Back in 2007, I took an optional class in "Services Marketing" taught by Professor Leonard Berry at Texas A&M, Mays Business School. Before attending the MBA program, we (MBA students) received a copy of "Discovering the Soul of Service: The Nine Drivers of Sustainable Business Success." The book was an eye-opener to services marketing. Dr. Berry studied labor-intensive companies like Enterprise Rent-A-Car, baseball team Saint Paul Saints, and The Charles Schwab Corporation and made an astonishing revelation:
"The single most important factor in building a lasting service business is not a matter of savvy business practice, but of humane values. In a world where customers regard flawless products as a given, service is the key differentiator between competitors in any field."
Now it's 2013. I am in India and the Internet has exploded here giving rise to e-commerce businesses by the dozen. Venture capitalists (VCs) have pumped in millions. We have seen mergers and closures at the same time. UrbanTouch.com was acquired by FashionAndYou.com. Zovi.com bought Inkfruit.com in February. Retail giants like Coca-Cola are dabbling with e-commerce. A recently launched Coke2Home.com delivers happiness to your home, same-day if you place an order before noon.
So what keeps e-commerce companies in India alive? What differentiates a Flipkart.com from the rest of the pack? It's not the millions poured in by VCs, nor is it the affinity of Indians to shop online. And it isn't shouting out loud on TV with quirky commercials. Marketing to some extent can act as a differentiator, but the real deal is service. There are a handful of e-commerce companies in India that are providing exceptional service (beyond marketing) - Flipkart.com, Dominos.co.in, and MakeMyTrip.com to name a few.
What tips can we get from these businesses? How can you improve service and differentiate your business?
1. Set up channels of feedback. You're not a faceless business, even if you're an online e-commerce store or a SaaS company. Consumers like to talk to real people when it comes to solving problems. Make sure you give your customer service a face across all your channels of communication. A good example would be using real names on your social media customer service channels. Take a look at @DellCares, Dell's social media outreach team for listening and providing help and proactive information to their customers.
2. Make yourself available 24/7. The Internet doesn't have a sabbath, so why should your business? Most shopping happens over a weekend when consumers have a little bit more spare time. Moreover, the Internet makes shopping a 24/7 activity. A consumer may place an order at 3 a.m. and if she is facing difficulties in fulfilling an order and has no help, you have one less customer. Make sure that you have set up proper channels of communications 24/7. You can have your customer service staff work shifts or set up self-help in the form of FAQ articles, demo videos, and guides.
For example, for the search query "domain redirect godaddy," I see three links to the support center and a video that explains the same. Maybe I will not have to wait to talk to a customer representative if I am searching at 3 a.m.
3. Deliver on your promise. Most businesses lose customers because they suck at customer service and don't fulfil promises.
If you're a well-established brand, people are going to trust you. Make sure that you live up to your promises. One of the best examples of great customer promise fulfilment is the Domino's Pizza Tracker that helps you track your order at every step. On most occasions, Domino's delivers a pizza at your doorstep within 30 minutes. A result of a robust CRM that knows a customer based on her order history and an interconnected web and store system that manages the supply chain seamlessly.
4. Apologize if you've messed up. Pick up the phone or send an email. An apology solves negative feedback from a customer.
This was what GoDaddy did on September 14, 2012. It sent me and all its customers an apology letter for a service outage on September 10.
Now it's your turn to work on customer service and create customer delight!
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Mandar Marathe brings in more than 7 years of experience in digital marketing and web technologies. He currently heads Reprise Media's Mumbai office. On a day-to-day basis, he works with clients to service their digital marketing needs and absolutely loves his job! Prior to Reprise, Mandar has worked with Digitas (Publicis Groupe), Dell, Infosys, and 30 Dollar Finance. At various stages of his career, Mandar has worked with Fortune 100 clients to deliver digital solutions including hands on web site design and development, search marketing, social media strategy, SEO, and web analytics implementations.
December 12, 2013
1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT