Ensuring every customer has a positive experience with your business has never been so important. Satisfy your customers and roughly 7 in 10 will recommend your company or product to someone else. Mess it up, and almost all of them will trumpet their dissatisfaction while actively directing your prospects to competitors.
So, what’s the best way to ensure happy customers? It’s really quite simple: Knowledgeable people representing your company must be available to engage with your customers. This rule extends to sales, service and marketing.
This brings us to the biggest problem with customer service today, according to Brian Scudemore, the founder and chief executive officer of the organization that runs 1-800-JUNK: outsourcing. Scudemore says that it’s crucial to have in-house customer service representatives who can understand the issue a customer is presenting them and have the knowledge to immediately begin solving the problem.
Unfortunately, North America’s most dominant companies often fail to heed this advice. Firms like Disney, Microsoft and even Apple outsource their customer service, which can sometimes result in a significant disconnect between the customer service representative and the customer with whom they’re speaking. It’s both a significant trend and a problem.
Scudamore’s business, 1-800-JUNK, which helps people get rid of their unwanted stuff, doesn’t outsource its customer service. All of its agents are local and receive extensive training that gives them a solid understanding of their product and the company’s customer base.
Thankfully, 1-800-JUNK isn’t the only company taking this approach. Rackspace, a cloud computing company based in Texas, recently gained fame for sending pizza to a customer stuck on hold. To encourage this kind of behaviour among its customer service representatives, Rackspace introduced a “Fanatical Jacket” award that’s given to the employee who shows an “overwhelming desire to … support the customer.”
For Scudamore, it’s this kind of attitude towards customer service that sends existing and prospective customers the right kind of message. It shows them that the company takes their concerns seriously and is willing to do just about everything possible to avoid upsetting the people who support them.
As an example, Scudamore points to shoe company Zappos, which employs a customer service strategy called “WOW”. The goal: to not only satisfy customers, but outright “delight” them. It’s about getting the company’s customer service to a point where they don’t even mind calling in to talk to a customer service representative — something most companies can’t say they’ve achieved.
For now, only a handful of companies have embraced this kind of approach to customer service. But Scudemore thinks it’s time for that to change. “Skimping on customer service is the worst thing you can do,” he says. “At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you’re selling or what service you’re offering: it’s all about the people.”