Superior Customer Service

November 21, 2011

As we close in on the Holiday Shopping Season, customer service becomes more and more important. That’s not to say customer service was unimportant prior to now; it’s just that most businesses –– e-commerce ventures as well as brick and mortar stores –– see a large increase in consumer activity during the Holiday Shopping Season. Any customer service mistakes that get made in this time period end up being magnified due to the time of year.

As part of its ongoing series about Holiday Shopping, The Official Merchant Services Blog wanted to take a moment to examine customer service.

By The Numbers

It’s important to not let customer service fall to the wayside in favor of more direct methods of obtaining profits. While marketing campaigns and aggressive sales techniques can see quick results in black and white numbers, customer service is the foundation for maintaining a long-term sales relationship. The old adage about how it costs more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an old one is what’s at work here. A 2010 MediaPost report indicated that U.S. businesses lose approximately $83 billon each year as a result of poor customer service. The report also indicated that 71 percent of U.S. customers have ended a business relationship based on poor customer service. The report also noted that poor customer service has an impact on a business’ competition –– the study cited by MediaPost found that 61 percent of customers surveyed said that they take their business to a competitor when they end a relationship with a company due to poor customer service.

Merchant Services image on Bad Customer Service

Do Not Panic

While those numbers from that survey are compelling, our first bit of advice is: Do Not Panic. Just like Customer Service is a long-term relationship building tool, it’s also an aspect of your business that you can take your time building. So even if you hit a few customer service snags on Black Friday, or there’s some pitfalls for your e-commerce business’ customer service on Cyber Monday, it’s not time to panic. Take it easy, and keep the focus on the long-term goal of quality customer service.

Anecdotes and Analysis

We’ve all experienced horror stories that back up the numbers cited above. It could be something as simple as walking into a store looking to purchase a specific product and not receiving any assistance. I’ve had this happen to me quite a lot when walking into a specific retail chain near where I live. I’ve gone there multiple times looking to purchase printer cartridges. And each time I have trouble finding the specific type I’m looking for and it seems I can never get an employee to even ask me if I need help. It’s made me stop going there and I now buy my printer supplies online instead.

What horror stories have you experienced? What’s the worst customer service incident you’ve encountered? Has it affected your approach to your own business and the customer service you provide?

Make Good Customer Service a Habit

Host Merchant Services makes customer service a part of their core business philosophy. It’s part of the Payment Network Provider’s overall goal to bring trust to the payment industry. And it’s part of why this merchant services blog exists. The company wants to share information with customers as well as potential customers, and take the time to explain the confusing aspects of the payment processing industry. Customer Service defines the approach to the customer relationship; it’s why Host Merchant Services makes guarantees such as no contracts and no termination fees; it’s the basis for how Host Merchant Services offers free terminals to our merchants.

Merchant Services and Payment Network Providers need quality Customer Service

Defining Good Customer Service

Using that background in customer service focus, Host Merchant Services offers some easy tips to help you enhance your customer service:

Make a Good First Impression

A customer’s first contact with your business should be a positive experience, no matter if that contact is a telephone call, an internet click through or face to face.

Real People Over Automated Responses

Contact between customers and potential customers hinges on interaction between real people. This applies mainly to the way your business takes phone calls or handles internet contact. Try to cut down on phone trees and automated telephone recordings with confusing menus. For your e-commerce businsess, make sure your website is designed well and easy to navigate. Give your visitors a convenient hub to continue to visit. And make sure you clearly mark how to contact you for customer service related issues.

Be honest, Offer Facts

Do not sugarcoat things when dealing with your customers. While it may be uncomfortable to deliver bad news, customers and potential customers prefer honest and factual information. Trying to sugarcoat things makes them feel like you are being manipulative and will have a negative impact.

Get Back To People

Follow up with people who contact you. Delays in returning voicemails, neglecting e-mails, not responding to posts to your twitter, are all negatives in customer service. If someone takes the time to try to contact you, the best thing you can do to maintain good customer service is to get back to them promptly.

Work With Your Customers

When you do interact with your customers via phone calls, e-mails or face to face, remember to work with them –– not against them. Listen to what they are telling you. They contacted you with a concern, so take in their information. Be polite. Most customer service issues revolve around customer complaints. But if you listen to them and are polite with them, you take a huge step forward toward getting their issue resolved. Customers want to be heard, and they want you take action on their behalf. Even if you can’t do exactly what they want, the process is there for you to help them feel like they are valuable to your business.

Stick To Your Plan

That’s the basics of it. It’s really just a process that involves you interacting with your customers on a human level. Getting back to them promptly. Giving them your focused attention. And doing what you can to make them feel like they are valuable to your business. This is all about building a long-term business relationship. So while you may experience an increase in the static you get from irate customers through November and December, if you stick to a plan that focuses on customer service and relationship building, you will navigate through the storm of the Holiday Shopping Season.

We want to hear from you. What does good customer service mean to you? Better yet, what does it mean to your customers? When they define good customer service, does your business immediately come to their minds? What are some tips you would offer for obtaining excellent customer service?

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