In today’s post you are going to learn how most internet marketers are failing to service customers and how you can ensure that you don’t make the same mistake. You will see from a real example how you can look after the most important thing to your business.
Today’s post is inspired by one of the worst demonstrations of customer service I have ever seen (and I’ve seen some really bad ones in the past).
Let me explain…
I recently purchased a WordPress theme off a very popular internet marketing forum called the Warrior Forum; just bear in mind that not everyone that sells products their does what I’m about to describe, I have had some great service and bought some great products as WSO’s (warrior special offers) in the past.
It was only after I had parted with my hard earned cash and I had continued to subscribe to the sales thread and witnessed the theme developer’s responses to not only customers but also potential customers that the penny dropped for me.
Some months before this I purchased a plugin, the idea was brilliant until the plugin broke my theme and every other theme I tried it on. The marketer selling the plugin wasn’t a developer so his idea of support was to refer me to a WordPress developer that charges out his time at $70 an hour. This was for a plugin that cost $7. Superficial to say, I will NEVER be buying anything from that guy again.
Before I go any further I want to mention the thing I love most about the internet; is that the average Joe public can take an idea and turn it into a business right from his bedroom with no previous experience and in a lot of cases very low costs.
The downside is that people who do this don’t all come from a business background and then look towards info products to learn what they need to know to market their product and/or service.
It’s also true that there is a lot of garbage on the internet, but once you get through it you can find some very up to date and powerful information to launch your project.
So, then you’ve got a product and/or service that you can market and you have an idea how to go about it and then you can take action – but there is a crucial part missing; how to treat customers.
The problem – a wake up call for some
You can buy all of the marketing related products you like, but generally speaking your customer service and even people skills will get left behind.
This isn’t to say this will happen with all people, but I have witnessed as a growing problem especially over the last few years.
I have known product owners and companies to do some of the following –
- Refuse outright to provide support when free support has been advertised.
- Telling customers to fix a problem they will have to pay a freelancer when support was advertised.
- Expecting a customer to understand the most complicated and technical issues.
- Ignoring pre-sales questions.
- Just being rude.
- Insulting customers/potential customers. (Shocking, but it happens).
… And more!
From a customer’s perspective, this sort of thing is horrible to put up with, but it’s only going to result in tarnishing the reputation of the business and possibly the business owner.
If you’re doing any of the above then you need to take a step back and seriously evaluate how you’re dealing with customers.
This is something that the largest businesses are guilty of, although in these situations it is the support staff who you might say is the problem and I wouldn’t disagree in a lot of cases.
However I am a big believer in practicing what you preach and not only treating customers with respect but employee’s too.
I’ve seen a good many large companies being run by people who treat their staff like garbage and generally instil a very bad type of culture into their business which rubs their staff up the wrong way – the worst part of this is customers can get it in the neck for what is just an issue between support staff and their employer.
So it’s important that whoever is at the help of the business understands how to treat people not only support staff.
Moving forward – lets get it right
People may have a number of reasons for treating people the way they do but these need to be left at the door for the sake of the businesses reputation and future.
First impressions count – An obvious one but easily forgotten first impressions count so the glimpse that a potential customer gets of your or your brand has to be a good impression. Whether it’s through a Google search, on a forum or even a review site – make sure you do what you can to make it a good and long lasting impression.
Take time to read your customers query – All too many people rush through customer’s queries. I can’t express how many times I’ve submitted a support ticket and I’ve received a cut and paste response or a response that doesn’t answer all of my questions. Take the time and give a tailored response.
Take pre-sales questions seriously - I find that you can tell a lot about a company by the way they handle pre-sales questions so I make a point of staying away from companies that either ignore or don’t take my pre-sales questions seriously – I’m sure that I’m not the only one that does this so if you don’t deal with pre-sales questions in the right way you are losing your company money.
Concerns about competing products – If you’re not aware of the differences between your product and competing products within the industry then you’re missing a trick. I’ve seen some great examples of companies that openly display comparison charts about their competitors highlighting why you should buy from them – that’s the way forward.
I’ve also seem some bad examples more recently on a forum where a business owner was asked “how does your product compare to product X” – The response was “if you want a comparison I can’t help you” and to a similar question responded “well my product is the best”.
Leave your problems at the door – Running a business is stressful and sometimes personal or family issues can get affect the way you deal with people, I can understand that, I’ve had those moments before – but if you open up dialogue with a customer and direct your anger at them then they most likely won’t understand.
You’re only human (like the rest of us) – Mistakes happen and personally I sometimes expect them to, because it’s true; we are only human and we all make mistakes, whether we’re a political figure, the CEO of a fortune 500 company or a retail assistant. The breakdown happens when you start to make up excuses for why things haven’t happened.
I worked with a web designer once who was converting HTML sites into WordPress, there were some delays in getting a client’s site ready, soon a week turned into a month and mountain of excuses including:
- I was in a car crash
- I was in a motor cycle crash
- My house was broken into
- I got divorced
- I am short staffed
- My hard drive broke
- I’ve got man flu
I’m not actually exaggerating here; I was given all of the above excuses for why the work wasn’t delivered within 1 month.
People don’t like to be lied to but when the excuses are so out of this world that they can’t possibly be real then it just comes across as more of an insult than anything.
Go beyond expectations where possible –This is a tricky one, because it’s easy to go from going beyond a customer’s expectations to allowing them to take advantage of you entirely so you will need to find the common ground. Sure some people will not always recognise how you have gone out of your way, but sometimes people will and on the occasions that people do great things can happen.
Here’s a great example of this –
Last year I switched over to a new web host (Site 5; read the review here) and I had some issues with WordPress, actually involving a plugin that was playing havoc with the rest of my site. I didn’t expect my host to sort it out because it wasn’t their fault but I asked and they went in and fixed it anyway.
This maybe took about 30 minutes of time to sort out, but because of how they went out of their way – I returned the favour by going out of my way for them by talking a few friends into purchasing hosting from them, this started off as a few shared hosting accounts which probably worked out maybe $200 over time.
I later talked those friends of mine into going for a VPS with that particular hosting company and now because of the hosting company’s good will they are getting $150 of business per month which is most likely going to increase – just for 30 minutes of their time which looks like quite a nice ROI to me.
I’ll be the first one to admit that running a business is difficult, even if you have your own team of staff.
Some people find themselves starting up a business and trying to learn all the ins and outs of the financial and operations side of things that they don’t have much time to actually run the business itself.
If you can afford it, take on an intern or another member of staff to share the load – maybe get family members to help you if need be.
The important thing is that you don’t stretch yourself so thin that you start treating your customers in the wrong way.
Remember to be courteous, treat people with respect and do what you can to help (within reason) and go beyond expectations where possible and it WILL benefit your business, maybe not right away but it’s an affect that will snow ball.