My wife recently bought some clothing for our two boys from a well-known online retailer. She duly waited for the package to arrive only to find that they had made a mistake with the order. After contacting their Customer Services department, they sorted out the issue very efficiently, as you’d hope and expect.
However, that was not all – they also sent an email saying how very sorry that they had ‘taken their eye of the ball’. In fact, they were so sorry that they were going to send her a free ball and also gave her a voucher code for free delivery for the next month. Sure enough, a few days later a rugby ball arrived in the post.
This is a great example of a Customer Services system working very well. Yes, this kind of process can be automated, but it still has the positive effect of making the customer feel that you actually care about them, and using humour makes the company look more human, not large and anonymous. Including the voucher for free delivery is clever as it actively encourages the customer to come back soon despite having had a ‘negative’ experience.
So, what processes do you have in place for your business? It doesn’t matter how efficient your fulfilment procedures are, things will go wrong from time to time, and how you deal with these incidents will either put customers off for life or make them more loyal.
How you deal with pre-sales enquiries can speak volumes about your business as well. I needed some work done on a car, so I contacted a couple of local garages through the contact forms on their websites. One of them was a small independent garage, with the other being a dealership. As of writing this I’m still waiting to hear back from them! Did they receive my message? Are they choosing not to respond? Who knows. What I do know is that I am a potential new customer for them and they’re maybe going to miss out on some business.
If you have a website with a contact form or email address listed on it, be sure to check regularly for any messages. If you don’t have the time to respond properly to an enquiry – it may be a complex request that you’d need to research before giving a full reply – at least acknowledge receipt of the enquiry and tell the sender that you will get back to them as soon as possible. These days, people expect replies very quickly; realistically 24 hours, or one working day, is the maximum delay you’d want to leave before getting back to an enquiry.
Regularly test the form on your website to make sure that messages sent through it are actually received in the mailbox they’re being set to. If you have an email address that forwards enquiries to another mailbox, check that it’s working. I’ve fallen foul of this myself in the past.
If you’re a micro-business and cannot necessarily respond to emails, while away on holiday for example, add an auto-responder to your email account reassuring the sender that their enquiry has been received and will be dealt with on your return.
Remember that when your competition is just one click away, it’s how you deal with existing and potential customers that makes the difference and stops them moving on.