One of the most powerful opportunities for growing your online business is through developing an absolutely amazing customer service experience.
You may think of your business as being all about your product, but any time you have customers, part of your product is the customer support you offer.
Here's something that I find fascinating, and I don't remember where I heard this, but did you know that a customer who has had a problem that has been adequately addressed through customer service will usually have a higher level of satisfaction with your business than a person who has never had any problems at all?
When dealing with the general public, it is inevitable that some sort of problems or questions will come up that customers will bring to your attention and expect to be fixed or addressed. It's empowering to realize that that challenging experience can actually be a springboard for improving your relationship with the customer and causing him to tell others about how great your business is.
I love doing online customer service and teaching others how to do it. Online customer service is very different from doing "in person" customer service in that you communicate totally via the written word. Great online customer service is an art form that requires finesse, sensitivity, and ingenuity.
Here are a few tips for developing a customer support system that works as a tool for building your business.
Online customer support people fill the roles of Teachers and Problem Solvers.
Customer support people are on the "front line" of the business, and they are perhaps the only "real people" associated with the business that the customer will interact with.
Each customer support person works on behalf of the business as a teacher. People will write in because they want to do something that they don't know how to do. Much of a customer support person's job may simply be teaching customers how to use the service and what to expect from the service. The better you are at teaching, the more satisfied the customer will be with the service or product.
Inevitably a customer will contact you with a problem--something is not working right or something didn't get done that should have. It is the customer support person's job to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it (or contact someone on the team who has the knowledge to figure out what the issue is).
There will always be people asking you questions that you don't know the answer to, but that's a great opportunity. Every time someone comes up with an off-the-wall question or an intricate question that you're just not sure about, it's a great opportunity for you to expand your knowledge of the business.
Don't be afraid to ask someone with more knowledge how to address a hard question. Then, once you get the answer make a note of both the question and the answer so that when that question comes up again you'll know how to answer it.
An online procedure manual is great for this purpose--anytime someone asks a common or difficult question, enter it in the manual along with the answer. It saves time in the long run, and it makes it so that your entire customer service team has access to that new knowledge.
Today we're just covering the tip of the iceburg with online customer service. Next time we'll go more in depth and cover actual techniques for teaching and problem solving in ways that will impress your customers.
For now though, have you ever had an absolutely outstanding customer support experience? What made it so good/memorable?