The following is a guest post by ChopDawg.com, an award-winning app development company that has worked with over 180+ startups and companies from all around the globe, helping them bring their web apps, mobile apps, wearable apps and software ideas to life.
Follow ChopDawg.com on Twitter at @ChopDawgStudios.
When we begin working with a brand new client, they’re usually expecting for us to focus on the essentials.
Building their applications, designing the best user experience possible, focusing on their branding, messaging, etc.
That isn’t to say we don’t do this; we do this better than most, but we also focus on one other key attribute that often shocks our customers, our focus on their customer service.
Why do we do this?
Why is this important?
We can build the best web apps, mobile apps, wearable apps, software and brands on the planet for our clients; but if they don’t have their customer service on-point, none of that matters.
They’ll lose users before they are even able to win them over, and they’ll destroy their brand.
Imagine spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, months of work, your sweat and labor on the app of your dreams, just for it to trip out of the starting gate. This is why customer service is so critical.
It’s the same as having the proper form with lifting weights; if you don’t have the right form, you’re going to hurt yourself.
The last thing we want to see, especially for our clients, and readers such as yourselves, is making the classic mistakes most companies make, especially startups, with their customer service at the get-go.
Here are the six principals to excellent customer service, that your product, your company, and your culture, should always support if you want to succeed.
1) Response Time
Out of all the principals that come with customer service, this one should seem the most fundamental.
Response time is the most underrated aspect of customer service. You need to always put yourself in your user, customer, or client’s shoes first. They’re often hoping to hear back quick, especially if they are upset, frustrated, or worse of all, angry. Particularly in the world we now live in, the digital economy, we expect immediate results.
We aren’t going to wait 48-72 hours to hear back when we need help, now!
Response time should be huge for your app, your operations, your service. You need to be ready to go and be willing to address someone’s needs immediately. Anything less shows the person on the other end, who matters the most, that their opinion does not matter, their loyalty to being a customer is nonsense, and that you just do not care. That is more than likely far from the truth, but the longer you wait to handle something as sensitive as customer service, the more these thoughts and feelings fester.
Worse of all, think about it this way. If you have a client frustrated, the longer you wait to discuss, and figure out a solution, the worse it will brew on their end. They have nothing but time to think about it.
Nothing but time to focus on it.
Nothing but time to build up more frustration, more venting to you because you gave them that window.
Don’t let that happen. Instill in your company, your app, your service, a policy to get back as quickly as possible.
Your customers will thank you.
Your customers will know that you care.
Your customers will remain your customers, your users, your clients, your partners.
2) Context, Perspective, Empathy
We’ve all been there. Contacting customer support, and a customer service representative just seems monotone, not understanding the problem, and worse, just gives you the cliche, out-of-the-book response to “help” you. You’re just a number to them. You can tell. They’ve been dealing with people like you all day, and not helping.
That’s the worst, right?
This is why on the business side of things, you should, you know, give a damn about your customer! After all, your business exists because of them. Without them, you’re nothing.
The biggest thing is a great company that offers customer service puts themselves in the position of their user, their client. They try to imagine what lead to them having this point of conflict, frustration, disgust. They aren’t trying just to read some PR-made script, but they are trying to understand why they feel that way, so they can better communicate and show that they understand the situation, and want to help.
You can tell the difference as a customer when working with someone who seems to care about what you’re doing, facing, trying to get done; vs. the outsourced, out-of-the-book response. Don’t do the latter. Great customer service has significant ROI. It keeps those who give you revenue, who share your brand, who talk highly of you, to remain with you.
The biggest thing excellent customer service reps do is deploy empathy at scale. Customer service isn’t just a way to correct client needs, but it is also a way to understand how they are feeling, and how you can go above and beyond.
3) No Room for Interpretation
This is something most great customer service articles neglect when educating new entrepreneurs and executives about customer service. That is interpretation.
You can make a client happy, but not realize, the way you described a solution might not have been communicated properly.
All of the sudden, a few days later, they come back, frustrated as ever, asking what happened, this isn’t what they expected. You as a company thought you did the right thing; but instead, the most important person in the conversation seemed to have missed a beat.
Room for interpretation is the worst, especially when it comes to customer service. You need to do everything you can to ensure when you talk to a customer, a client, a user, you’re not only helping them, listening to their needs but that they are 100% on the same page as a solution is put into place. You also need to make sure, from the opposite end, you’re understanding what they are saying as well. When you’re emotional, you may skip a beat, let something slip through the cracks due to your state of mind. It is important for customer service-based companies, which everyone is, to both properly communication and patiently work on the other end to ensure they grab all of the essential information needed.
Don’t leave anything to chance, especially when it comes to customer service. Don’t leave anything open for interpretation.
This one should be obvious! The action is key. It’s one thing to tell your users you’re going to resolve the cause for concern; it’s another to deploy it.
You need to act quick. Similar to response time, manage expectations and implement reasonable labor and expenses to fixing the problem in the first place if at all possible. Customers not only can see this, but they’ll also feel appreciated and know that you, the company, actually care for them. They’ll share with others how you went above and beyond to help them and showed their business was appreciated. You’ll build even more trust with your customer base, and strengthen their loyalty. This is huge!
Too many companies wait months to fix problems because it affected only one person. Here is the reality, that one person is one of the most important people on the planet. They’re someone who is giving you their hard-earned money. Their attention. Their time. Don’t disrespect that or lose focus of how big of a deal this is. Great companies that provide exceptional customer service don’t. Neither should you.
Above all when it comes to action, check back in. Ask them how they’re doing a few weeks later. Show the initiative that you cared so much about them, you corrected the problem, you went above and beyond, and you still want to make sure they’re doing great. A quick five minute email or two-minute telephone call can make such a huge impact, and again, build that bond, trust, and appreciation that your customers will never forget.
5) Lack of Friction
Though this relates to anyone running a business, this is especially critical to those with web apps, mobile apps, or software. You need to prevent friction to receiving customer feedback, ideas, or concerns. You can’t make it difficult.
Look at what happens, first off, when you make something like this difficult. You end up with pissed off customers, who never trust your brand again because you come off shady. Recently as an example, JackThreads has laid off nearly their entire customer service team. Live chat is no longer around. Emails aren’t getting answered. The phone does not work. Queue the expected when it came to their Facebook and social media pages.
But second, and more importantly, making it beyond accessible to reach out to you, the company, the service, the product they have paid for; shows again, you care, and are always there for them. You want to encourage your audience that you’ll always have their back, and be willing to help them. The craziest thing about this too? You’ll have less turnover from customers, less stress, fewer issues, as customers won’t be afraid to reach out you when needed, and when you deploy the principles on this blog post, you’ll be able to help them, and continue strengthening that business to consumer bond.
So, how can you create less friction? Simple. Make your contact page readily available to your users. Have a live chat functionality that they don’t have to leave a page to communicate with you. Have your contact information easily accessible. Wouldn’t you go to a website expecting to find a way to reach out to a business? Don’t hide that info, hoping no one tries to contact you.
As the last example, with every new app we build at Chop Dawg, we always include the ability for users in their apps to provide feedback, questions, or concerns directly to our clients. This is functionality built into their products, even for day one. Your customers aren’t just your lifeline; they are your greatest source of learning. You want to encourage this with whatever it takes!
In the book Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, they describe leadership as having one critical trait; accountability. Leaders take responsibility, even if a subordinate did something wrong underneath them and not them directly. Why? They’re leaders. If someone fails, or something falls underneath them, at the end of the day, it’s the top’s fault for not better communicating, not better hiring, not paying closer attention. The buck stops at the top with the leadership.
Customer service is no different. You’re in a leadership position. You need to hold yourself, and your product, services, or whatever you offer accountable. If it fails, that leads to your customer being upset. That is your fault. Own up to it. Don’t be afraid to apologize. Don’t be afraid to accept blame. At the end of the day, your customers will appreciate it too because the blame isn’t being passed around. When you take the responsibility and then act upon it to resolve the matter, you’re providing great customer service, or perhaps as Jocko and Leif would suggest, extreme ownership to the issue at hand. You’re showing your user that you’re going to own this and correct this. That is what everyone wants after all, right?
Here is the craziest thing about writing these six principles; they’re common sense. Nothing written in this blog post should seem shocking or be touted as the secret ingredient to being a great company. No. They’re basic. So why write them? Because for a lot of companies, a lot of new apps, a lot of startups, they push customer service away because they feel they need to prioritize their brand, team, and product. Not that these things aren’t important, but you can never forget what is most important, the customer. The customer is why you exist. Why your company chooses to exist. If you don’t put them on a pedestal, if you don’t remind yourself, your team, your operations why you’re a business, why you’re here, you’re destined for fail.
These six principles, when acted upon authentically, will never fail. Your customers will know, they are appreciated, taken care of, and even during the hiccups that are running a company (which of course is going to happen), they’ll stick by you. Never forget this.