A recipe for customer service

by Kristofer Mencák on August 2, 2009

Recent events have shown, once again, the importance of good customer service. As consumers now can fight back, companies have yet another incentive to provide good customer service – to prevent viral spread of consumer rants on the Internet.

Truth is, people are pretty nice. People give companies second chances. People want to like the companies they buy products or services from. And, they usually don’t post anything negative or rant about a company without first trying to contact the company to allow them to set things right. It is a last resort. It is only when customer service fails that we really get upset.

However, sometimes it seems many companies have lost the recipe for how to treat customers. Bad customer service practice is far too common. The mojo is missing.

There are of course exceptions, like Zappos, which recently was bought by Amazon. Seth Godin comments on the deal, that a tight relationship with customers was part of what Amazon really paid for.

Zappos’ relationship with customers was built through great customer service. And I really don’t think the recipe to the secret sauce is that complicated. I’d say it’s something like this:

  • 1 part Golden Rule –  “do to others what you would like to be done to you”
  • Sometimes a little bit of surprise, of the positive kind.

The Golden Rule part isn’t that hard to explain. If you had a problem, you would like to get it fixed, right? Right!

The second part isn’t always necessary, but can be added to tighten the relationship from time to time. Overdelivery, going the extra mile, or just giving something to someone who has been a loyal and profitable customer. This also helps buy some leeway, through the Ethic of reciprocity, if there is a real mess-up sometime. Basically, the rule works in the opposite direction and the customer can accept a mistake, as they too understand that no one is perfect. If they made a mistake, they too would like to get a second chance. But, it requires a good relationship. And companies have learn to make their friends before they need them.

In addition, going the extra mile is what gives word of mouth, what makes people want to talk about a company, product or service.

What would you add to a great recipe for customer service?

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