7 Secrets to Providing Excellent Customer Service

June 30, 2010 – 8:55 pm by Gabe Anderson | 11 Comments

This post isn’t exactly related to a specific technology, but the tips can apply to any tech (or other) company looking to improve or gain customer satisfaction.

In my six years with Articulate, one thing we as a company have always done well is provide excellent customer service and support. We hear it consistently. It starts with creating a customer-focused culture and practicing excellent service every day. Relentlessly.

Here are 7 easy ways you can build customer loyalty and keep smiles on your customers’ faces:

  1. Use common sense. Providing excellent customer service — be it sales-, technical-, or service-oriented — isn’t rocket science. It simply requires some common sense. Remember the Golden Rule? The whole “do unto others as you’d have them do unto you” thing? Use it. Treat people the way you like to be treated. You will keep people happy.
  2. Be responsive. I can’t stress this enough: Respond to your emails and respond to your voicemails. It ties into the common sense thing. If you email or call someone, how do you feel when you don’t get a reply? The most important thing in providing excellent customer service is to respond. And do it as quickly as possible — within a couple of hours during the business day, or no later than first thing the next business day. “I get too much” email shouldn’t be an excuse. Filter out the email you don’t need. Stay on top of your replies. And be responsive. Your customers will thank you for it.
  3. Make it easy to contact you. In order to be responsive, your customers have to know how to reach you. So don’t hide behind your support site or your knowledge base. Use a contact form and put the link to it everywhere. Make sure your company has a contact form with a phone number. Use your email address and phone number in your email signature. You want to make sure people can actually contact you to buy your product or service, and contact you if they need help with it. Don’t be afraid of your customers.
  4. Listen. I’ve worked in customer support and service roles long enough to know that the old adage about the customer always being right isn’t really right. And that’s OK. The important thing is that you listen to the customer; let him vent; don’t tell him he’s wrong. Then acknowledge the issue, try to reach an agreement, and do your best to keep the customer happy. He may not be right, but at least you listened to his point of view, which is the important thing. Usually people just want to be heard.
  5. Adapt. Let customers drive how you interact with them. Though you may not always be able to offer the type of communication channel your customers want, you can still be responsive to their behavior. For example, Articulate does not offer incoming phone support, but we make interacting with our support team as easy as possible. Asking for more help after receiving an email from our support team is as easy as replying to the email. None of this “do not reply to this email” crap. We also don’t make people login to a support portal to contact us. Remove barriers.
  6. Embrace social media. Speaking of adapting, make sure you’re active on Facebook and Twitter. If that’s where your customers are spending their time online and asking questions about your product or service, make sure you’re there to engage directly with them.
  7. Honor your word. If you tell someone you’ll follow-up with them by end of day, then do it. There’s nothing worse than having someone tell you they’ll contact you later, then having to track them down again. Stand by your word.

Follow these tips and you’ll soon realize that the secret to successful customer service is really simple: Just do the right thing and your customers will be happy.

It’s beyond me why so many companies — especially large companies with massive call centers — just can’t get it right.

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  1. 11 Responses to “7 Secrets to Providing Excellent Customer Service”

  2. First off, I can vouch for the fantastic support from Articulate. Secondly, everyone has ‘customers’ whether they’re internal or external, and this is GREAT advice to follow for serving them well…and isn’t that what it should be about.

    Thanks Gabe!

    By Mike Taylor on Jul 1, 2010

  3. Thanks for vouching for Articulate, Mike! And agreed – whether you’re a software company or a storefront, or if your customers are internal, the list still applies.

    By gabe on Jul 1, 2010

  4. My colleague Dave Mozealous suggests adding “be personal” to this list. I fully agree.

    By gabe on Jul 1, 2010

  5. Gabe, Articulate’s awesome customer support seems to come up in conversation on a weekly basis in the Atlanta eLearning community. It’s much appreciated.

    And I really enjoyed this ‘7 Secrets’ post; it’s an excellent reminder of what’s important.

    By Jay Lambert on Jul 1, 2010

  6. Thanks, Jay! That’s great to hear.

    By gabe on Jul 1, 2010

  7. Gabe –

    Good stuff. I always find myself praising Articulate for customer service and social presence when I tell people about the software.

    You guys are leaders in #6 on your list: embracing social media. I certainly admire it and the feedback I get from your team.

    By Eric Matas on Jul 2, 2010

  8. Thanks for the comment, Eric, and glad to hear it! Going beyond the purchase and creating a relationship with customers after the sale is just as important as the product itself.

    By gabe on Jul 2, 2010

  9. I would disagree on a few points to this. Mainly, the points of contact. If your company doesn’t have a telephone number for technical support, you will not get my business. Period. Full Stop.
    I may buy thens of thousands of dollars worth of your software, and if something goes wrong, I want a human being on the phone *now* I don’t care that you can fix it now, or in 2 days (or longer) what I care about is you are not hiding. By making me fill out contact forms with a “don’t call us, we’ll call you” type of attitude, you are telling me my money isn’t valuable to you.
    In point of fact, when my company goes shopping for new software, the 1st thing I will have them do is call the Technical Support line and see how long it takes to get a live human being. If we can’t get ahold of anyone during a dry run, then we won’t be able to get ahold of anyone when it’s really needed, and so we pass on the softare.
    So make it easy to contact you, include phone numbers everywhere on your website, and you will get my money.
    Give me the run around, and my money goes to your competitors.

    By Erik on May 9, 2012

  10. @Erik: Thanks for sharing your feedback. It’s not clear if you’re referring specifically to Articulate – as we do not offer incoming tech support – but I can assure you that we’re not hiding. You’ll find contact phone numbers for sales and general inquiries on our contact page (we’ll even help with basic troubleshooting at that number), and your account manager is always just a phone call away.

    Although I realize that some people will always prefer a tech support phone number and there’s nothing we can do to convince them otherwise, that’s simply not how we’ve built our (very successful, responsive, high-quality, award-winning) support department. Our email support is available 24×7 (and live web chat 24×5 for Platinum Membership Plan customers), and our very active community forums are a great way to get support, too (from thousands of fellow customers and directly from Articulate staff).

    If you give it a shot, I think you’ll find that our email support has a very high success rate of resolving the majority of issues. And in those instances where email just isn’t cutting it, we often set up a complimentary web conference / phone call to resolve the issue.

    We do offer per-incident, fee-based phone support / web conferences for customers who choose to initiate a phone call with tech support, but really, we don’t sell that many of those since most issues are easily solved via email at no cost.

    Oh, and we even give you the ability to record a private screencast when you submit a case through our support site so that you can show us exactly what issue you’re experiencing. That’s a lot more effective than trying to describe a complicated issue over the phone.

    To wholly discount a company based on lack of a tech support phone number is to miss out on what could be the best product / support / community experience out there.

    Would you rather speak with an inexperienced tech support phone rep who doesn’t solve your problem and just makes you more frustrated, or get timely and high-quality email responses?

    Personally, I don’t like to waste my time sitting on hold or speaking with inexperienced tech support reps from other companies.

    Hope this helps.

    By gabe on May 9, 2012

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