The importance of good customer service for your business

 

courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Do you want to know what NOT to do when running a business? Offer below average customer care. Especially in 2013, when everyone has a voice on the internet. Good or bad, anything your customer service says on social media can create a buzz for your company. Recently a friend sent me a tweet from the French railroad company account. It is a monopoly so people are really angry when the trains are delayed because they can’t take the bus for most destinations. So this guy was insulting the railway and the customer service said “we lament you were not run over by one of our trains”. The guy was being verbally abusive but pointing out a problem thousands of customers experience each day. It was re-tweeted all over and created a nice little buzz for the train company.

 

What is worse than people talking bad about? People not talking about you.

True, although a strong consensus against your business, if you are too small, can run you to the ground. Take sites like Yelp or Tripadvisor, where people talk about their last dinner out, or review a small boutique hotel.

One bad review out of 50 will not specially hurt, but if you are consistently given a low rating, potential customers will wonder why. Even worse, they will be able to sort their search results  (a hotel in Ibiza, a plumber in Cincinnati) by rating. And just like a Google search, the higher ranked will get most of the business.

 

Customers are always right even if they are wrong.

I remember returning a jacket after a 1 year round the world trip. Sure, I had been using the jacket for a year, but it was supposedly made out of Gore Tex, and the guy who sold it to me said I could take a shower in it and not get wet. Well, showers kind of happened daily in South-East Asia and after only a minute or two I was soaked under the jacket. So I returned it. After a year, and without a receipt. They refunded it without blinking, and I have been happily shopping with them for the past 10 years (just bough my running shoes over there while in Paris!) and giving glowing feedback of their customer service to who would listen.

In today’s economy, with very tight margins on most products, taking a loss for an unreasonably unhappy customer can be really annoying as a business owner, but you cannot ignore the potential impact of a good review on your business.

 

Satisfaction guaranteed, too good to be true?

While in Paris, I was also looking for a new pair of flip flops or sandals. A model caught my eye on Amazon, and I started clicking on different sellers at different price. Until one who offered free returns for a year (unworn, not taken all around the world). I was hesitant to order shoes online, the review said to order one size below as they sized big, but with that guarantee, I ordered freely. The company went from having a curious browser to a paying customer in 10 minutes. Because they promised to deliver.

 

One consistent message

If you hire out your customer services, be clear about what they can do and not do.

Recently I talked to my dear internet provider here, because they are selling a 2 hour internet service that lasts… one hour. Customer service said “we just changed plans”, “it will be fixed asap”, “no money back”, “no time extension, it is a one hour plan, even so our web says the contrary”. Unfortunately as a customer you can’t do much about big companies. Go boycott AT&T and see if they care! But as a small business owner you need to be consistent and deliver the same message with every staff, or some blogger will pick up on you and it will be the end of your success!

 

Sadly many of the unhappy customers will write an online review, when most of the happy customers will keep quiet. Having an online presence to monitor what is said about you is great, I use Google to get an alert every time someone talks about Financial Independence, you could set that up with your brand as a keyword.

 

Do you have a good customer service experience?

this post was featured on Freedom 35, thank you!

A 30 something French girl embarking on a journey towards Financial Independence. I blog about money, travel, simple and deliberate living, freedom and choices. You can find me on Twitter, Google+, or Reach Financial Independence's Facebook Page

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Comments

  1. Quality customer service is what will keep me a loyal customer. Unfortunately when it comes to some service providers like cable companies they’re all pretty bad, so that can get frustrating. But generally I’ll just switch companies if I can’t get compensated after having a bad experience.
    Untemplater recently posted..15 Solutions If You’re Feeling Unappreciated At WorkMy Profile

  2. Good customer service is what keeps your current one and attract new customers. If you treat your customers well, they have no reason to go to your competition. They will patronize you. Like your favorite ISP company or cable, or phone carrier. When you had too much already, calling had enough of those long queue to reach a rep on the phone, you can’t wait until your contract ends and go to the next one.
    KC @ genxfinance recently posted..How to Kick Your Bad Money HabitsMy Profile

  3. I experience the same, bad customer service for one car workshop here in our area. I told them to fix my car AC but, nothing has been resolved and it takes another appointment that cost me about $800.

    Mobile and internet provider is one company here and its also monopoly so if you want to voice something about their bad service, it will take time for them to act. It will take time to return back the services.
    My Wealth Desire recently posted..The Best Secret on How to be Financially Successful PersonMy Profile

  4. I will stay loyal to a company, maybe even to a fault, if they have great customer service. This actually the primary reason I haven’t change my auto and home insurance in years, even though I know I can get better rates elsewhere. The company I’m with has provided such good service over the years, especially in the times I’ve needed it most, that I’m really ok paying more. I might get the same service elsewhere, but in my experience that’s the exception, not the rule.
    Matt Becker recently posted..My Personal Investment PlanMy Profile

  5. Whenever I think of bad customer service, I think of Blockbuster. I remember the time where I would have to rush to BB to drop of a movie before heading to work because they would charge a fee if it was dropped off after noon! If you miss a fee, they would send out collection notices and no matter how long you’ve been a customer, they won’t budge on the fee. Absolutely hated that company!

    Then came Netflix. The rest is history!

    The bottom line is, people notice and never forget.
    Moneycone recently posted..Your first credit card – which one should you pick?My Profile

  6. Honestly, we’ve experienced some of the worst customer service possible on several occasions. We really aren’t that hard to please, we just want our bill to be correct. If it isn’t, we want you to help us fix it. Not that hard. However, at most places the customer service seems to be absolutely horrible. I’m not sure if people don’t care as much any more, companies don’t take care of their employees, or if the training is bad. Yet, getting good service is almost the exception these days.
    Greg@ClubThrifty recently posted..Surviving a Bear Market Encounter in the WildMy Profile

  7. You are certainly right that the upset customer will write a review and tell everyone they know while the happy customer does not usually take the time. It’s much better to keep them happy and take care of whatever upsets them. Some people’s life goal is to have something to complain about, whether there really is a problem or not. We honestly have a few patient who insist on having their glasses remade every time they get a new pair. There is always some sort of problem with the frame or lenses. We just know it’s coming and have to suck it up.
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted..12 Facts About Money Everyone Thinks Are TrueMy Profile

    • Have you tried the placebo effect of telling them you remade it and didn’t? I imagine some wouldn’t notice if they are just complaining to complain.

  8. Like others have said I will be loyal to a fault to someone that provides stellar customer service. I’ll even pay more for it because it is so hard to come by. There’s no surprise that people who have a bad experience are much more likely to tell others about it and social media has made it so much easier to do that.
    John S @ Frugal Rules recently posted..Would You Wipe Your Butt with a Used Napkin?My Profile

  9. Good customer service is DEFINITELY important. I always remember the places where the service is just horrible.
    Michelle recently posted..Finding Time For It All – Summer EditionMy Profile

  10. Great customer service is something that is very important to me. I won’t shop at some places because I know there service stinks. I end up paying more sometimes but I’m OK with that because I value a quality shopping experience. And when I get bad customer service…you bet I tell other people about it! I once went on a campaign against a car wash company because they scuffed some paint off my truck when buffing it and wouldn’t admit to it. Said it was already like that when I brought it in. PLEASE! For the next month, I told everyone in my circle of friends about that.
    Brian@Luke1428 recently posted..Geocaching: Our New, Cheap Kid ActivityMy Profile

  11. When you have something wrong with your house, car, or property and need “emergency” repair, you find out very quickly who has good and who has bad customer service. I had a terrible experience with one plumbing company and an unbelievably positive one with the other. The one who gave me good service will certainly get business from me and others in the future, as I can’t say enough good things about them. I think Angie’s List and similar services are making it hard to get by with subpar customer service these days.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted..Does Deer Hunting Save Money?My Profile

    • Short sighted emergency repair guys will think you are a one time customer and treat you like crap. Smart ones will know there is more business to come.

  12. Yes there have been several people I’ve been happy with, one being Oakley, which makes the sunglasses I love. It’s amazing how a little effort goes a long way when you have a company. BTW, I found that when customer service sucks, I got right to twitter to call them out and believe you/me, they are ON IT! They do NOT like to be called out on twitter but sometimes you need to get their attention!
    Budget and the Beach recently posted..4 Frugal Father’s Day Gifts to Last a LifetimeMy Profile

  13. Before there were rooms full of people answering telephone calls, you wrote a letter to companies. I remember those days. I still write letters if I do not receive good customer service. The internet has made contacting customer service much easier. I think companies are much more responsive due to social media. I think the customer is important in his equation and should be treated reasonably. I usually get what I want with most customer service xcept maybe the cable company. It is terrible when they have almost a monopoly.
    krantcents recently posted..Congratulations Class of 2013, Now What?My Profile

    • there is a crappy low cost company in Europe that has only a very expensive premium phone number if you want to call them, or a fax machine. No email or online support. I am still waiting for an answer to my fax from 2009! but won’t call, 10min over the phone is about the price of the flight. That is smart to avoid ever talking to an angry customer again!

  14. Nick @ ayoungpro.com says:

    My philosophy is to treat customers/readers etc as you would treat your friends. Be honest with them. Give them realistic expectations. Follow through with your commitments. If you do that, everything else will fall into place.
    Nick @ ayoungpro.com recently posted..I Went to New York City!My Profile

  15. I have a business professor who had a terrible experience at a restaurant once and talked about it as an example of how negative customer reviews can severely impact a small business. He continues to use them as an example 20 years after they went out of business. Good customer service is not a choice, it’s a rule if you want to have a successful business.
    Kyle @ Debt Free Diaries recently posted..Taking Inventory of What We HaveMy Profile

  16. Customer service can make or break a company. All it takes is for one customer to file a report with the BBB and it’s downhill from there. If everyone treated other’s how they would like to be treated, there would never be a problem!

  17. I love good costumer service, as it really gives me a decent impression of a business, which will make me want to refer others to the same business. I love how much easier it is today to get through to various businesses, with social media as a medium.
    The Norwegian Girl recently posted..A Delicious Greek-Inspired Dessert; Yoghurt with Walnuts and HoneyMy Profile

  18. Nowadays you better deliver what you say you will or be prepared. With sites like Rip Off Reports, Pissed Consumer and other you will get battered and bruised big time. its amazing how for great customer service will go. Even it things are as promised with a product to know that the person is trying to genuinely help you goes a long way. No great stories for me at the moment.
    Your Daily Finance recently posted..Personal Finances for Everyone – Even YOU!My Profile

  19. I never forget the exceptionally good or bad customer service that I receive. I think that is one of the great things about the information age. Once upon a time you just went to the yellow pages and called a plumber. Today you can make sure you are getting a good one. Because of this amount of info I was able to move into an apartment sight unseen.
    Michael @ The Student Loan Sherpa recently posted..Sherpa Money Saving Tip #1: Cut the CableMy Profile

    • the internet can be biased as well. A few friends asked me for starter referrals for their business, ebook or hotels. In a small town a plumber may have half a dozen refs and that is not enough to know if they are genuine. However once you get to a higher number, the truth starts to show.

  20. I don’t have a lot of memorable good customer service experiences. One of my worst though was with Shaw. The CSR tried to tell me that they were allowed to keep my personal information “indefinitely” and couldn’t explain why they would need to or how it could possibly be legal. I ended up raising a fit and got some very apologetic phone calls and letters from upper level management apologizing for the CSR’s misunderstanding. :p
    CF recently posted..Dealing with a collections agency (or, remember to pay your bills!)My Profile

  21. It seems as though for me at least, very few companies nowadays have excellent customer service. They do just what they need to do in order to keep you from trying out a competitor. It’s almost like they view all customers as dispensable.
    Jon @ MoneySmartGuides recently posted..Capital One 360 ReviewMy Profile

    • I think it was Henry Ford who repeated to his employees that he was not the boss, the customers were because they paid salaries and decided if people would keep their jobs or not. But you are right, some tend to forget it.

  22. Pauline, this is my make or break deal with anyone I do biz with – good customer service is a must, or we simply won’t shop there again. When I was younger and out in the working world, customer service seemed to be a lot more of a priority for employers here in the U.S. than it is now. You’re right when you say “The customer is always right, even when they’re wrong”. That should be the cornerstone of every business.
    Laurie @thefrugalfarmer recently posted..How to Save Money on GroceriesMy Profile

  23. If you own a biz, that is your biz. If the waiting room is hot, I put a fan out there – cold, a heater. If the student wants to learn I song, I find it or listen to it on YouTube or their phone and figure it out – even if I hate the music. If we cannot find a tune that addresses a technical deficiency, I write one. Because of these habits and other like them, I have not paid a dime for advertising since 2007. Excellent customer service is everything. A great book on the topic is Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking, by Andy Sernovitz.
    cj recently posted..Older and WiserMy Profile

  24. Give me great service and I’m hooked with your company for all time. This is how important it is to me. I hate lip service and I appreciate prompt action. Of course reasonable price is always a constant factor.
    Amy Turner recently posted..Survey: Customer Service Statistics 2013My Profile

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