In the business world, we always hear mantras like “The customer is always right” and “Your satisfaction is our top priority,” so it would seem that most are well-aware of the importance of customer service.
Be Fast, Be Flexible for Online Customer Service
However, sometimes the road to Happy Customer Land is a bumpy ride, with lots of obstacles to overcome along the way – and it takes a smart driver to navigate them and reach the ultimate destination. And when it comes to online customer service, you need to be fast, flexible and accommodating.
The Real-Life Example
We recently purchased two bicycles for our daughters at a major toy store. It was a Tuesday night, and there seemed to be very few people working. I went halfway around the store to find the assistant manager, who wrote up a pair of tickets that listed out the purchase prices and assembly charges for the cashier.
He then told me to call back in 24 hours to see if the bikes were ready, but that it might be Thursday before we could pick them up. That was fine with us, so we paid and went home.
Life happened, and we didn’t end up calling until Thursday. It was around 6:30 p.m. when I called and was placed on hold. Seven minutes passed by, so I hung up, called right back and claimed that I got disconnected (a classic move I invented years ago).
But this time, I was on hold for seven…then 17…then 27…and finally a grand total of 40 minutes.
So like any good angry customer in 2017, I started Tweeting.
I Tweeted at their corporate account.
I Tweeted at their “Help” account.
I Tweeted with impatience but professionalism.
But I Tweeted, seemingly, in vain.
Take Command of Customer Service with these 4 Tips
Tip #1: Respond quickly – and with compassion.
No response at all to my Tweets on Thursday night.
But Friday morning at 8:01 a.m. Central Time, someone in the Eastern time zone got to work, saw my numerous Tweets, and responded:
“Hi Harley, if you send us a DM with your phone number and store location, we can have someone from the store give you a call back.”
I saw this message at 10:21, and sent them a Twitter Direct Message with all of my contact information and the store number.
Would you believe that the new store manager called me just two hours later?
But before we get into that conversation, let’s talk about what they did WRONG for a moment.
Tip #2: Take the conversation offline ASAP.
No one was monitoring either of those Twitter accounts that night? This is a major worldwide retailer we’re talking about. It’s important for every business to monitor their brand online.
Getting a whiny customer to stop posting on social media is crucial. In most cases, the more they Tweet, the worse you look.
What they SHOULD have done online:
● Apologize for the issue as soon as possible.
● Ask me to (privately) provide them with my email address and/or phone # so they could rectify the situation.
They were a bit slow with this one, as many of the people who complain online have plenty of time to do so, especially because it’s so easy to do. “I’m upset with your service and your company sucks!” takes like 2.2 seconds to type and click Post or Tweet or Send.
I didn’t actually Tweet that, but could have done that all night before they finally responded. A dedicated social media pro could have prevented further embarrassment and possibly even negative media coverage.
Tip #3: Exceed the customer’s expectations.
Back to our story: The new store manager called me personally and apologized up and down. He claimed that he had just taken over the store in the past couple weeks and was evaluating the existing staff.
But much more relevant to me: he said the bikes would be given to us – assembled – at no charge, and that he just needed an hour to find out if they’d be ready for pickup that night or the following day. He asked me to please call him back in 60 minutes.
I did, and he said they’d be ready that night.
Let’s be clear – getting two bikes (and assembly for both) for free was definitely far beyond my expectations. I probably thought I’d get maybe $50 off or something like that.
But in actuality, while the manager “gave up” a couple hundred dollars, he knew the importance of making us happy. Of course, he likely realized that since we have two young kids, we’d also have plenty of toy-shopping (and gift-shopping) needs over the next several years.
To ensure that his store stood out from the numerous shopping options available (both brick-and-mortar and online), his best move to really make us happy customers was to “comp” the bikes.
Tip #4: Make it known that you solved the issue – but stay humble about it.
After all that effort to make a customer happy, they should have coordinated their efforts to get a little credit for it. (What can I say, I trained in PR as well.)
I’d recommend one more post from the company, thanking the customer with something like:
“Hi, @hdrubin – thanks again for choosing us, for allowing us the opportunity to make things right, and hopefully for coming back soon!”
Sure, it’s a bit passive-aggressive. But it’s a pat on the back, and maybe the customer was so impressed with the resolution of their problem that they would respond positively.
Make Customer Service Flow – Respond. Fix. Exceed. Repeat.
I started this blog with a couple business mantras. Here’s one more: “It costs more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep an existing one.”
If you believe that, then you definitely need to heed the advice I gave in this post!
Want to add your online customer service wisdom? Post your insights in the comments below. And please share this blog with your social networks if you found it interesting!