There is a serious problem with the current state of customer service. For the most part it's just awful. I set out in 2008 to take advantage of our companies' position as a small company making a high quality unique product. We wanted to not only be the leader in our niche industry, but also stand out in how we interacted with our customers. Here's how we do it.
You're Talking To The Boss
Could you imagine calling the toll free number for Microsoft customer service and having Mr. Gates himself pick-up? Well of course that won't happen, not only is he long gone as Microsoft Chairman, but to suggest that a global corporation of that size would have its chairman and co-founder actually take customer phone calls on a daily basis is a bit silly. However, if it was true, think about the quality of the answers you would receive for your software-related questions. My guess is you'd be very impressed with accurate information and likely hold a favorable view of the Microsoft brand.
Baseboarders - the easy slip-on baseboard heater cover is not exactly a global brand. Far from it. But when it comes to customer service, we're better than even Microsoft. Small companies are agile companies. This means we can do things the big guys can't. Like get the company President and founder on the phone to place an order, ask a technical question, chat about child safety issues around baseboard heaters or complain about how difficult it was to install the dummy covers you picked up at Lowe's. Maybe you need a technical drawing to show how Baseboarders will fit over your existing finned tube element. No problem - that's free and usually e-mailed within a couple hours. How about a take-off showing every baseboard heater in your house and the strategy of how all those really long lengths will be covered. Easy, I do it several times a week. This is my daily role. I'm the guy who invented Baseboarders and I'm available seven days a week by phone or e-mail. In the event I miss your call, you can expect a call back within 20 minutes. Same for e-mail replies. There is nothing I don't know about transforming your old, crappy, ugly baseboard heaters into amazing architecturally stunning highlights.
Ever notice that a lot of people in customer service have thick foreign accents? An enormous amount of customer service is performed over the phone and online from low labor cost countries like India and the Philippines. The customer service industry is among many others that have been completely transformed by the cost-saving mechanisms of globalization. Unfortunately these people, quite often pleasant and genuinely eager to be helpful, are just reading scripts that list canned answers to the most common questions. If you have a question that gets into details, forget it. I have no problem with global outsourcing, except when the quality of the product or service is significantly compromised. Poor quality customer service starts when the person you are corresponding with does not have real, local, hands-on experience with the product or service. As stated above, I know my stuff when it comes to hydronic baseboard heater renovations. No matter how complicated your project is, I will give you clear and easy to understand advice on how Baseboarders will transform your old crappy baseboard heaters.
Your Customer Service Inquiry Is An Opportunity, Not a Burden
Why on earth would a company situate its top executive in the position of customer relations manager? Shouldn't the company President be dealing with the really important stuff? After all, there's a few dozen people in the shop we could train to do the job. The typical corporate ego tells us that the chiefs are "shielded" from direct customer contact while the grunt work of answering phones and e-mail is done by minimum wage personnel.
What most companies fail to understand is that when a customer makes direct contact, it is a huge opportunity for the company and the brand. This action is essentially reverse advertising; the customer is advertising to the company their need for their product or service. When such occasions arise, which is normally about 20 - 30 times a day in our office, I like to think I'm speaking with my employer. Because as a matter of fact, the customer is my employer. When the customer wants answers, we give only good ones. There's no doubt that consistently cranking out a high quality product is important, but when that part of the business is running smooth as silk, the real opportunity is placing our best resources on servicing the customers specific concerns, questions and demands.
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