What’s the fastest way to grow your business? Keep the customers you already have. Whether you’re a Fortune 500 or a one-man startup, providing great customer service is the secret to a successful business.
According to the Harvard Business Review, the cost of acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than keeping a current client. Research by Bain and Company reveals that improving your customer retention rate by just 5% can increase profits as much as 95%.
Great customer service pays for itself, time and time again.
But this leaves us with a problem. How do you provide exceptional customer service? What does it take to set your company apart from the competition – particularly when you do most, if not all of your business online?
The following tales are of tech companies that rarely (if ever) see their customers in person. Nonetheless, they have learned how to master the art of customer service – leaving their clients satisfied, engaged, and sometimes even surprised. So, if you’re a digital nomad with a remote business, you may be able to learn a thing or two from these guys.
Rackspace charges a premium for cloud computing solutions – but customers are willing to pay for it. Why? Because they provide “fanatical support.”
What does fanatical support look like?
An employee had been troubleshooting with a client over the phone for hours. Approaching dinner time, the employee overheard the customer tell someone that they were starting to get hungry.
As the Rackspace employee says it, “So I put them on hold, and I ordered them a pizza. About 30 minutes later we were still on the phone, and there was a knock on their door. I told them to go answer it because it was pizza! They were so excited.”
Great customer service is about solving people’s problems. If you want to take your customer service to a whole new level, think about ways to make your customers’ lives easier – even when the issue doesn’t involve your company.
While there are many elements of Amazon’s customer service that keeps customers coming back, one of their newer features is the promotional credit for FREE no-rush shipping.
As an Amazon Prime member, you receive free two-day shipping on nearly every order. For large or heavy items, this can become costly for Amazon. So for certain items, Amazon will offer a $3-5 promotional credit if you decide to use standard shipping.
This results in a win for the customer, and a double win for Amazon. The customer receives a few dollars to spend towards a movie or Amazon pantry. Meanwhile, Amazon saves money on shipping AND makes the customer feel like they’ve gotten something for free.
When a customer has the ability to save you time or money (such as with Amazon’s shipping costs) find a way to pass on a portion of those savings. Give the customer a bonus for helping you out, and they will be more inclined to support you in the future.
As with Amazon, Apple could be used for many great illustrations of exceptional customer service – starting with their consistent delivery of high-quality products.
However, a particularly entertaining story about Apple has been floating around the web for several years now.
Shortly after releasing the iPad 2, Apple closely monitored reasons for returns. They wanted to catch any potentially serious issues before they got too big.
However, one iPad was returned with a sticky note stating “Wife said no.”
When this humorous quote was shared with two VPs, they sent the iPad back to the man with a note that read “Apple says yes.”
Although no one can afford to give away all of their products, providing an occasional giveaway can develop a tremendous amount of publicity, loyalty, and goodwill.
When a company invites strangers to stay in your home, they had better provide top-notch customer service. Airbnb certainly does.
In addition to having hundreds of agents available for phone, chat and email support, there are many steps Airbnb will take to add a little extra wow-factor.
For example, a bride once reserved a place on Airbnb for her bridesmaids to stay the night before her wedding. When the host backed out at the last minute, Airbnb provided a $1000 credit to help the bride find a new location. Disaster averted!
Most of Airbnb’s “acts of kindness” don’t cost the company more than a couple of bucks. However, many customers have photographed these gestures and shared them across the web – often going viral.
When you combine Airbnb’s referral program with their habit of kind gifts, it becomes evident that great customer experience and service can quickly become the best form of marketing.
WPCurve is a WordPress support service that allows business owners to receive 24/7 website support for a monthly fee. While their service is exceptional, what really sets WPCurve apart is the quality of their website content.
Focused on entrepreneurs and small business owners, WPCurve writes about everything related to running your own business, even when it doesn’t involve WordPress. Potential customers find and follow WPCurve’s content before even thinking about using their service.
Many of these newsletter subscribers never become customers. However, the quality of content provided by WPCurve’s blog has created a level of authority in entrepreneurial circles. This authority is just the beginning of an insanely profitable sales funnel.
Don’t make your blog posts a series of sales pitches and wonder why your email list consists of just you and grandma. By providing valuable, reliable content to people before they become your customers, they may come to trust you with their business.
The online food ordering service, Seamless, facilitates food delivery from all of your favorite restaurants right to your door. Although you can have pizza delivered, you can also order Olive Garden or PF Chang’s.
Because people order food at all hours of the day and night, Seamless has recognized the need to be constantly available. They do this via Twitter.
Very few organizations have learned how to engage with people on Twitter. If you want to learn how to do Twitter right, follow Seamless. They share humorous tweets, provide regular giveaways and discount codes, and respond quickly to customer issues.
Recognizing that the people using their app and website are the also frequently on Twitter, Seamless has integrated this platform into their marketing and customer service strategies.
There are two takeaways that the rest of us can learn from Seamless. First, learn how to use Twitter correctly. Second, discover the best platform for connecting with your customer base. While Twitter works great for Seamless’ young and hip audience, it may not be the best platform for connecting with retirees or executives.
StudioPress is one of many companies that provide exceptional customer service by letting customers solve their own problems.
They developed a huge collection of tutorials and manuals that allow customers to find solutions on their own schedules.
Not only do customers enjoy the freedom to resolve their own issues, but this well-developed wiki allows employees to spend time on more complex customer service needs. Ultimately, everybody wins.
Online chat systems are often beneficial for both customers and companies. The customer can quickly reach someone and the company representative is able to respond to multiple customers simultaneously.
But the challenge is to keep those chats interesting and useful to the customer.
Rather than scripting a boring chat conversation, Netflix encourages their customer service team to be creative and engaging during chat sessions.
During one conversation that went viral, a Netflix customer service representative pretended to be the captain of the USS Enterprise from Star Trek. The customer responded in kind, and the entire conversation is pretty entertaining.
It’s easy to be intimidated by allowing front-line representatives to go off-script. What if they say something that misrepresents the company? What if they are unprofessional? What if they reveal that you wear a hairpiece to cover your bald spot?
If you want to eliminate these worries, hire good people to start, and give them as much freedom and flexibility as you can. Set reasonable guidelines and allow your team to run with their creativity.
Who knows, one of your representatives could provide you with more publicity than your entire marketing team.
Tableau is a complex data visualization software. Because of the steep learning curve, and the constantly-changing nature of analytical work, it would be next to impossible for Tableau to train and educate each user one-on-one.
Therefore, they developed the Tableau Community, a message board where customers can get project assistance from other users.
When a customer comes across a challenging issue, she can share their project online. Other users then help resolve the issue in exchange for points. What do those points get you? Nothing more than a spot on the leaderboard.
Having a place where customers can answer each other’s questions is a great way to save your team time, develop community among users, and grow customer engagement.
As these examples illustrate, it doesn’t take much to go from ok customer service to great customer service. Whether it’s adding an interactive community to your website, ordering someone a pizza, or encouraging your employees to have fun with customers, small acts make a big impact.
With this in mind, what’s something you could do to wow one of your customers today? Give it a try and let us know what happens. Maybe I’ll be telling your story next.