Recently Business Week compiled a list of companies that excelled in customer service. Amazon.com led in this category. Why? They strive to not simply sell you something but to ensure the entire experience is flawless. If there ARE mistakes, their goal is to make you happy and satisfied.
I’m not going to write about customer service, per se, but I want to share with you how you can use technology to improve your customer service.
Clear web site navigation
One of the most important things you can do to exceed your customer’s expectations is to ensure they can find everything they need as easy as possible. For those of you with simple web sites and minimal content it’s a lot easier to have all of the important things available on one page. For those of you with more complex web sites, rich with content, it’s going to be more of a challenge.
But regardless, use well thought out categories, drop down boxes, context relevant menus and other things to ensure that customers can always find the information they need without having to click too many times.
Breadth of options
I love that Amazon.com gives you such a variety of options to solve problems. This weekend in fact I had problems watching a movie. Their customer support page gave me dozens of links to solve the problem myself, then there was another link that read “Get express customer service” — call us or contact us by email. At almost midnight on a Saturday, being able to get help any way I want is simply awesome.
Let’s be honest. Amazon.com nor do many other companies really want anyone to call them. It costs more money to have to answer a phone call. However, instead of having you call and wait on hold for hours, Amazon.com has a feature wherein THEY CALL YOU. You do have to wait on hold for a few minutes, but when they answer they know who you are and solve the problem quite fast with no fuss.
Maybe you can’t afford or don’t need to have someone answer the phone for you 24 hours a day. Here’s a few things you can do:
- Use a frequently asked questions (FAQ) database to store the questions you receive via email or phone and ensure that the answers to these questions are available on your web site.
- When customers email your support number use an auto-reply to email them back immediately, assigning them with a unique case number. They feel special and know that your system got their email. Give them an expected time when their email should be answered. 1 hour? 12 hours? The next business day?
- Consider segmenting your customers. Those customers in a “premium” category, the 20% of the 80/20 rule customers, get their email sent to you or your assigned employee’s personal email account. Everyone else has their email sent to the regular customer support email address.
- Telephones are still very important in this era of Twitter and Facebook. You can use a variety of services to manage incoming support calls. You could listen to a call before answering, having the call saved as a sound file and email to you and so many other options. Services such as GotvMail, RingCentral or Google Voice (on the low cost or free end) can help. Small business phone systems from Microsoft Response Point, Talk Switch, Avaya, M5 and others can help as well.
- Customers helping customers is another option. You could have discussion board for customers, use Facebook or some other Web-based platform to enable customers to help each other and encourage your own staff to use the forum as well.
I hope this helps you see that great customer service is NOT hard, in fact it’s relatively easy once you make the decision and have the tools in place to make it happen.
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About the Author: Ramon Ray, Technology Evangelist, is the editor of Smallbiztechnology.com and author of Technology Solutions for Growing Businesses (Amacom). He is co-producer of the Small Business Summit events.