Customer Service: Expense or Opportunity?

To retain permission you’ve got to keep your customers happy.

And keeping your customers happy is, in large part, a factor of how effective you are at providing superior customer service.

According to the April 2000 “eMarketer eCommerce: B2C Report”, the biggest reason customers gave for returning to shop at a web site was “level and quality of customer service,” at 63%. (Second was on-time delivery at 54% and last, interestingly, was price, at just 19%.)

And when it comes to customer service online, people expect and want more. They expect more than they get from businesses offline.

How come?

Well, this is where the road of opinion divides. And the path you take pretty much determines the way you and your business will think of your customers and handle customer-service issues.

Here’s How It Looks on Road One…

Fierce competition for customers online has made customers smarter. They know they can check out your competitors with a click or two. So they demand more. Lower prices, free delivery, money-back guarantees and superb customer service. They’ve become more fickle.

The speed of doing business online has created parallel expectations among customers. They want everything at the speed of email.

And as retailers compete to best one another, the bar is raised a little more and customer expectations rise with it.

That’s Road One the road where we take a pragmatic, if a little jaundiced, look at the customers we serve.

Your customers want more, and you’d better provide it or else.

Here’s Road Two…

Customers have suffered horrible service from merchants over the last 50 years, and they are now delighted to find a business environment in which their needs are given a higher priority.

Remember the bad old days?

    “Allow six to eight weeks for delivery.”

    “Please hold your call is important to us… “

    “We can order that book and get it to you in about three weeks.”

    “…subject to availability.”

    “We may share your personal information with other companies that we feel might interest you.”

Try some of that on your web site and see what happens.

From a customer’s perspective, the Internet is the first business environment since the local corner store to offer anything even approaching a decent level of customer service.

So why should we be surprised when our visitors expect a lot from us? Why shouldn’t they? In many ways, it’s now “their turn.”

For the first time, customers have a degree of control and power that enables them to expect and ask for a level of service that actually shows them a little respect.

So what’s the difference between Road One and Road Two?

They both attempt to arrive at the same point excellent customer service.

But for my money, Road Two stands a much better chance of getting you there. It’s a matter of attitude.

Road One has a “Dang, these customers are never satisfied” perspective. In other words, it’s all the customers’ fault, and it’s costing us a fortune to keep them happy.

Road Two sees things a little more like this: “Wow, here’s a chance to balance a relationship that’s been out of kilter for half a century. Let’s give our customers the service they really deserve and enjoy the loyalty that will surely follow!”

Road One: It’s all their fault, and damn them for costing us big bucks in customer-service infrastructure.

Road Two: Great opportunity to get more folks online and loyal to your site.

Just semantics? No. Because the attitude you hold within your company will strongly influence everyone involved in customer-care issues.

If you feel your customers are being a pain, your customers will soon sense it.

But if you are delighted to be able to help them, they’ll know that, too.

Big difference. Road Two rules.

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