Only a few days ago, I had a heated phone conversation with a brand new customer. The focus of the conversation was our response time to an email he had sent only a few hours prior to our call. He was so upset that he was ready to cancel his service with us. Needless to say, I managed to convince him that this was a simple misunderstanding and he didn’t cancel.
Yet, at the end of the day I found myself still thinking about what has really happened. Was the client right to be upset? Well, sort of (he is the client, after all!). Was I right? Yes, maybe. I think in this case, there is no one to blame but the rapid advancement of technology. It has altered the way we communicate, how we operate and even how we set our expectations. Today, a customer can threaten to cancel your services because you haven’t responded to an email he sent only two hours ago. He knows that he’s the ultimate decision maker and if you dare to ignore his expectations, he will not hesitate to run into the arms of your competition.
Well, listen…I’ve been a Comcast customer for a while now. I remember the day I decided to use their services (as if I had so many options!) and what happened afterwards. It took me 3 appointments (all during business hours), 10 days and more than 10 phone calls (no need to mention that each of them took about at least half an hour), to finalize the setup and installation process. Every time I picked up the phone and called them, they transferred me to other departments that wanted me to answer the same questions the previous departments had already asked me and tell my story from scratch. I’ve talked to rude customer representatives, ones that never called me back after they hung up on me even though we’d been speaking for 23 minutes, and reps that were simply clueless as to how to resolve the issue.
However, despite the nerve-wracking experience, I’m still with them. Because sadly, I don’t feel like I have many other great alternatives out there…and Comcast is well aware of this.
So, my question to you is: Can you, as a small business, treat your customers the way Comcast treats theirs and still get away with it?
No, obviously not.
Why You Need to Be Better Than Comcast
Keep in mind that you’re vulnerable as a small business. Poor customer reviews can be your Achilles heel. Bad customer service will test your customers’ patience, aggravate them, anger them and can surely result in negative reviews. As a result, it will create a negative buzz around your brand and no reputation management service can save you. So treat your customers well, understand their needs, and set the right expectations from the outset. Be firm yet respectful. Turn your company’s size into an advantage, commit yourself and your staff to personalized attention and their hearts will be yours forever. They just want to know that you’re genuinely interested in their needs. That’s it!
The Golden Rule
Ask yourself these questions: Do I like to wait on the line for 30 minutes? No! Am I okay waiting 5 days to hear back from customer support to get help? God, no! Do I always want to speak with someone who is friendly and respectful of the issues I’m facing? Definitely! Do I want my issue resolved quickly and professionally? That’s the point!
Do you give your customers the same treatment that you demand for yourself?
It’s Different for Small Businesses
You’ve heard the term “customer is king” before, right? In a small business, it is even more obvious! Everything you do in your business must be focused on the customer. Not only your advertising and marketing efforts, but also your website, policies, warranties, payment options, operating hours and your customer service! Have friendly, well-versed and patient people dealing with your customers. Okay, I understand that as a small business you may not have a department dedicated only to customer service; however, whether it’s the project manager or the account executive who must interact with your customers, make sure they understand that happy campers will increase your profits (and their salaries) and take your business to the next level! In a small company, everyone is customer service.
Also, sorry to break the news to you, but you do know that you can be easily replaced, right? As a small business, unless you’re targeting a very niche market, your services are more or less offered by many other companies. So give your customers a good reason to stick with you for a long time. If you don’t, I’m afraid it’s inevitable that they’ll start shopping around, just in case!
Our Customer Service
Here at Optimum7, we dedicate a significant amount of time to learning about our clients and the details of their business. Asking important, detailed and insightful questions at the beginning of a business relationship ensures that your clients feel like you really care about their business and their goals. Our client surveys, project status meetings, weekly updates, and frequent exchange of ideas are all testament to this. It’s also important to set the right expectations and make sure your clients are aware of your turnaround time. If you’re transparent with them, they’re more likely to be understanding of how you operate. And you can find out early if that’s not acceptable and adjust your processes to your clients’ expectations. Ultimately, our goal is to speak the same language as our customers so that they are happy with our service and we’re happy to provide it!
We also seek to observe the following at all times: “Tell customers and potential customers what they need to know, which, sometimes, may not be what they want to hear.” In other words, no BS! Say what you mean and mean what you say. Our clients deserve nothing less than that!
Have you had to manage a dissatisfied client or customer? What was the issue and how did you resolve it? (Or do you have a Comcast horror story you’d like to share?) We’d love to hear from you!