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).
What, pray tell, is value-added 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.
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
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).
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?
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.
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.
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!