The Lost Art Of Customer Service

Who Cares?

You will...when customers cancel!
Although customer service may not be the first thing one thinks of when they think of online marketing or search engine optimization, it's one of the most overlooked aspects of the industry by both it's customers and by those whom own and/or run marketing firms. Having worked years in the customer service industry prior to entering the world of inbound marketing, I can personally attest to the lack of satisfying customer service within the online marketing industry and everywhere else for that matter. Not only have people been keen to sign on on with us because they're treated poorly somewhere else but it's not uncommon for business persons to cancel their marketing plan simply because they received poor care from another firm. This is true even when their online marketing plan is doing amazing things for their business. At some point in the past those responsible for marketing firms forgot that great services/products are nothing if they're not supported by outstanding customer service.

Trading Service For Sales?

As a neophyte in the customer service industry I was taught that treating customers/clients with respect and dignity goes a long way in building and maintaining strong professional relationships; just as it does in our personal lives. As time went on I also learned that it fosters respect between all parties. By the time I left the customer service industry in order to return to school (circa 1999), providing quality customer service was, for the most part, no longer a top priority at most companies. In some cases it wasn't a priority at any level of business.What I discovered by staying in touch with co-workers and friends whom remained in the industry was that the majority of companies began viewing customer their service departments and centers as non essential, a waste of money, and had begun using their sales representatives as customer service representatives. This is a despicable practice that's got trouble and cheap written all over it, even when sales people possess strong customer service skills. When customer service primarily becomes a thinly veiled sales tool or tactic...I say shame on you. It's even more egregious when "customer service" reps are given mandatory sales quotas to meet each day. Employees with mandatory numbers are always going to be more interested in fulfilling their quotas and protecting their jobs than they are in helping someone in need. In such instances what type of customer service can anyone realistically expect?

Preventative Maintenance

Just as a smart person does with their car, so too do smart business owners use preventative maintenance to ensure that small problems don't develop or evolve into large and expensive problems. By setting and adhering to high customer service standards a business can address any problems customers may have; long before they ever become serious issues or cancellations. In our cynical society bad news spreads at a much faster rate than does good news. Moreover, bad news and the words of disgruntled customers is often taken as gospel, whether true or not, while positive word of mouth is always met with a heavy dose of skepticism and is almost only reluctantly accepted. Why then do so many companies downplay or trivialize the need for customer service?

The internet is partially to blame for the lowering of the customer service bar for one. At the turn of the millennium broadband internet became widely available and with this availability came the demand for instant gratification. As more and more businesses allowed their customers to shop for their products online, getting products to customers quickly and getting new customers became more important than keeping customers happy and providing them with help. Companies redirected their resources and began combining or merging customer service with sales. Customer service hasn't been the same since.

What Can You Do?

While conducting business at any level, it's very easy to forget that our customers are people just like us. No matter how polite a sales rep may be, no matter how good their people skills, attempting to squeeze nickels and dimes out of customers in need isn't good customer service and doesn't do a company any favors; no matter how much some business owners like to think it does. Sure finding ways to draw blood from a stone may feel like a short term victory though in truth it's a pyrrhic one. Conversely, treating your customers with dignity, having integrity, honest communication, and building a good rapport with your clients are long term business solutions. Be good to your customers and they will be good to you.

A cornerstone of excellent customer service

Inland Empire Online Marketing, Riverside Search Engine Optimization, Orange County SEO

~Scott Jarvis (President, Next Evolution Online)
Phone: 714-820-9935