How customer service will get you through rough times


The economic outlook for 2015 is uncertain - The Economist says so. As we settle into the groove of another new year, a combination of world events and the continuing aftershocks from the financial crisis show a bumpy road ahead for businesses and customers alike. When people have less money, they are more careful with it – but that doesn’t mean they necessarily go for the cheapest option. Here’s how customer service can encourage people to buy from you, even when the seas are rough.

Work on your website

When was the last time you did a walk-through of your own website? Whether you’re an online retailer or have another form of online presence, you can’t get away with having a less than confidence-inspiring public face. You wouldn’t set up your real-life premises in a tent, would you? Because you’d look like a fly-by-night operation which couldn’t be trusted with someone else’s money.

Look at your website as if you’re a first-time customer. Click on all the links and see if they take you where you want to go. Make sure that your choice of colours and design project an air of quality and reliability. If your first impression isn’t good, then your service (and the resulting customer satisfaction) probably isn’t going to be that good either. So get clicking and make sure that your website represents the reliable, customer-friendly business that you truly are!

Be good and fast – but not too fast

We’ve talked before about the dangers of giving a too-speedy reply and how the quality of your answer is more important. However, speed is important too. Confused? Don’t be. The truth, hard as it is to accept, is that customer service needs to be both good and fast.

Back in those long-gone days before the internet when you could only connect with customer service reps in person or on the phone, you always knew that they were going to come back. Whether you were sitting waiting in a business with only one exit(!) as they rummaged out the back, or listened to that tinny version of Greensleeves while on hold, you knew that eventually you’d get a response.

When you send an email, however, it’s a bit like putting a message in a bottle and casting it out to sea. Quite possibly something will happen, but it would not be unreasonable to expect that it won’t. Giving a fast reply removes that doubt.

Make it easy for the customer

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: meet the customer where they are. But that doesn’t just mean helping them on their preferred channels: it means that you need to think like your customer. Putting yourself in the customer’s shoes and seeing the experience through their eyes is the only way to ensure that your customer service is hitting the spot. You may well have systems in place which state that, for example, queries of a certain type need to go through a certain person. If that means that the customer needs to speak to or email someone else, then you’re just going to have to change your systems. The point of having systems is not to make things clearer and easier for staff – it’s to make things clearer and easier for your customers!

The reason we emphasise these points isn’t just because we want people to like you, or to think that you’re a “good” business. It’s because they’ll give up and go and spend their money elsewhere if you make it too hard for them to do business with you. And let’s face it, when you’re an SME in a tough economic climate – every dollar, euro, pound, yen or shekel counts. We’re not rolling in money in some Hollywood film here. We’re out to earn a living (and then some, with any luck!). And the best way to do that is by giving good service. So go do it.