Customer service excellence is a key element of customer satisfaction and can help you deliver more value for customers. Delivering customer service excellence can help you differentiate your brand and product and help you build your startup’s reputation by generating positive word-of-mouth marketing. It is your customers, after all, who determine your value.
To deliver customer service excellence, you may need to adjust your schedule and resources to meet your customers’ needs. It needs to happen on the customer’s schedule, not yours.
You also may need to adapt your lean startup methodologies to anticipate customer needs (for example, you may need to stock some extra inventory, so that you have what the customer needs when they need it). While the process of delivering customer service excellence can feel inefficient in terms of lean principles, the goal is to increase your value in your customer’s mind.
Isadore Sharp, founder and CEO of the Four Seasons chain of hotels, built his global brand on delivering customer service excellence and used this feature to differentiate his product. To achieve this level of customer service, Sharp tells of empowering staff to go off-script and do whatever it took to solve customer problems. He cites examples of staff arranging for a last-minute tuxedo by borrowing one from a hotel employee, and squeezing in an unexpected table for Bill and Hillary Clinton at a crowded brunch. Sharp relates that daily staff meetings take place at every Four Seasons to discuss “glitches” that did or could arise and to focus on ensuring that every guest has a positive experience.
In order to deliver more value for customers, it’s important to know that across different markets, customers tend to have common expectations:
When your customer service excellence falls short, it creates a negative customer experience that can harm your reputation. In this case, word-of-mouth marketing can work against you.
A 2013 study by market research firm Harris Interactive showed that 85% of customers whose service needs are not met will retaliate against the company. Of consumers aged 18 to 34, 21% will use social media to do so, with that percentage likely to rise as social media becomes more popular in different demographics.
Regard your customer service channels as a listening device to find out what customers are saying about your product. This will help you understand how well the product is working (or not), how your customers are using it and what they want from it. As a startup, you need to be cautious and ensure that you deliver value to customers from the start and that customers are comfortable with your product.
Have a blend of expertise serving in the customer service role, with both managers and developers taking part. Ensure each team members is trained to deliver the level of service you expect.
Recognize that having customer service support available can be a critical factor in landing business customers. Some business customers will not buy unless this is available to their users.
Customer service support can help increase sales for online businesses. Entrepreneur and author Dave McClure describes five “pirate metrics” (named for their acronym: AARRR) that digital marketers should use. These metrics are listed in the order in which they take place:
A critical gap occurs between “Activation” and “Retention.” Customer retention can be difficult attain, yet it is essential. Customer service excellence can help you and your customers bridge this gap. For example, your team can support first-time users by sending automated tips to first-time users or an inquiry to see how they are faring with the new product. This can help not only help resolve problems but also prompt new users to get to know your product. Implementing such triggers can help move customers from Activation to Retention, and help you deliver more value for customers.
Use what your customer service team hears to understand more about your product and how you can improve your customers’ experience. Capture data and metrics on:
Technology startups are well positioned to leverage trends in customer service. To deliver more value for customers, ensure your strategy includes:
Gallo, C. (2013, May 9). Seven Customer Service Lessons I Learned In One Day With Richard Branson [Video]. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/carminegallo/2013/05/09/seven-customer-service-lessons-i-learned-in-one-day-with-richard-branson-video/
Grant, R. (2013, November 14). 85% of consumers will retaliate against a company with bad customer service (report). VentureBeat. Retrieved from http://venturebeat.com/2013/11/14/85-of-consumers-will-retaliate-against-a-company-with-bad-customer-service-report/
McClure, D. (2007, August 8). Startup Metrics for Pirates: AARRR!!! Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/dmc500hats/startup-metrics-for-pirates-long-version
Sharp, I. (2009). Four Seasons: The Story of a Business Philosophy. Toronto: Penguin Group (Canada).
Solomon, M. (2014, May 27). There’s Nothing Less Efficient Than Providing Great Customer Service. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/micahsolomon/2014/05/27/theres-nothing-less-efficient-than-providing-great-customer-service/
Vilner, Y. (2015, January 21). Here’s How Customer-Service is Going To Explode in 2015. Inc. Retrieved from http://www.inc.com/yoav-vilner/here-s-how-customer-service-is-going-to-explode-in-2015.html?cid=readmore