During my first year as a business owner, I’ve learned customer service can make or break your brand.Branding is about how you are perceived by your target audience; what comes to mind when a customer thinks of your business. Customer service plays a vital role in protecting that perception. When customers rase questions or experience problems with your product or service, good customer service can close sales and retain loyal followers. Customers can be a huge benefit to your brand, but can also do sever damage when customer service is neglected.
Given that, I’ve compiled this list of a few key principles for good customer service.
One of my first big mistakes involved a subscriber that doesn’t even make me any money. This man was one of three winners of a lifetime subscription. Before I sent out his first box, he provided an incorrect shipping address, but realized the error and asked if I could correct it for him. I completely forgot, and went ahead and shipped his box to the wrong address. When he called me out on this mistake, I immediately responded, owned up and apologized. I ended up paying to have the box rerouted mid-delivery, and he was very grateful I fixed the error I’d made.
Quick, clear and frequent communication ensures that issues are resolved completely, and lets you customers know that they are important and that your business can be trusted.
There are many aspects to respect in the realm of customer service. In the story I cited above, I made it a point to own up to my mistake and apologize. This isn’t the only mistake I’ve ever made as a business owner, and I know I’ll make more in the future. Honesty and transparency are matters of respect and display authenticity and integrity to customers. Another part of respect is empathy. All customers feel that there issue, whatever it may be, is important, and your communication needs to reflect back that same sentiment. It’s easy to tell when a company seems put out or resentful that you would dare request help with a problem or complain about their service. When your brand is at stake, you must do what it takes to empathize with valuable customers.
This is about putting your money where your mouth is. You do what it takes to answer a question or solve a problem. If it ends up costing you money, consider it the cost of doing business well. Your customers will be incredibly impressed with your eagerness to make things right and keep their business. Doing whatever it takes to follow through on your brand promise will reap huge dividends down the road. People will remain loyal to you and your mission even when they cease being a customer.
Remember the subscriber, who’s box got sent to the wrong address? Weeks after the incident, several people commented on an Instagram post about the success of my first month. They were critical of my pricing and didn’t see the value in my service. After I read the comments, I took some time to think about an appropriate response. When I began writing a reply, I saw the contest winner, whose shipment I screwed up, had come to my aid and explained the value of my service as he saw it. He said he had been smoking a pipe for decades, and that he liked to try new blends but he didn’t like to spend time looking for good blends. This perfectly summed up the problem statement I formulated for veteran pipe smokers like him. Doing whatever it takes to follow through on your brand promise will reap huge dividends down the road. You’ll find that those customers you’ve cared for will do much of the branding work for you.
I still have much to learn when it comes to customer service, but I believe these principles will ensure that even when customers end our business relationship, that they walk away eager to recommend my services to any pipe smoker looking to expand their palate.