Vocal customers. Those customers. You know who I mean. The ones who trot out the phrase “May I speak to your supervisor?” more often than not.
Don’t fear them, embrace them.
They are actually raising their hand and identifying themselves as someone who’s not afraid to speak up. These folks – even if they originally are upset at you – are gold. Treat them as such. Vocal customers can give you valuable feedback and endorsements once you make them a fan.
Easier said than done, right? (Be sure to check out these customer service tips we learned from Zappos. There is a lot of great information here.)
You put in all those long hours and bust your hump supplying superior products and services to your customers. And about 99% of them seem to appreciate it. (I say seem because most of them you never, ever hear from. Not a peep on your Facebook wall. Not one reply email to all the ones you send out asking for honest feedback.)
So for that 1% to get all irate and vocal and write you nasty-grams . . .well, that’s just infuriating.
The ingratitude! You’d love nothing more than to give them a piece of your mind. Your knee-jerk reaction is to get defensive and justify why you have serviced them in the way they say you have.
Don’t do it.
I’m here to tell you, though you might not yet believe me, that the most angry customer can honestly turn into one of your most vocal evangelists.
You want public Facebook love? Stun that 1% into submission. Stun them with over the top, exemplary customer service. Heck, stun the entire 100% with over the top, exemplary customer service all the time and you can skip right over the part where the vocal people complain. They’ll go right to raving.
Treat every client as if they are your only one. Imagine that each one is a mystery shopper for the New York Times or Huffington Post and is researching an article on good and bad customer service. Knock yourself out making sure you land in the paragraphs that talk about good (no, great!) customer service.
These tips on figuring out who your perfect customer is will help you to visualize just how to make them feel like they are your only customer.
There are two ways to go about this. You can coddle grumpy customers with kid gloves once they start complaining. With the right amount of TLC, you can and will turn them around. We’ll talk more about that later.
Right now, let’s talk about heading off that level of anger in the first place. Let’s talk about creating a rock-solid system of customer service excellence. These may not all be necessary in every customer interaction and they may not occur strictly in the following order, but here are some ways to set your customer service up to succeed in the first place.
Whenever possible, use your customer’s first name. If you have an email autoresponder or any kind of email communication, set it to pull your customer’s name in the greeting. When you call a customer back, practice pronouncing their name before you pick up the phone.
(These do’s and do not’s for email marketing are a definite must read — especially for those customers that are having problems.)
The quickest way to anger a customer is to take a long time to answer a voice mail or email they have sent you. Even the happiest customer will grow sour if you give them nothing but silence for 48 hours after they contact you.
If you need time to research their query, tell them so. Just something like: “Hello Becky, we received your question about your order and we need to get on the phone with UPS to track it down. You’ll hear back from us in no less than 48 hours.”
Think about it: when you yourself are standing in line waiting for service, would you rather be completely ignored until they are ready to serve you? Or do you appreciate a friendly “Hello, I’ll be with you in just a moment.” Same applies to your own customer service.
Templatize, Templatize, Templatize
One of the main excuses I get from business owners about why they can’t reply quickly to their customers is that they don’t have time to write everyone back.
Well, yes. Yes you do. If you have a few great templates ready to go you can copy and paste and supply great customer service. Take the time one day to write up several different emails that address your most common scenarios: order tracking, price inquiries, product specs, refund requests, etc.
Once you have a rock solid template, use it! Share your new template library with anyone who interacts with your customers. Copy and paste the customer name and details (make sure you proofread and have customized it completely!) and you can send dozens of emails out in less than 30 minutes. (Psst – you can do the same with scripts. Templatize them and send them out to anyone who handles your phones.)
Say Thank You
This seems obvious but it’s a step I see folks skip time and again, in their desire to move onto selling the next customer. A quick follow up thank you note can go a long way. Even if someone calls in to ask about a product, if you have their email address, shoot them a note thanking them for their interest.
Many companies even build in time for their customer service agents to stop what they are doing and take the time to hand-write thank you notes for their customers. That personal touch makes a major difference.
Thank You, Part 2
I’ve had success adding in some language about how much it means for a small business like yours to have their customer’s support and business. It’s true, isn’t it?
And you get to make that customer feel like they are helping out ‘the little guy’ – which is a natural urge most of us have anyway!
Thank You, Part 3
And by the way, the bigger the customer order, the bigger the thank you should be. If you have a customer who has spent thousands or even hundreds on you, cough up a $20 gift basket or gift card to show your appreciation.
They’ll rave about you to their friends and family.
This one’s tough but important. There are a lot companies out there competing not just for your customer’s money, but their feedback as well. You have to find a way to stand out a bit and really incentivize them to fill out even the briefest of surveys.
But do it you must! Knowing what your customers honestly think about your company is the only way to improve and grow your business. So consider entering them into a enticing drawing, or even sending them an instant 10% off, or more, coupon for their next order.
Now that you have a basic system in place, let’s get back to dealing with that angry, fuming, vocal customer. Every once in awhile, no matter how many thank you and surveys you send out, you’re going to encounter one of these frustrated folks.
Another great post filled with amazing tips is this one I wrote about putting together a business system that works for you.
So here is my challenge to you.
Turn that frown upside down. Make them love you so much they’re Yelping and Google Plusing and Tweeting their love for you. It’s easier than you think.
Chill Out. Pardon my hyperbole, but dealing with an angry customer while you yourself are angry yourself is quite possibly the worst idea in the universe. Ever. You have to wait until you are truly calm and collected and ready to help them before you contact them. Otherwise, they’ll sense you gritting your teeth and get even madder. And more vocal. On social media.
Hit The Phones. Don’t just email, don’t DM them on Twitter, don’t send them a letter with a printed receipt enclosed. Have the highest ranking person available (ideally you) go old school and pick the phone up and call them. And don’t just leave a voice mail. Call until you get to speak to them directly.
Say Sorry. Mean It. Having the CEO of a company call and say sorry will go a long, long way to calming them down. They will be so shocked that you took the time to call that they’ll likely lose their angry steam and accept your apology immediately.
You know how people are polite gents on public sidewalks but rage machines behind the safety of their steering wheel? Same principle with this. Voice to voice communication takes a lot of the tension out of a situation.
Refund . . .and Then Some. Never question a refund. Even if the product looks like it’s been completely used up or dragged from the bumper on a cross country trip, take it back with grace and gratitude.
Losing that one product will pay back in spades later. Because next you’re going to surprise the angry customer by not just accepting the return and promptly refunding it, but also adding in a free gift.
It can be a small gift that represents your industry (nothing plastered with logos, please!) or something that reflects them. You can wow them with something expensive but it’s not necessary. As long as it looks like a modicum of care and effort was taken, it should help them feel that you are the type to bend over backwards.
Here’s My Challenge For Today
Find the crankiest, angriest complainer you or your staff know. And call them.
Tell them you are the boss and you want to know what went wrong and that you want to fix their problem personally. And that you’d like to send them a gift in addition if they will give you an address.
Feel how easy it can be. Feel the change in the customer’s attitude. Imagine how it would be if all customer service was like that. Try it. It’s life changing. Business philosophy-changing.
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