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There may be something worse than poor customer service from a mega-corporation, but if so, it hasn't been spotted. You wait on hold and listen to the elevator loop on Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, hoping to tell your story for the third time from the start.
It's a shame you got cut off. You can try again if the self-inflicted bald spots grow back on the side of your head.
In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Anthony Dukes and Yi Zhu shed light on hard evidence that poor service is indeed profitable for some conglomerates. When the effort and time it takes to resolve problems outweigh the benefits, a percentage of customers give up and let the company make the difference.
In contrast, small businesses don't get this luxury. As learned business owners will attest, viewing each customer relationship as a valuable opportunity to build lasting relationships pays off.
Related: 3 Strategies for Improving Your Customer Service
However, the approach of many entrepreneurs is not dissimilar to that of many megacorporations. Roadblocks are placed at every intersection in order to keep the potential customer from advancing. Here are just a few of the most common examples.
Bad contact access
Most noticeable is the inability of the questioner to contact a real person. The phone number is in 0.05 font size at the bottom of the website. When this is called up, the elevator version of "We're just getting started" is offered first, followed by a free selection of Voicemail mazes.
Nearby is the infamous “info @ box” that forwards the message to an unknown person at an unknown time.
While there is almost no personal contact, there are still many ways to use the purchase box. Repeat customers may find this convenient, but others may feel that the company just wants their money and doesn't really care about the problem they promise to solve.
An experienced salesperson will tell you that part of a successful presentation is overcoming objections. The customer is certain that he cannot afford the item until he knows how he can actually save more time and trouble than it costs – a conclusion he would never have come to on his own.
These conversations usually lead to the most important question, "Is there a reason you shouldn't go home with that shiny gizmo today?" And of course there is no such thing. The reasons are all clear.
Instead of that human touch, technology has given us the FAQ section. "Of the thousands of questions you may have asked, we hope yours are in the top 10."
What if your prospect wonders if your quality is up to a certain competitor? He might want to know if your app can recalculate an order in Turkish Lira? What if she wonders if you can get her new item out next week while on vacation in Jamaica?
Some questions just need that personal touch.
When communication is left to technology alone, the burden of overcoming objections shifts to the customer, and frankly, they're not very good at it.
Related Topics: Using Tech To Overhaul Customer Service
The confusing factor
Stopping by the store on the way home from work isn't fun, but at least there's no confusion about the process. Take the milk, put it on the counter, pay and leave.
However, the online process can frustrate many online customers. They can't remember if they are a member or why they have to be a member to buy. Your password won't work, even though it's the only one they have. The process has changed and a new learning curve has been added to their list of things they already don't have time for. All of course "for your convenience".
When a familiar process is updated and not clearly explained, what can a buyer do other than share their emotional experience with their only ally? the information@.
Be personable and clear
Two main reasons customers stop doing business with a company are because they feel unappreciated and are unable to speak to a living person.
Mega companies can make up for these frustrations in mega doses. Companies with fewer than 100 employees, which make up more than 90 percent of all small businesses in the United States, can give buyers what they really want – someone who cares.
When someone contacts you in any way, offer them the technology for their convenience, but also as an alternative. Give them a face, a voice and a heart. Let them know that you are just as concerned about their problem as they are. That is why you have made your passion your business. There will be music to their ears and this time it won't come off the elevator.