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How These Service Strategies Converted Me from Casual Customer into Brand Advocate

News flash: customers aren’t idiots. In fact, they’re savvier than ever before. Businesses think they’re slick with their fine print and convoluted returns process, but with price comparison and search engines a click away, it doesn’t take much to send a customer packing.

So how do you hang onto customers? Well, there are always locked-in contracts, high-pressure sales tactics, and private investigators digging up blackmail material, but those options range from the ethically sketchy to the brazenly illegal (and probably only work in the movies).

Some business owners, like Kylee Lane of Luxury Lane Soap, prefer to keep it simple by offering value-added customer service.

What, pray tell, is value-added customer service?

Customer Service

Choking on a pen mid-phone call: NOT good customer service

Beyond the Online Form

Value-added customer service means shifting from “salesperson” to “consultant.” You’re not just providing information; customers can get that from your website or brochure.

Value-added customer service involves identifying and anticipating needs, responding to and correcting errors, and providing comprehensive solutions to problems.

See all those verbs? That means you need to do something.

So what has Kylee done to go from making homemade, geek-inspired soap on her kitchen table to expanding so rapidly that she had to move to (and could afford!) a giant mansion to keep up?

Social Media

Your Gravatar picture doesn‘t do you justice!

Keeping the “Social” in Social Media

Kylee frequently uses social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to stay in touch with her clients. Not a huge deal, right? Lots of companies are visible on both platforms and many others.

But as they say, it’s not the platform but how you USE it that counts.

Kylee’s active presence keeps users engaged by:

  • Providing followers with discount codes as a reward for following/liking her on social networks
  • Actively soliciting suggestions for new products, designs, and scents
  • Sharing her love for geeky things, which appeals to her customer base and elicits personal responses

Shiny CDs

Will our grandchildren even know what these are?

Keeping the “Media” in Social Media

Kylee’s products are all-natural homemade soaps, shampoos, shaving spirals, and other personal cleaning toiletries.

Customers interested in this very specific niche are certain to be skeptical of “all natural” claims (which are not regulated by any government organization).

Kylee’s solution?

Invite customers along for the ride!

She details her trials and errors in her blog and posts picture galleries so followers can view the homemade soap-making process. Adding a video or tutorial of the soap-making process could be the next step for Kylee’s ventures.

It’s great to watch Kylee work her community-building magic from afar, and this engaging online presence proves she can talk the talk, but…

Can She Walk the Walk?

Even the most charming salesperson won’t get return business if the products aren’t up to snuff.

As a self-identified flock of geeks, the QLP staffers got together and placed an order from Kylee to see if this too-good-to-be-true venture was really just that – way too good to be even a little true.

During this transaction, Kylee had many opportunities to royally screw up… but did she?

Han in Carbonite Soap

I know.

What happened? I screwed up. I totally forgot to add a second Han in Carbonite soap to my order. I emailed Kylee on the same day and asked if I could add it to the order without having to place a second order and lose out on shipping.

How did she respond? Immediately and perfectly. She not only responded within MINUTES, but she also threw the extra Solo in FOR FREE. She responded to my mistake by providing me with a free item.

What can you learn? Not every business is in a position to be giving away freebies like that (nor do they want to set the precedent that emailing right after an order will get you a freebie). However, I was a first time customer, and Kylee was given an opportunity to form a trusting relationship with me. Score! Forgiving others for their mistakes and using that customer-initiated interaction to reinforce your values makes for extraordinary opportunities.

Dinosaur Soap

Glow-in-the-dark cuteness

What happened next? My initial confirmation email stated that I would be emailed a tracking number within 5-7 business days. The order was placed on the 18th, and I was getting antsy on the 26th (Full business day 6), so I Tweeted her.

How did she deal with that? She Tweeted back right away to tell me that she had already emailed me the tracking number (oops) without making a single snide comment about how I should have checked my email before clogging her Twitter feed.

What can you take from this? Again, taking advantage of customer-initiated contact – even when the customer has not waited long enough to get the information automatically – enhances that same relationship.

Whipped Soap Frosting

Warning: Do Not Eat.

Okay, so what did you screw up next, Jana? This piece of the story was TOTALLY not my fault… but Kylee still ended up looking great. She apparently left out one product we had ordered. Oops!

How did she handle her mistake? To start, she alerted me of the error immediately, before I had even received the first package. Then, she sent the missed product the very next day without charging any additional shipping.

How does this apply to me? Everyone makes mistakes. The response to a mistake is far more indicative of a company’s quality than the presence of a simple error. Kylee not only acknowledged the mistake before she was caught but she also took steps toward CORRECTING it before I even found out. Acknowledging an error is only half the battle; taking care of it is where it really counts.

So how has Kylee made it big?

  • She engages her fans on social media.
  • She takes advantage of customer-initiated contact.
  • She keeps her customers informed of mistakes while taking care of them.
  • She shares personal information in a way that is relevant to her fans.
  • She makes super awesome all-natural soap that smells great and doesn’t make me itchy.

How will YOU make it big?

Which of these value-added customer services are you missing? What do you think of the shift from “middleman” to “consultant” for sales reps? Do you have any memorable customer service experiences – good or bad – you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them!

Add your feedback in the comments below!

Until next time, keep expanding your brand!

Ooh, and check out the pretties that we received!



Jana Quinn

An old ‘G’ that’s been working for QLP since it was in Bret’s basement – Jana has been writing since she made up a story about a Jana-Tiger that liked rocky road ice cream and got straight A’s. She enjoys writing about marketing and pop culture, posting a ‘Die Hard’ article as often as she’s allowed. She is inspired by the articles at Cracked and frequently wears a Snuggie in the office. You can also connect with Jana on Google+.

Comments

  1. cyberneticSAM

    I love her website, her collection of soaps is fantastic! It’s great she is so involved with her customers!

    • Jana Quinn

      Absolutely! It’ll be interesting to see how much she can stay involved as her company grows.

  2. Mandy Kilinskis

    Dang, now that is interactive customer service! It’s so great how she addresses mix ups from both ends! That kind of service is amazing, rare, and amazingly rare, but service like that is definitely a way to get my brand loyalty.

    • Jana Quinn

      I may find less expensive homemade soap elsewhere, but the personal touch, immediate fixes, and transparency of production all outweigh the “cost” of whatever the price difference is.

  3. ASneed

    I was super happy with the items we purchased from Luxury Lane soap (the NES Controller and the Organic Sampler Pack)! =)

    I found her on Facebook, and asked her a few questions, and she responded asap, how awesome! I also shared her website and product page links with some friends who were interested in the soap too.

    Great customer service pays you back so much! Well done Luxury Lane Soap! I will recommend you over and over again.

    • Jana Quinn

      That’s awesome that you followed up with her. I probably should have placed a few orders before declaring her the Queen of Customer Service, but it looks like EVERYONE who interacts with her has the same experience.

  4. JPorretto

    I can’t get enough of good customer service. I once was going to buy something on eBay, but the seller actually talked me out of it because it wouldn’t have worked for my situation. I tried to send him some money just for being helpful! But he refused….

    P.S. I love my weighted companion cube! Mmmm…. cake. (Fellow dorks will understand this)

    • Jana Quinn

      That reminds me of Miracle on 34th Street. Did you ever follow up with the seller for future auctions?

  5. LK

    I’m so excited for my soap and so happy we stumbled upon Luxury Lane Soaps!

    My fortune cookie soap not only looks real, it smells SO good and matches what a fortune cookie should smell like (if fortune cookies smelled amazingly delicious).

    Luxury Lane definitely has good customer service and will retain and gain customers because of it. Sometimes no matter how awesome a company’s products are, if you experience bad customer service you may never order again so getting it right is key!

    • Jana Quinn

      Great point, Lauren. Bad customer service trump great prices and awesome products virtually EVERY time.

  6. Joseph Giorgi

    One word: WOW!

    Kylee obviously knows a thing or two about running a successful small business. That kind of proactive customer service is exactly what people are looking for when it comes to their online purchases. And it’s pretty thoughtful of her to take suggestions on new items and scents from her customer base.

    I love the cool, custom soap that I got from Luxury Lane, and I’ll gladly recommend the site to anyone looking for gift ideas or soap in general.

    Excellent post, Jana! :)

    • Jana Quinn

      That recommendation component you mentioned is SO critical for small, niche businesses. Some people may search for handmade soap or even occasionally geeky soap, but I have a feeling her business has largely been built on word-of-mouth.

  7. Jenna Markowski

    Her customer service is really impressive! It sounds like she really goes out of her way to make sure that her customers are satisfied — something that you can’t get from a big corporation.

    Plus her soaps are so kewl! :) I have never ordered from her before, but I would love to in the future!

    P.S. The cake is a lie.

    • Jana Quinn

      I’m sure we’ll get everyone here at the office together again for another big order sometime soon!

      P.S. Smell Jeff’s Companion Cube.

  8. Jill Tooley

    There’s no doubt that Kylee mastered value-added customer service, among other things. Jana, I have you to thank for introducing her store to me! I absolutely adore my Tardis-shaped soap, the Han in Carbonite soap, and the Alliance soap bar I bought from Luxury Lane. I would have bought 10 more things that I loved, but unfortunately, the term “money is no object” has never been a part of my life. ;)

    These techniques are SO simple, but yet they’re frequently overlooked. I’m amazed that more companies haven’t figured this out by now! I don’t ask for much as a customer…I just want to be treated fairly and with a basic respect. Kylee did that, and she took it to a new level while she was at it. Kudos to her!

    You hit on a great point when you said: “See all those verbs? That means you need to DO something.”

    Amen!

    • Jana Quinn

      Kylee’s level of attentiveness to her customers is truly extraordinary. It will be interesting to see how she maintains that as her business continues to grow. I have a feeling, though, that she will make her interactions a top priority.

  9. Paul Castain

    Great post Jana!

    Sounds like Kylee really gets it and uses all the tools properly to make sure her customers are responded to with the utmost care.

    I particularly enjoyed all the specific examples you provided to help us own her best practices!

    Thanks again Jana!

    Respectfully,
    Paul Castain

    • Jana Quinn

      Thanks, Paul! I’ve always found that giving specific examples has been far more powerful to generate positive word-of-mouth than a generic “awesome service!” response.

      Kylee is in a unique position where she is the owner, manufacturer, and public relations manager of her own business; how do you think larger companies that may not have more “cooks in the kitchen” can handle these situations with the same personal attention?

      I appreciate you stopping by and hope to see you again around here soon! :)

  10. Catherine Lockey

    Nice post about value added customer service Jana. Kylee’s success story is such a perfect example. Inspiring.

    • Jana Quinn

      Thanks! I know not all of her customers have the chance to post much more than a quick Tweet thanking her for her service, but I wanted to really examine her customer service model and positively reinforce her time-consuming but very rewarding methods.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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