Surviving Technology - 5 Tips to Keep Your Customers from Firing You...
by Sandy Reed
As a business owner, how you perceive your customers trickles down into all aspects of your business. How you feel about them, talk about them, and serve them provides a filter that your employees and service providers see through, and that your customers can perceive right away. This is a filter that your customers are intuitively aware of in their interactions with you. They will be attracted to you, or not, based on how you feel about serving them.
When you're starting out in a new business, you may be looking for ways to best utilize your time, since it may be just you juggling all aspects of the business. Utilizing the latest technology is one way you can potentially alleviate some of the stress of being the only person answering the phone. As a small business, you may be competing with many larger companies, so customer service is especially critical. One major advantage of being small is that you get to interact with your customers on a more personal level, and this is where you can shine.
If you decide to use technology in your business it may be one of the first interactions your customers have with you as a service provider. Their first impression of your business through this technology can start you off with a warm, friendly relationship or an adversarial one. Once a relationship starts off on the wrong foot, it's always harder to change its direction . . .
A common example, I encounter on a daily basis, is the use of directive recordings for the first contact with customers. As a continuous user of technology, I want it to provide me with a reliable way to access information, so I can connect to the people and resources I need to build a financially viable business. When I call for support and receive recording after recording, with no option for talking to a live body quickly, it's wasting my time and causing me stress and frustration. In this way, technology is keeping me from experiencing the very ease of communicating and accessing information it was supposed to provide!
The maze of companies that have gone to this method of providing customer service is astounding. In many cases, by the time a person reaches a live body they are so frustrated that the service rep has to first overcome their irritation before the problem can be addressed. In addition, you need to take great care in choosing the tone of the recording, since reaching a recording, as the first point of contact with a company, can make customers feel like you don't want to be bothered with their requests for service.
My mission, as the Soulpreneur's Coach, is to provide my clients with alternatives for serving their customers from a soul-inspired perspective. How would a Soulpreneur create a better customer experience, and serve the company's best interests at the same time? Here are some possible answers to this dilemma.
1. Give the customer no more than 3 or 4 recorded options when calling in for customer service. One of the options should always be allowing the customer to dial zero to reach a person, who can immediately direct the customer to the department that can best help them. I suggest using zero since it's the most universally recognized number for operator assistance.
2. If you require that the customer input their account number, don't ask them for it again when they reach a service provider. If your technology doesn't allow you to transfer the account number to a representative, don't require that the customer provide it up front. If the account rep needs to verify the account number, tell the customer they are asking again for verification purposes, or verify other personal information instead. Repetition is a small, but irritating, inconvenience.
3. Always provide a call back option if customers have to wait more than five minutes to speak to a representative. Show your customers you respect their time and you will find the respect is returned.
4. Always call back the same day, if possible, but no later than 24 hours after the initial contact. Unresolved issues that go on for an extended period of time cause customers to be even more irritated when they finally speak to someone who can help them.
5. When talking to customers, always listen to all the issues before responding. I have had more than one customer service representative interrupt me before they heard all my issues. This led to me repeating the problem several times, and more frustration, because I was not being heard.
When you look at your customers from a Soulpreneur's perspective, you see them first as normal people with fears, insecurities, and obligations just like you. These are people who are looking for your business to help them:
* Solve a problem.
* Enjoy life more.
* Feel better about themselves.
* Provide something they need.
* Feel more secure.
The bottom line is, they are coming to your business because they want help.
In the technology arena it's easy to get side-tracked by the latest and greatest thing to make your life and business "easier". But technology alone won't pay the bills. Always come back to the basics of great customer care strategies.
Sandy Reed may be contacted at http://www.iawife.com firstname.lastname@example.org
“Sandy Reed is the President and Founder of the International Association of Women in Family Enterprises (IAWIFE). She is a professional business coach, writer, and co-owns her own successful family business. If you’re ready to take your family business to the next level of success; receive support, education, and connect with like-minded women, join her members at www.iawife.com. Sandy’s business building articles have been published in True Wealth and Simply Home magazines.” Take the IAWIFE Member Survey and save $20 on your annual membership! Visit www.iawife.com and click on the red survey link on the right sidebar. Get 12 months of IAWIFE benefits at a substantial savings through the end of 2008!