Struggles With Handling Customer Service

Have you bought something and had any kind of issue?  Maybe it just didn’t work.  Maybe it doesn’t look like the picture on the website, or it doesn’t fit, or you can’t figure out how to use it.  Everyone of us at one time or another in our life, has had some sort of issue with something we’ve purchased.  

And I would venture to say, that we have all also had a negative experience with the customer service we received.  Wether it was in person, over the phone or via email…we have all had a negative experience with somebody who was supposed to be helping us.  

So now you are starting your own business.  How in the world do you even know where to begin?  That is definitely a struggle.  Particularly for Ecommerce stores.  You may elect to have a phone number to call for support, email contact forms or even chat sessions.  There is really no “wrong” way unless you are doing nothing at all, or not responding to your customers in a timely manner.

If you decide to take calls, make sure you always have someone available to answer (or specific hours posted), and a plan in place for what to do if you get bombarded.  

When I reach out via email to a company, I generally expect a response within 24 hours, unless the contact form states otherwise.  I personally believe that small businesses should answer their customers within 12 hours, and sooner if possible.  That quick response time, in part, is what helps build your reputation with your customers.  If you can quickly respond to your customers and they feel like you care about them, they are far more likely to buy from you in the future.  

Here a a few examples of some of the issues we struggled with starting out:

1. There’s was no method for escalation – example: “What do I do when a customer asks us to honor a sale price on a sale that ended 2 hours ago?”

2. There was no forum for the team to discuss policy changes for new questions we’d never heard before – “just got a question about wholesale pricing and we haven’t defined that yet, what should I tell them?

3. There was no mechanism for giving on the spot authority to team members – “why can’t I just issue a free one, then will this all be over?

4. There was no streamlined way to find customer complaints – “what was the login for etsy again?”

5. There wasn’t any processes written down, so all the knowledge of how to respond to repetitive issues was in that team member’s brain only. -“what do you mean I can’t take a few days off because there’s no one else who can do this?

6. There were customers always asking the same types of questions, but our response was different every time and required as much mental energy to solve as a new problem did. – “another customer saying their package was lost, but USPS says it was delivered, what should I say?”

7. Accountability was impossible when we were all responding at different points in a conversation. – “Did you respond to that one about the return, I don’t see it anymore? Actually, just found it, why did you tell her that she can’t return it?”

8. There was absolutely no way to know how we were performing – ahhh!

So what do you say?  How do you answer their questions?  I recommend that you limit who on your team in answering the emails, and make sure it is a trustworthy person who is polite, has excellent written communication skills, an eye for detail and who knows your product inside and out.  The only person that fits that description may be you…and if your business is small enough and you can handle it—do it!  But you should have another person (or two) that can assist when you get behind or aren’t able to do it.  

The real key is making sure the person responding to your customers is a subject matter expert on the products you are selling, and has a vested interest in the success of your business.  If you are employing folks to handle your customer service, it would be in your best interest to have a training manual, and a list of frequently asked questions, with answers.  

If you have people doing this for you, make sure you check their work.  Don’t feel like it would be in bad form to go back and see how they are responding.  These are your customers, and your business!  You need to see how your customers are being treated.   No matter the size of your business, you can’t afford to have one of your customers have a bad experience.

If you have multiple team members, this should be a metric you discuss in your daily and weekly meetings.  You can break down your metrics by categories and by how many questions, complaints or positive feedback you get.  It will help give your entire team a good idea of the issues your customers are having, what they like and how you can make improvements.