Good Customer Service Goes Only So Far
People often tell a story to underscore a point. So, let's listen to Rieva Lesonsky as she describes how a pervasive myth about customer service could have devastating consequences for your small business.
Lesonsky, CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses, says the myth goes something like this: "Customer service matters more than anything else."
"I have to admit," she says in a recent Internet post, "I've been guilty of spreading this myth myself."
But Lesonsky says she had a "revelation" recently while listening to a friend's experience getting a product manufactured.
"What seemed like a simple process, using a manufacturer recommended by a trusted colleague, had turned into an endless cycle of receiving a flawed product, getting promises it would be fixed, and having the same thing happen over and over again," she says. "In the end, my friend almost missed a crucial shipping deadline for his product launch, which would have cost him a lot of money."
Guess what the friend told Lesonsky throughout the whole fiasco?
"Their service is great," he claimed. "They're really nice, and they always get back to me right away with how they can fix the problem."
But, as most of you have surmised, they weren't fixing the problem.
"While by many measures of customer service this company was stellar, that didn't make up for the fact this manufacturer simply lacked the technical expertise and quality control systems to deliver," Lesonsky says.
But she admits that, like all myths, the myth of customer service isn't entirely untrue.
"Customer service is a distinguishing factor for small businesses, and customers do care more about it than ever in this world of Zappos, Southwest Airlines and other customer service stars," Lesonsky says. "But if you can't deliver what you promise, the sweetness of those promises won't matter much in the end."
Instead of priding yourself on how well your business handles problems, she suggests that perhaps you should be paying more attention to eliminating them.
"Is it better to go back and forth with a customer 15 times in a friendly fashion, or to simply provide what they ask for (without all the chat) the first time around?" Lesonsky says.
What should you do if you're worried you might be falling prey to the myth of customer service?
First, assess your interactions.
"How often are customer service reps or other front-line employees 'touching' customers? What's the average for a purchase and why?" Lesonsky says. "Figure out a number that makes sense and what number indicates that something may have gone wrong."
Second, control quality.
"Some simple QC procedures, such as having a second person check products coming off the assembly line, would have prevented the hassle my friend went through with his manufacturer," she says.
Finally, implement systems.
"As your business grows, it's easy for systems to get sloppy," Lesonsky says. "Review your manual (or create one) that details common procedures in your business so that no matter who handles the process, it's always done the same way."
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at (910) 693-2474 or email@example.com.
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