Customer Service: Maybe your Grandma’s Advice was Right

I remember when I was young, whenever my cousins and I were being unruly and especially uncivil to each other, my grandma used to tell us “You should treat others as you’d want to be treated yourself.” It seemed awfully naggy, especially with the finger wagging thrown in. At the time I always thought it was ridiculous advice, why would I care how others were treated as long I was treated just fine? People HAD to treat me well.

Maybe there was something to that small piece of advice after all. Maybe this simple advice is why some companies prosper while others struggle. I’ve found that the long term payoff of taking the time to provide a high level of value on every interaction is difficult and time consuming but ultimately pays off.

It’s safe to say that I am not a fan of Roger’s or Bell. My time with each of them was roughly the same (high) level of pain. I can’t recall one good experience I’ve had with either of them but I could write an entire essay on the bad ones. Their product was even expensive and not high quality.

I tell everybody how bad it was and I tell everybody the alternatives I have discovered.

I believe the reason why they don’t even act like they need to provide a good customer experience is likely because they think they don’t have to.

I cancelled my television cable and I went to an independent internet provider.

  • While Bell is busy hiking internet rates, Teksavvy is lowering their rate to pass savings on to their customers.
  • While it takes an hour to speak to an actual person at Bell, Teksavvy seems pretty happy to take my calls.
  • While cancelling my Bell account was ridiculously painful…well, I’ve not had to cancel my Teksavvy account.

So why do companies usually make this mistake?

  • Poor service provides instant value because you can move on to the next task quickly.
  • Poor service is easy because it requires very little effort.
  • Good service is hard, as you need to make an effort on the spot.
  • Poor service is cheaper, and from an agency standpoint, you can move onto actual billable hours tasks instead.

When you take a look at some actual facts, however, I am surprised that companies don’t put this as a very high priority.

On average loyal customers are worth more than 10x their original purchase.

As a young organization I can see first-hand how difficult it is to find new clients and new business relationships. I suppose as an organization gets bigger and older it doesn’t have to worry as much about acquisition. It has an engine that is humming along generating business.

News of bad customer service reaches more than twice as many ears as praise for a good service experience. 

Not only do you lose current customers but you lose new business as well when your service is poor.  As people begin to hear about how awful you are, they also make a decision not to deal with you. It’s a downward spiral.

Don’t let robots pretend they are you

“Marketing automation” is a trendy term right now. A lot of people think that you can treat everyone in your “sales funnel” the exact same way.

The idea is that once someone visits your site and asks for information, you automatically send them an email asking if you can call them. A few hours to a few days later you reply to that email again saying “Hey, I don’t know if this got lost in your inbox, please reach out to me.”

These are annoying and self-serving. This is a one-way transaction where YOU the sales person are trying to get ME the buyer to do something for YOU.  You’re not providing me with any value, you’re just harassing me.

A much better experience is to still reach out to that person, but to include a relevant link to something they will get value out of. You can still make a request that they contact you, but now you’ve provided something interesting to them.

Don’t fake this to make it look like you’re really a person, simply have the automated system send it out and include an easy way for the person to hit “reply”.

91% of unhappy customers will not willingly do business with you again.

For NorthIQ this is an absolute deal breaker. We thrive on working with companies who want a long-term partnership. I think most organizations feel this way as well. If somebody is not happy with our work, every single day, they may just say “see ya”. I am skeptical we could build a business any other way.

There is more than enough evidence out there that providing a good customer experience and great service is the cornerstone for any business.

If you’re a small or medium sized business it can actually set you apart. It will lead to more new customers through referrals. It will lead to more new business through loyal clients. It will make your life easier because you don’t need to constantly prospect new business in to replace the business you’re losing.

Back to grandma. It turns out that her nagging actually applies to customer service well.

“You should treat others as you’d want to be treated yourself”

  1. Answer every email and message, no matter how far removed they are from a paying – client quickly, and accurately
  2. Respond to every communication like it was your boss
  3. If you’re on social you need to respond to every comment on your posts personally
  4. You should go out of your way to ensure your paying customers love you, even if it means working many extra unbillable hours. They may be the key to the next referral.
  5. Marketing automation is easy to abuse – use it for good and not evil. Write content that is written like a human writing to another human. And answer every response quickly.

Have any good or bad customer service experiences? I am always curious and interested in hearing about them.

Author: Craig

Craig Oliphant is a marketing expert with over a decade of experience in digital marketing. He has built online campaigns for multi-million dollar companies, and seen massive returns from very small investments. He has figured out ways to achieve repeatable results.