Four Keys to Unlocking Great Customer Service Online & Offline

You’re daughter turns 17 next month, and you’re about to pull the trigger on her first car. 

She’s been patient, or maybe you’ve made her be patient, and now it just comes down to which vehicle to buy. You’ve narrowed your search and test drove each vehicle. It’s the a cherry Honda Accord in the left corner, vs. the silver Ford Focus S Sedan in the right corner.

You’ve balanced the books and decided that on this purchase, you’re not trying to save. She’s worth it. Nothing seems to help sway the vote in any direction until you’re driving yourself insane. 

Then you think to yourself, “Ya know, Mike’s daughter has a Focus. I’ll go talk to him.” 

Mike has a sparkling review of the Focus and now you’re all in. You make your decision clear-minded and with no regrets. 


 

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Reviews and testimonials are an essential part of your brand and an even bigger part of your business’s revenue. Why?

Because people trust people. 

One study by Dimensional Research noted that 88 percent of participants have been influenced by an online customer review when making a buying purchase. 

And if those numbers don’t scare you, these will. Author, consultant, and social media expert, Mark W. Schaefer said this about the shift in consumers.

“By 2020, 50 percent of our consumers are going to be millennials,” said Schaefer. “They are the least trusting generation ever. They don’t trust brands and ads and messaging, but they trust each other. 

They trust the messaging and the content that they share between each other. So this is where the marketing dialogue must go.”

I see this reality every day. Marketing has morphed from a time when consumers believed everything that manufacturers said about products – to believing little to nothing that companies boast. 

More often than not, people approach companies with an “I’ve got to see or try it to believe it,” mentality. We offer people free songs and ebooks; free 30-day trials to get buyers to even consider spending on us.

Before the internet, if someone got cheated by an awful product they had a couple of options to vent their rage. They could:

  1. boycott the store or vendor and 
  2. tell others to do the same. 

In small towns with big gossip, this could have a small-to-medium amount of damage on a business.

However, today the stakes are so much higher. If a company treats a customer poorly, the repercussions can travel at top speeds and last forever in a virtual reality that has become a trusted reality for many buyers. 

One employee’s bad behavior can be recorded and shared with hundreds of thousands of potential customers with little effort, like this extreme case. In the video below, a Comcast sales representative holds a man hostage in a phone conversation for 18 minutes before he would fulfill the man’s original request to discontinue their service.

This video has been listened to more than six million times between YouTube and SoundCloud. Comcast did not get away with this one. They issued a public apology from ABC News in response.


 

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And that’s another helpful hint. Scientists have discovered that out off all of the emotions that humans go through, anger traveled faster on the web than joy, disgust or any other emotion. 

So, you want to get customer service right, especially online. But remember that anything that is done in-person can be transferred online.

So how do we do tackle this thing in the correct way? I want to start us out with a less-virtual example and work our way up.

If you are a child the most boring place your mother or father can take you is the bank. There are large countertops that you can’t see over. There’s not really anything to look at, and the waiting lines can be unbearable.

What is a timely thoughtful solution to getting their customers (and mini-customers) to enjoy time spent in their businesses? 

Knowing that there will be a small, sugary prize waiting on the other side of it all. 

Lollipops. 

Banks don’t have to give out lollipops just like Publix doesn’t have to give out free sugar cookies. But let me tell you, I know moms who wouldn’t even bother trying to do errands with their toddler if they could not punctuate store or business visits with these sweet rewards.  


 

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Let’s talk about responsible ways to offer great customer service.

So, here we go. The four ways we are looking to serve customers online and off include.

1. Respond to customers in a timely manner. 

This one goes first because it’s a big deal with consumers. How ever you respond, reward and handle customers, timeliness is important.

In that same survey by Dimensional Research, 69 percent of respondents attributed their good customer service experience to quick resolution of their problem.

While 72 percent blamed their bad customer service interaction on having to explain their problem to multiple people (time consuming). 

Answer customer inquiries within 24 hours. If there is a need you can meet, a way in which you can celebrate or thank your customer, do it fast.

2. Be thoughtful. 

If you had lunch with a client right before a weekend, contact them the following Monday with a thank you.

Thank clients for their time and ask about semi-personal information that might have come up in conversation. “You said you were going water skiing this weekend. Did you have a nice time?”

This is not hard, people.

3. Find something cost-appropriate. 

The sucker is a great example of something cost-appropriate you can do for clients. An online example of this is repurposing content that you already had in a new way.

Make an infographic that explains something technical in pictures. Teach them something. Send them personal messages online saying, “I read this article and thought of you. I would love to know your thoughts on it.”

4. Simply bless customers.

If you work in a clothing store, offer discounts to first time customers and actually assist people in dressing rooms.

If I could go to a store where I know I could have someone get me a size smaller or larger without having to put my clothing back on and traipse through the store, you know I would be shopping there!

An online version is to spotlight a client. Write something nice on them and talk about how great they are. This will go a long way.

I’d like to leave you with a quote from Gary Vaynerchuk author of “The Thank You Economy.”

He said, “Happy customers are worth more than any other kind,” and I whole-heartedly agree.

It’s worth putting in a little more effort, online and off, to make your customers happy. Your brand will show it and so will your sales. 

And for what it’s worth, the companies who treat customers well create, not just brand-loyal customers, but brand advocates. Those are the people you want giving you reviews and testimonials. 


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I’d like to thank Lisa Williams at Bank Independent in Athens for providing the lollipops pictured in this post. I will say that if I was a child, I would probably like Bank Independent because they have suckers and really comfy seating. Just saying.

Meet the Author

Emily Heinkel is a journalist-turned-marketer with a knack for creative communications and digital marketing strategies. She prides herself on creating original content that speaks to targeted audiences through conversational language, compelling images and moving storytelling.

Heinkel began her career with Ad4! two months after graduating from Troy University with a multimedia journalism degree. As a Trojan, she was a reporter, photographer ...
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