quite a while with no end in sight.

So, it’s easy to see how we’ve lost our way when it comes to delivering customer service. Why bother being nice to a customer if they’re just going to be a jerk and leave a 1-star review regardless of what happened or how it was resolved? Well, as small business owners, we have to be the adult in the scenario and work with your team to keep a calm and professional attitude when dealing with unruly or rude customers. Why? Customer service is one of the few areas that you can use to differentiate yourself from your competitors. It should be an extension of your culture, and it can be as unique as you want it to be. That’s right, it doesn’t have to be stiff and formal.


There’s a reason there are so many jokes and memes about how awful it is to deal with government agencies: They have no competition and therefore have no need to provide any level of customer service (or service at all). We’ve all dealt with apathetic and bored “customer service” representatives at city hall or the DMV, and the main reason is there’s no motivation to go above and beyond. Doing the absolute bare minimum is all that’s required, but that won’t fly in the private sector. You need to set yourself apart from your competition, and all the various touchpoints with your customers or potential customers is an intangible way to do just that. And the intangibles are the key to success in customer service and business in general.


If you produce a product or sell a service, it is unlikely that you’re the only business who sells that. We all have competition, and it can come in many forms. There could be direct competitors who sell a similar if not an identical product. There could be self-help or do-it-yourself options available. And ‘nothing’ is possibly a competitor if you’re selling something people want rather than need. Intangibles are those things that your business offers as a part of the product or service that add to the experience but aren’t attached to that product or service. Customers can’t purchase them, and competitors will have a hard time copying them. Most intangibles are linked directly to your culture and your people and are often an extension of your personality.


Think of the great experiences you’ve had when dealing with customer service over the phone. Perhaps something you ordered was broken when it was delivered or it never showed at all. People rarely, if ever, call customer service just to chat. They call when something goes wrong, and those great experiences probably included a polite and friendly person going above and beyond to remedy the situation. You likely got your problem fixed with a smile and something else was thrown in free of charge for your troubles. You may have even received a follow-up communication to double-check that everything was still in order. It feels like that company actually cares about you as a consumer, and that’s a surefire way to keep your business.


That’s the number one reason why we should be focusing on customer service: retaining business. The numbers vary by industry, but the cost to keep a customer is always less, sometimes much less, than the cost to acquire a new customer. You shouldn’t let the perceived cost of training or shipping additional products blind you to what you’d have to spend to replace an unhappy customer. You can do the math, but more often than not, it makes financial sense to spend the extra cash on your team and your customers. You may be thinking that customers are trying to take advantage of you, and that’s very possible, but that’s where training and processes come into play.


If you have team members dedicated to customer service, you should have a training program in place that teaches them about your processes and empowers them to be ambassadors for your brand, but first, you need to hire the right people. When it comes to interviewing and hiring, your company’s core values should guide you in the whole process. You want people who already live and breathe similar to you who then can be trained in how you do business. They’ll know your internal processes, and performing their job should become second nature. This ensures that when they get an angry phone call, they’ll respond how you would respond as if you were answering the phone. Training gives them the knowledge and processes give them the tools to make the appropriate decisions whether it’s going the extra mile for someone with an issue or telling them to pound sand if the customer deserves it. Together, those two pieces will empower your employees to act appropriately. And ‘appropriately’ is the keyword.


Your customer service should be a reflection of your business and your culture. It should always be professional, but it doesn’t have to be full of heart emojis and high fives if that isn’t your brand. You need to be genuine in how you engage your customers because they’ll notice and get turned off by your phony and possibly deceitful approach. Being genuine means that you’ll connect with your true target market, and it’s a better experience for everyone involved.


Another pitfall companies make is one of pride. Some business owners make the assumption that there’s never anything wrong with what they’re selling, and any issues are someone else’s fault. Listen. Your product or service probably isn’t perfect to begin with, and if it is, it isn’t perfect all the time. Even the best-trained employees make mistakes. And even if it really is someone outside your company’s fault, the customer doesn’t care because they bought from you, not your fulfillment center or UPS. Any screw-up between the time the order comes into your business to the point where it lands in your customers’ hands is yours to rectify. Don’t let your pride get in the way of your business


Lastly, there is some good news after paragraphs of turning the other cheek and swallowing your pride: sometimes people are just a$$holes and you have every right to fire your customers and clients. That doesn’t give you a free pass to be a jerk to everyone who looks at you funny, but it does give you the ability to protect your staff from the worst in society and allows you to keep some sanity. You’re going to need as much as you can get being an entrepreneur.


We challenge all of our clients and all of our readers to put the service back into customer service. Bring humanity back to digital interactions, and make it an extension of your culture. Your customers and your employees will thank you for it.


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Julie Traxler and Corey Harris, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Julie and Corey started their company, SB PACE, due to the 2020 pandemic to assist small businesses. Since then, they have expanded into helping start-ups, companies looking to improve, and small business mergers and acquisitions. They wrote the book on small business disaster preparedness and continued to help small businesses by leveraging their knowledge and experience working for Fortune 500 companies and Big Four consulting firms. Julie and Corey are the experts small business owners turn to when looking for sustainable, long-term success.

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