It’s All About Customer Service

If there is one thing I have learned in my 25 plus years of business it’s that customer service should be a top priority because it is part of every aspect of your business. Marketing? Begins with good customer service. Sales? It is customer service. Accounting? Ok, maybe not EVERY aspect, but accounting can be helped by good customer service. Here are some stats to keep in mind as we explore customer service this week.

Why Customer Service Matters

The Power of the Personal Touch

EnvelopesWhen was the last time you received a personal thank you from a purchase? My guess is that it has been a while. Handwritten notes are rare and a way for you to stand out from the competition. I see people saying that personal notes are “All the rage” but I still haven’t ever gotten one and neither has anyone I asked. There are companies out there that do it with great success but they are few and far between, so here is a way for a small business to really stand out without a lot of expense. Here are some tips to make your thank you note campaign stand out.

  • Really make it personal – Address it to the purchaser “Dear Steve”. and include details so the customer knows it isn’t just a form letter. “Thank you for buying the blue hat, it is my favorite color and was fun to make for you.” These little touches tell the customer you really do appreciate your business and aren’t just sending formulaic thank you cards to everyone.
  • Leave out the business card – Or at least carefully consider it. This tip goes against instinct and against my feelings that everyone should have my card.  If you include your card it diminished the note. It goes from a genuine thank you to a branding effort. Of course you make sure they can get back in touch with you, address embossed on the card or written on the back, but there is no need for branding efforts here. The thank you is the point.
  • Make it a surprise – The first purchase a customer makes should have a thank you card in it, after that, make it random. If they expect a card each time it is no longer special. This keeps the card as something they hope to get, but don’t expect. It also reduces the burden of how many cards to send. If you are set on sending a note with each purchase make sure to look at the next tip.
  • Don’t make it a chore – If you have to write too many cards, this is a good thing and a bad thing. Don’t let it burn you out of become a dread, it will be reflected in the writing. If you just have too many cards to write consider hiring someone to help with it or outsourcing the process (yup there are services for everything). Don’t let this powerful tool bog you down.

Use these tips to stand out from the crowd. Almost no one does personal notes, so it is an easy win and a powerful tool for creating customer loyalty. Feel free to send me questions or comments below.

Customer Service – Expectation vs. Reality


We have all experienced a disconnect with what we expect and what we receive. The picture of the food looks nothing like what we get in the package. Sometimes it comes as a big shock because the discrepancy is so obvious and it warrants comment. Such a situation happened to me recently. I ordered a Steak Skillet at a fast casual family restaurant (I won’t mention the name, but it rhymes with Denny’s) because the amount of food was impressive. I would go home full plus something for lunch the next day.  The reality was that I went away hungry and angry. Not only was the food about a third of what was shown, but the customer service surrounding this obvious error compounded the situation. According to McKinsey, 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated so not all is lost when an experience starts to go bad.

This experience really started with the waiter asking if everything looked good.  I showed him my mostly empty plate and asked where the rest of the food was. He mumbled something about being sorry I didn’t like the portion and ran away from our table. I didn’t realize potatoes had gotten that expensive. Resolve a complaint in the customer’s favor and they will do business with you again 70% of the time according to Lee Resources, ignore the complaint and you compound the problem. Honestly, I expect a lot of potatoes and filler in a meal like this, eggs and meat are pricey in comparison.

The next misstep was when he made sure to not check on us through the rest of the meal, probably because he could tell I wasn’t happy with the response. A Customer Experience Impact Report by Harris Interactive/RightNow showed the top two reasons for customer loss is that customers feel poorly treated and a failure to solve a problem in a timely manner.

The last misstep was when we went to pay and we were asked if everything was ok. I told them no and why. The response was “Oh, sorry. I hope you come back anyway”. After paying $12 for $4 worth of food? I doubt it. Of course now, as usually happens with bad experiences, I tell everyone.  An American Express Survey in 2011 told us that Americans tell an average of 9 people about good experiences, and tell 16 (nearly two times more) people about poor experiences.

Why does one bad experience matter?

It is well know that keeping a customer is more cost effective than acquiring new ones.  On average, loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase according to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs. Gaining them back is also a costly proposition.  Ruby Newell-Legner writes in “Understanding Customers” that it takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience. According to NewVoiceMedia, an estimated $41 billion is lost by U.S. companies alone each year due to poor customer service.

How can your company avoid the same mistakes when things go wrong?

1) Match the customer expectations to the delivery. Under-promise and over -deliver isn’t just cliché, it makes happy customers. If under promising is your policy, even when your company has a bad day (which will happen) you are likely to please the customer anyway, or come very close to what you told them. Example, Village Inn has a similar picture on their menu for a skillet but the amount of food you get surpasses the picture. I rarely eat half and it is the same price as the-place-that shall-not-be-named. Which restaurant do you think I will be giving my business to? “Always do more than is required of you.” – George S. Patton

2) Fix the problem. At least make an attempt to make the problem right. If potatoes are too expensive, offer some toast to fill out the meal. Ran out of an item they need? Offer alternatives with a slight discount. At least make an effort to make things right with the customer when they complain. Not every customer will be happy, but a little effort can save quite a few. Lee Resources says that 91% of unhappy customers will not willingly do business with you again and Zendesk says 39% of customers avoid vendors for 2+ years after a bad experience. “Ask your customers to be part of the solution, and don’t view them as part of the problem.” – Alan Weiss

 “News of bad customer service reaches more than twice as many ears as praise for a good service experience. The Takeaway – Take the time to address unhappy customers and do everything in your power to remedy the situation. It’s not only worth keeping their business, but also avoiding any negative word of mouth exposure.” –  White House Office of Consumer Affairs