Our ability to complain is enhanced by technical advances in communication. Tools like 4G networks, Google Glass, and phones that double as cameras ensure we have a continuous stream of ever more effective ways to complain.
But, even today, customer service still is considered to be “revolutionary” and “proactive” if you just respond to customers on Twitter or Facebook. In all seriousness, when was the last time we were wowed when Verizon or British Airways responded to us on Twitter?
If you want to make your customers happy, there are tactics you can use, from handwritten notes to custom-made YouTube videos. Here are some ideas you can steal from companies that truly are experts in the field:
1. Show off your customer support
A few years ago, 37signals (now Basecamp) went public with their customer satisfaction ratings. Customer or not, anyone can go to their Smiley page and check out the ratings their last 100 customers gave them. I think this is a brilliant idea because, not only does it help potential customers make a decision, it also helps reaffirm the faith their existing customers have in them.
Go public with your support ratings and wow your customers. Plus, if you have great support, where’s the fun in not showing it off?
2. Be there the moment your customers think of you
If you really want to take customer support to the next level, you want your customers to be able to get in touch with you at the click of a button. Amazon is a great example of a company that provides multiple ways to access their customer service team.
By offering both an instant chat and phone messaging option on their Contact Us page, customers can access help instantly or receive a return call—usually in less than two minutes.
Thankfully, there are a few workarounds for those who don’t have the kind of support force that Amazon has. If you sell your product online or have a sufficient web presence, you can use Pega to co-browse with your customers in order to guide them through the checkout process or give them a tour of your application without forcing them to download anything. And with “rep control,” a feature that is included with even their basic plan, you can do anything from navigating links to completing the checkout process for your customers.
3. Answer questions on video
When Warby Parker discovered how difficult it was to answer complicated questions in just 140 characters, they decided to leverage videos to help customers resolve their issues. Employees got on camera to nuke questions on prescriptions, frames, and even shipping times for glasses. Their customers were so blown away by the videos that they started spreading the word about them.
Getting your employees to shoot such videos isn’t that difficult, especially if you enable them to do so with the right set of tools. Moz has some tips, and Mixergy’s guide on interviews could help with the hardware you need to buy. But, if you have a digital product, I’d recommend that you go with Screencast-O-Matic. Recording a workflow has never been easier.
4. Build credibility by publishing reports
Buffer, the darling in the world of social media software, takes transparency to a whole new level by providing a monthly roundup of their support metrics and customer interactions with their Happiness Heroes. These reports also include personal tidbits and the life lessons they learned that particular month. Buffer’s transparency turns their user base into brand advocates and brings in millions in revenue every year.
5. Go the extra mile: send personalized thank you notes.
When Wufoo started out, they sent hundreds of handwritten thank you notes to people who signed up to build contact forms. Between 2008 and 2010, several users blogged about receiving handwritten notes from Chris, one of the developers. Personalized thank you cards like this stand out among the dozens of newsletters we’re bombarded with on a daily basis.
We admit that sending out hundreds of handwritten notes is easier said than done, but there is a workaround.
Enter Letter Friend. All you have to do is quickly dash out what you want to say, and they’ll take care of the rest.
6. Get the CEO Involved in Customer Support
When Elizabeth shot an email to J. Crew’s support criticizing their holiday collection, she did not expect a response. So, you can imagine her surprise when she received a call from the Chief of Marketing and Personal Shopping and the support rep handling her ticket. Not only did they listen to her feedback patiently, but they also sent her a follow-up email with a promise to turn things around.
Karmaloop goes one step further than the norm, and actually publishes the CEO’s telephone number on their about page. That could be a potential problem – imagine sleazy sales personnel calling over and over again – but blocking an hour every week to listen to ideas from frontline customers is doable. As this Forbes piece mentions, anecdotes could help you make better decisions than spreadsheets.
7. Hire college geeks who have a knack for troubleshooting
JackThreads, an online men’s shopping community, doesn’t hire customer support experts to man the phone lines and nuke down support requests. Instead, they hire Ohio State University students who have an eye for design as support agents. The live chat service, dubbed “Jill Says,” is a hit because most of the customers who reach out to the team just want some quick fashion advice.
Very often, companies hire smart students from a university and then put them through a year-long training program to get them up to speed. That doesn’t make a lot of sense, though. What does make sense is hiring people who are passionate about the niche your business operates in. They’ll empathize with your customers far better than a service professional with a decade of experience in an entirely different industry.
8. Bring ideas to life to win hearts and reap profits
Free Wi-Fi. Pumpkin Spice Latte. Cake pops. Free Birthday Treats. Happy Hours. By bringing to life these and over 270 other ideas from customers when their growth stalled in 2008, Starbucks has earned the love of millions and reinvigorated their brand. Crowdsourcing suggestions resulted in a 375% increase in Q4 2009 profits in comparison with the previous year.
You don’t need one hundred thousand customers and a fan club to crowdsource ideas. Just setting up a simple, engaging portal and making your customers feel valued will go a long way.
About the Author: Shankar Ganesh is a Marketing Analyst at Freshdesk, a leading customer support software in the SaaS market. Shankar shares his interesting tech finds very often on Twitter: @_shankarganesh