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There may be something worse than poor customer service from a mega-company but, if there is, it hasn’t been discovered. You wait on hold listening to the elevator loop of “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” in hopes of telling your story from the beginning for the third time.
Too bad you were cut off. You can try again when the self-inflicted bald spots on the side of your head grow back.
In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Anthony Dukes and Yi Zhu shed light on hard evidence that, for some conglomerates, poor service is actually profitable. When the hassle and amount of time it takes to resolve issues outweigh the benefit, a percentage of customers give up, leaving the business to keep the difference.
In contrast, small businesses are not afforded this luxury. As learned entrepreneurs will attest, it pays great dividends to view every customer connection as a precious opportunity to build a lasting relationship.
Related: 3 Strategies to Improve Your Customer Service Experience
The approach of many entrepreneurs, however, is not unlike that of many mega-corporations. Roadblocks are laid at every crossing, preventing the advance of the potential customer time and again. Here are but a few of the most common examples.
Poor contact access
Most glaring is the inability of the inquirer to contact a real person. The phone number resides in .05 font size at the bottom of the website which, if called, will first offer the elevator version of “We’ve Only Just Begun” followed by a free choice of voicemail mazes.
Nearby is the infamous “info@ box” which directs the message to an unknown person in an unknown amount of time.
While personal contact is nearly absent, there remain plenty of opportunities to engage the buy box. Repeat customers could find that convenient but others may get the impression the business just wants their money and doesn’t really care about the problem they promise to solve.
A seasoned salesman will tell you part of a winning presentation is overcoming objections. The client is certain he can’t afford the item until he is enlightened as to how it actually saves more in time and hassle than it costs — a conclusion he would never have come to on his own.
These conversations tend to lead to the most important question — “Is there any reason you shouldn’t go home with this shiny gizmo today?” And, of course, there isn’t. The reasons have all been resolved.
In place of this human touch, technology has given us the FAQ section. “Out of the thousands of questions you might have asked, we hope yours are in the top 10.”
What if your potential buyer wonders if your quality matches that of a specific competitor? He may want to know if your app can recalculate an order in Turkish Lira? What if she wonders if you can cause her new item to appear in Jamaica while on vacation next week?
Some questions just need that personal touch.
When communication is left to technology alone, it shifts the burden of overcoming objections to the customer and, let’s face it, they’re not very good at it.
Related: How to Use Tech to Revamp the Customer Service Experience
The confusion factor
It’s no fun to stop by the store on the way home from work but at least there’s no confusion as to the process. Grab the milk, set it on the counter, pay and go.
The online process, however, can leave many online customers frustrated. They can’t remember if they are a member or why they must be a member in order to purchase. Their password does not 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 to do. All, of course, “for their convenience.”
When a familiar process is updated and not clearly explained, what is a buyer to do but share their emotional experience with their only ally; info@.
Be personable and clear
Two main reasons customers cease to do business with a company are not feeling appreciated and not being able to speak to a live person.
Mega-businesses can deal those frustrations out in mega doses. Companies with less than 100 employees, which account for more than 90 percent of all small businesses in the U.S., can give the buyers what they really want — a person who cares.
When someone reaches out to you in any form, offer them the technology for their convenience but also an alternative. Give them a face, a voice and a heart. Let them know you are as concerned about their problem as they are. That’s why you made your passion your business to begin with. It will be music to their ears and this time, it won’t come from the elevator.