How do you treat the people with whom you do
business? Many times what we forget in this online world where so much of our
customer service is automated is that, in the end, we’re still doing business
with other people. Do your customer service procedures create raving fans or
send people away into the Internet black hole, never to be heard from again,
except when you’re bashed on some blog or disparaged in a discussion forum post?
What’s the real price you pay as an online business owner for your
customer service? Usually, the "real price" boils down to one thing –
word-of-mouth-marketing. If your customer likes the way you handle a situation,
he will probably tell tell 3-5 others. However, if he feels he was treated
poorly or unfairly, he’ll tell 50 of his closest friends about the bad
experience. Sad to say, we human beings love to complain much more than to
praise. Why burn bridges with your customer when you don’t have to?
Online business owners often create customer service rules that are based
on fear — fear of being taken advantage of, fear of someone getting the best of
you, fear of someone not paying you for your time What happens if the entire
basis of your customer service standards is fear? Well, then fear-based
outcomes is what you’ll get, because you tend to get what you choose to focus
on. So, if you perceive that everyone in the world is out to get you and take
advantage of you, then you’re right..:)
Is there a good middle ground to choose that protects both your interests
and gives your customer a great experience? There is, and you’ll find it in my
simple, 10-second philosophy of customer service. Ready? Here it
goes…..treat your customer how you want to be treated. That’s it — nothing
high tech here.
To help you evaluate your online customer service for my Golden Rule
philosophy, here are 7 standards you should consider:
1. Don’t hide behind the legalese. Don’t expect your customer to
page through a multi-page, small print document and read and understand all of
your stipulations, especially if they’re written in legalese rather than simpler
English. If you put unfavorable or difficult terms in your Terms of Service
agreement and your customer signs it, sure, you have legal protection to back up
whatever terms they stipulated to with their signature. But, will the wrangling
over those terms be worth it in the end? If you have terms that your customer
might not find favorable at a later date, be sure and point those out to him in
the beginning. Don’t expect him to figure it out on his own, and don’t hide
behind the cowardly excuse, "Well, you should have read the Terms of Service
thoroughly There’s nothing I can do."
2. Walk a mile in your customer’s shoes. Would you want to be
treated the way you’re treating them? If what you’re doing to your customers
makes you queasy and uneasy, that’s your instinct telling you that what you’re
doing isn’t just and proper. Moreover, how would you feel if you were treated
in this fashion?
3. Make it simple to do business with you. Don’t make your
customer have to hire an attorney to understand your contract or to do business
with you. I’m not advocating that you completely ignore legal help and advice.
However, an attorney’s job is to protect you from ALL liability, even those
things that have a very small likelihood of actually occurring. Consequently,
this usually translates into a very long document that’s very difficult to read
and comprehend. Work with your attorney to transform any contracts or Terms of
Service agreements that you have into ones that are easily read and understood
by the average person.
4. Don’t do customer support via email. When you’re first
starting out, using email to answer service problems is ok, but as it becomes
more and more difficult to send and receive legitimate business email, you’ll
find that you start to lose inquiries as your business grows larger and as your
number of inquiries increase. At that point, think about installing a virtual
support desk. This is a website that contains common FAQs and answers, as well
as offers your customers the ability to open a ticket to report a problem. All
correspondence occurs within the site, so you lessen the possibility of lost
email. One of the more popular programs is Kayako,
5. Make it easy to contact you. Nothing is more irritating than
wanting to speak to a real, live person for help and all you find is a contact
form or an email address. Don’t leave your customers out in the cold. Offer
several options for contacting you, whether that’s by email, phone, instant
messaging system, live chat on your website, or a help desk/trouble ticket
6. Make it easy to stop doing business with you. I learned a
valuable lesson from the Director of Admissions when I worked as a student
affairs administrator at a small college and was trying to change a student’s
mind about dropping out of school. He told me, "Once they’re already decided to
leave, their minds are made up and there’s no turning back. Just let them go."
This applies to your customers as well. There may be a small percentage that
you can salvage as a customer in this process, but the overwhelming majority
have already made their final decision. Don’t make them jump through hoops to
cancel their business with you — make it as easy and painless as possible.
However, do follow up with a phone call or email or survey to determine the
reason for their departure, but don’t force them to go through this process to
exit. Remember the AOL service cancellation call that was recorded and posted
online that became a huge embarrassment for AOL? Don’t let your cancellation
policy become the next big Internet joke.
7. If in doubt, ask your customer what to do. If you and your
customer can’t come to a resolution that feels equitable to both parties, ask
your customer what he believes is the fair thing to do. I believe that generally
people are good and fair and that most will treat you humanely if they’ve been
humanely treated by you. The final decision may not be everything that you
want, but it’s probably not everything that your customer wants, either. You
can use this strategy to end on a positive note, and while the customer may not
return to you, he probably also won’t tell everyone he meets that you’re an
Figure out how you can implement this Golden Rule philosophy in your
online business. You’ll find it to be a business asset that’s priceless.
Best-selling author Donna Gunter works with successful business owners who are experts in their fields and established in their industry and are seeking a way to stand out from their competitors. Using her Ideal Clients on Autopilot System©, she helps them determine the exact strategies to generate more qualified leads and better-paying clients with automated systems. This proven system makes all their marketing easier and more effective and they find themselves positioned as the only choice for their clients.