Recently it seems like customer service at big tech companies have gotten out of control. Automated systems remind us that robots have very little idea of what we want or need. I have never met a person who says that they love speaking with a robot or automated phone system. Every one of us has a problem that somehow just doesn’t fit inside the lines or numbers 1, 2 or 3. Companies need to enable better communication in this era of enhanced information. But how can they truly get to know their customers?
I trace most of the problems to automated call centers back to “smart” CEOs that had tricks for shaving costs of human resources off the bottom line. People are expensive, they are messy and they don’t always make sense in the world of business and the industrial mindset. But working with more people in your business rather than less can help you learn a lot more about your customers. If love and loyalty is what you are after, offer personal service. Today things like a hand-signed postcard and a person who answers the phone before a robot will set you far above the competition.
Most companies today cling on to outdated processes and fail to get to know their customer needs. Customers are your biggest friends in today’s social media world where advertisements are shut off thanks to streaming TV and downloads. A picture on Instagram is worth a million words of praise as well as a happy customer on Facebook.
When I first bought a computer back in the days I was then even struck by a hand-signed letter from Steve Jobs. Who did that sort of thing back then? About every few months I would get a letter from Apple as though I was part of the family, or an elite club and over the years I still clung to that feeling even as the company became one of the most powerful tech companies. Mac advocates one by one made Apple a success. We liked that they were “alternative” and different, even diffident in a way by not playing mainstream with other tech companies.
So let’s say you have a company that’s social impact or environmental or plain old, just wanting to do better. What are some tips that could make them happy?
Phone center. If you can’t find the resources to man your call center 24 hours (and do provide a phone number and easy to reach email address) try working with an outsourcing company that gets customer service. Zendesk is a great low-cost alternative and they usually offer a personal touch. They have managed to solve most of my customer service related problems over the last few years.
Do something old fashioned. When you go out of your way to give something, even something small to a customer, they might remember you forever. How about a handwritten postcard? The ability for your customers to meet you in a live Q&A? A birthday gift on their birthday or a special thanks in a newsletter or Facebook post? Plant a tree in each of your customers names. This is great for carbon offsetting too! Small tokens go a long way.
Always listen to the complainers. What I have learned in my life is that the complainers will always outweigh the satisfied customers. But for every complainer who bothers to reach out, chances are that another 100 people or more have the same problem. Listen to their complaints because they often offer solvable solutions as to why the email form is not working on Chrome browsers, or why their product was not shipped enough.
Look up to the creative customers. Companies like Reformation have amazing marketing and public relations for their clothes that are sourced from recycled materials or dead stock. They make “saving the environment” sexy and fun, with a slogan: Being naked is the most sustainable option, we are #2. Their products are sent in biodegradable packaging, and being a customer there makes you feel like you are part of a group of people that are making a difference in the polluting clothing industry.
Choosing companies and products that match your values and customer service needs. Buy less, buy better quality products and clothes, share and swap more. Keep travel simple, your food organic and healthy and all will be well with the world.