Good marketing is based on the general idea that organizations want to attract qualified prospects, and then retain them for the future. For those who buy in to our way thinking (seems like common sense on this side), it seems obvious that customer care is a critical part of that process. After all, what’s the point of attracting the best prospects if you plan to push them away after converting them? For those who want to consider this kind of business suicide, we say just get to the point and alienate them immediately!
Hyperbole aside, we continue to be amazed at just how many organizations don’t seem to understand the clear link between good customer service and healthy, productive marketing .
We received an email today from our hosting company, and that experience is prompting this blog post. Our host recently experienced a rare server outage that caused significant downtime on our site during a sensitive time. We won’t exactly name names to protect the innocent, but we can say it rhymes with MoBaddy. During the outage we had called multiple times to understand the issue (apparently it’s a once in 10 years occurrence), and then called again after it was fixed to inquire about compensation for the inconvenience. During that last call we were told that our customer service representative wasn’t able to grant a partial account credit, but that he had escalated the issue to a supervisor who would no doubt credit our account. We were instructed to expect forthcoming contact from that supervisor. That happened today in the form of the email below.
Thank you for your patience while we reviewed your account.
I understand you have concerns regarding your previous interactions with our Customer Care team. MoBaddy strives to provide the best customer service in the industry. Please rest assured that you concerns are valued and taken seriously. We will review your recent interactions and account history. We will address any opportunities internally to ensure we coach where appropriate. Please give us a call to review this over the phone.
As always, thank you for being a MoBaddy customer.
Thanks and Regards,
Holy moly. This was a trip, mostly because the prior conversation we had had with the “Customer Care team” was actually very pleasant, so it was a surprise to hear about our concerns! We grimaced a bit at the mealy-mouthed nonsense about “best customer service in the industry” (never say these words!) and the”opportunities” that were sure to be addressed internally, but we did oblige and follow the instructions to call back to review over the phone using the incident number that was provided.
After a brief period on hold, we learned that the gibberish message wasn’t actually a poorly written auto-response, but was in fact an actual email written by an actual human being. That supervisor had also taken it upon himself to terminate our service ticket without any notification and decided that there would not be any forthcoming credits to the account. It’s tough to speculate exactly what was happening, but if we had to guess it probably involved some form of lackluster copying and pasting and a post-lunch food coma. Regardless, the customer service rep we spoke to was embarrassed enough to apologize on behalf of that supervisor and offer a full 3 months worth of free hosting.
In this situation, the fine folks of MoBaddy didn’t lose a customer. What they did lose was giving away 3 free months of hosting instead of the 1 month that we had first thought was reasonable, and a bit of their dignity. Here are the 4 keys to getting it right.
- Recognize that customers are people. It’s true! Those converted metrics who spill out the bottom of your marketing funnel and are now spending money, are actually honest to goodness people. People who are generally smart enough to use their common sense and recognize when a business is treating them fairly and when they are being taken for granted. People don’t like being taken for granted so don’t take your customers for granted!
- The Golden Rule applies. Ah yes, the law of reciprocity. Treat people as you would like to be treated yourself. Life isn’t fair, but that doesn’t mean that fairness, kindness, and understanding aren’t things customers like to see from the businesses that they choose to work with. If your customer service manual is heavy on squishy buzzwords about “best in class customer service” but there’s no visible human empathy from the actions of the business, you’re almost certainly doing it wrong with your customers. Actual caring is important!
- Remember that people have memories…and choices. We know that businesses screw things up with their customers, patients, or clients. To err is human and screwing up is ok. We all do it! What’s important to remember, however, is that those customers, patients, and clients have both brains and options. The brain part allows them to remember what happened and think about whether your reaction to the mistake allows them to feel good about continuing to do business with you. The option part allows them to make another choice if the brain part isn’t convinced. So what does this mean in practice? Are you running a medical practice and did your staff accidentally cancel a patient’s appointment and also accidentally not tell the patient about it until she took a half day from work and trekked out to your office? Admit the mistake, take responsibility, and apologize deeply (from the top, if possible), and find a way to prioritize the patient to win back her trust. Do you run a retail operation and sell a customer a product that he believes is faulty? Take it back without giving him a hassle, even if you suspect deep down that there was some user error involved. The value of your reputation is going to outweigh the temporary costs of the return.
- Even if you don’t care about people, be smart enough about your business to pretend that you do. If you happen to have built a functioning business without caring about your customers, we say congratulations! That is hard to do and it means you must be incredibly skilled at what you do. From what we’ve seen though, poor customer service is typically the realm of iconic brands whose bad service is part of the schtick (cheese-steaks!), and organizations that are unintentionally killing their brand and kneecapping their future business potential. So don’t waste your good marketing with bad customer experience. At least pretend you care or hire someone who does.
We like to believe that in general, these principles are things that all organizations can apply. If your organization doesn’t have the bandwidth, expertise, (or acting skills) to protect your marketing efforts and your future business growth by caring about your customers, get in touch here. We can discuss reputation management and how we might help you put on your best face. Want to go it alone? Check out our free google-my-business-free-guide, which we believe is the first place to start if you’re going to take customer care and reputation management seriously!