In today's world of global market, it is not a problem to buy from multiple sellers whatever product or service you need. If you want it cheaper, just keep searching. For instance, creating a drop ship site is so easy, that thousands of people are trying it. Unfortunately, majority of them fail, because they are not able to differentiate themselves from the competition.
So, what makes the difference between businesses? Is it the product or the service itself? Well, not completely. Especially, considering products rather than services, you will easily find another seller of the exact same thing. The difference lies in the customer support and how you handle issues. Of course, humans are not perfect, and problems will certainly occur. Your products or services will most likely not satisfy all of your clients, or something goes wrong. Do you have a system how to handle these situations? Do your staff know how they are supposed to communicate with your clients? Did you create an internal manual who touches the problem and who is responsible for the solution? If not, you probably never thought the customer support over in depth.
How it must not look like. An experience
When I wanted to create my first site, I contacted a firm that had unusually low prices. What I expected from them was a few images, design enhancements and creation of the initial web structure. I planned to maintain the web myself later. I decided for Wordpress site and bought a template for it. I sent it all to the company, and they started the work. I was not satisfied from the very beginning. They just put my text on the site without any formatting or styles. I tried to explain them what I wanted. They did only minor changes; the final look was still horrible.
After a while, I was so mad that I was considering to cancel the contract. The very last disaster they made was when they installed a new Wordpress for the English version on the second level domain uk.domain.cz. It was a great occasion for facepalm! If I wanted 5 different languages, I would have 5 Wordpress installations running? Complete non-sense! They had no idea what they were doing. I contacted the company and told them to cancel the contract. I deleted all the files and even sent them logs from my hosting provider. They just could not accept it, and when I installed a fresh new Wordpress, they claimed I stole their work. Well, they did not do any work at all in the first place. They were threating me with putting me on a black-list site. As a new business owner, this didn't sound nice to me. I tried my best to prove that I deleted everything. Then I gave this up, and I decided to use Drupal instead of Wordpress even though this meant losing my template which wasn't cheap.
Then, my name was listed on their site's black-list claiming that they taught me everything, and I stole their work. I have to emphasize, they did not do any work at all. I would have had no problem to pay for it. After four weeks, the simple site was still not ready, and I was forced to solve this non-sense. If a company makes a client mad, the owner should be ready to repay everything with an apology!
Bad practises in customer support
Many times, I get only impersonal emails missing any kind of signature. "XYZ team" is not a signature. Why do people in business hide their identity? Are they ashamed of what they do? If you are not proud of what you do, it is time to find something else.
An excellent example of a terrible customer services is provided by corporations. Did you ever try to contact Facebook? They do not have support email/phone/chat even for advertisers who pay them money! If you ever solved a Facebook issue, you know you have no chance. Twitter is another example of missing a reasonable support. If you have your account suspended for any reason, you will most likely never receive any answer. Google has support only for Adwords clients. However, if you are starting, for example, with Adsense, forget any help. If your account gets suspended, it is forever - no explanation, no second chance, no help at all.
I often hear a claim that these services are free. Really? Do you think so? If yes, then you also claim that your personal data has no value at all. In fact, Facebook and Twitter are making billions. Do you think, they would be able to generate revenue with free services? We actually give them extremely valuable assets - our personal data and our time. How do they use it? They throw precisely targeted advertisement on us. I don't think any of the services mentioned above is free per se. In fact, there are many people who don't want to exchange their private information for a Facebook profile.
Good practices in customer support
We can list several good practises for customer support. They will help your company improve its credibility.
1) Be personal
. You and your staff must sign their emails. Your clients want to interact with real humans, not bots or auto-responders. In today's business, every client want to feel that somebody cares. This is essential for keeping the customers with you and motivate them to refuse your competitors knocking on their door.
2) Provide more ways to contact you
. There are so many! Email, phone, live chat, skype, in person. If you use a support ticket system, make the messages personal.
3) Have a clear system how issues are solved
. From the very first contact, to solving the issue, up to final message to the client. Your first contact person must be patient and nice. He or she must bear an angry client contacting you about an issue with your product/service. The first contact person must not yell back!
Someone needs to take the issue and actually solve it. If you sell TVs, you should have a technician available to answer techie questions, a salesperson who knows the catalogue and the prices and maybe also someone who can offer loans other financial options. If you are still a one-man business, you need to handle everything and delegate some tasks as soon as possible.
4) Do not be ashamed if you don't know the answer right on the spot. We all are overwhelmed with information. Admit, that you don't know the answer and promise to find out as soon as possible. This scenario is completely ok with most of the clients. The key point here is, not to forget! You will probably not have another chance, because the client might go to your competitors who might know the answer and help much faster.
The customer support of your company is the flagship of your business. Keep that in mind. It is not "just an additional expense". Company without any support will most likely fail quickly leaving angry customers behind. Always be personal! Never hide yourself or your employees behind vague phrases such as "XYZ team". It's a very bad pattern and certainly does not improve your credibility.
Do not learn from the corporations. They already have a big pile of the market and they don't really care about being personal and provide a good customer support. In most cases they are run just by greed and increasing profit. Be different!