I recently ordered some materials for some cakes we have coming up, but the order never arrived. No big deal really, these things happen. But almost three weeks on I emailed the company to ask where it was. And that’s where it all went downhill.
Apart from taking four days to actually get back to me, the reply they sent was longwinded, complex and particularly condescending with not a hint of an apology in sight. In fact, far from being sorry they seemed to be suggesting that somehow, I might have missed a delivery card through my own ineptitude and inability to sort through my junk mail properly, and perhaps I should go and check with my fellow business neighbours or local sorting office instead.
A couple of days later the delivery did turn up so I emailed back pointing out it had finally arrived, and it was a good job I didn’t need it urgently. They emailed back directing me towards their terms and conditions saying it was sent Royal Mail second class. By now with the bit between my teeth I replied, saying second class generally meant two to three days not three weeks. Unsurprisingly I didn’t get a reply.
Things go wrong, it’s how you deal with them that counts
Everyone knows that sometimes things go astray, accidents happen, the best laid plans go wrong but treating your customer like they’re an inconvenience is a sure-fire way to get a bad review and ensure they never want to shop with you ever again.
In my example, a simple apology and offer to help would have sufficed instead of their, ‘stuff you it’s not our problem attitude’. I’m not in the habit of naming and shaming but suffice to say I won’t be buying from them again.
It got me thinking about customer service in general though and how a good or bad experience can have such an impact on your business. In my business, Brighton Cakes, we work closely with people many of whom are celebrating a big event like a wedding or anniversary and want to know that not only will they get a great cake they’ll get a good, personalised service as well. The last thing I want is people going away and feeling let down but beyond that there are sound business reasons why making sure people are happy is paramount.
- The customer has more power than ever before
Social media, Google reviews and sites such as Trip Advisor and Check-a-Trade have given unprecedented power to the consumer. Now, if someone feels aggrieved, all they have to do is hop online and leave you a bad review and it’s there for everyone else to see. Get a few of those and before you know it the effect snowballs, customers start shopping elsewhere and your bottom line takes a hit.
Loyal customers will provide great online endorsements which will in turn help you to attract new customers and research shows you have a 60% to 70% chance of selling to your existing customers compared to just 5% to 20% of new customers.
The answer then is clearly not to piss them off. Inevitably we’re not infallible and mistakes happen but dealing with them head on, apologising and rectifying can go a long way to undoing the damage a negative review can bring and making sure your customers remain loyal.
- It’s not just about the product or service it’s about the experience
People will buy from you because you are meeting a need or solving a problem, they have which in our case could be because they want a spectacular sculpted cake to stand out a corporate event or some cupcake gifts to thank their own clients. Not only do they want you to solve their problem for you, they want you to do it in a way which is seamless, easy to organise and doesn’t interfere to much with the other things they’ve got going on in life.
What they don’t want is to have to constantly chase and badger for a result or worse still, feel like they are being ignored, marginalised and generally not cared about. Creating a positive experience is vital to ensure longer term loyalty and repeat business.
- Helps with staff retention
Employees want to work for companies that value their contribution, ideas and service. If they face a constant barrage of criticism not just from management, but from the customers well, it doesn’t do much to foster a nurturing environment. In fact, such an atmosphere can quickly turn your company culture toxic, your staff will walk out the door and your customers won’t come back.
When staff work for someone who provides excellent customer service, they become more inspired by that and essentially become advocates for your business. And from a customer perspective, if your staff are happy and helpful, then it’s likely to encourage people to buy from you again and again. After all, who would you rather shop with – the store where the staff are surly and don’t give a toss or the ones with a bright smile, friendly demeanour, who are happy to help you with what you want?
- Good customer service reduces your customer retention costs
Did you know you can increase your profits by as much as 25% with just a 5% increase in customer retention? It basically means if you don’t invest in your customer service you could be missing out and your churn rate will be much higher. And as I’ve said above, it’s much much harder selling to new clients than it is to existing ones.
A small budgetary investment in customer service can create a much bigger impact on your bottom line and ultimately reduce your customer acquisition cost.
- Loyal customers will pay more for your products or services
Research has shown that customers will pay more for a better customer experience. In fact, up to 86% of consumers will pay 25% more to make sure they get a better experience so if you’re not on the ball with customer service you’re going to miss out.
Businesses need to be more customer-centric than ever before if they want to survive. Customers are heavily influenced by their experience, so much so they’re prepared to spend extra cash if it’s good. A negative one however, can see them running straight into the arms of your competitor the next time they want to buy.