Customer service has been an integral part of successful business practices for many years, but some of the best companies have begun to change their tactics to keep up with the higher expectations of consumers, and the increased complexity of problems that often occur. Apologies, refunds, and store credits don’t solve as many issues as they once did, and as some companies leave their customer service behind, or outsource it to phone banks in foreign countries, the smartest and happiest companies in any given industry are using a potential problem as an opportunity to build loyalty and gain customers for life. There is nothing that a consumer likes more than a problem being solved quickly, efficiently, and in a creative way, except perhaps not to have had the problem in the first place. Customer service is more than damage control in many companies however, and the opportunities that empowered and proactive employees find to make life a little brighter for their customers can pay off in a big way.
Zappos was the largest online shoe retailer until it was sold to Amazon, which is the largest online retailer of practically everything else. The impressive customer service culture remained, however, and it continues to set the precedent for companies around the world. Their customer service experts have no script, have carte blanche to solve problems in any way they see fit (within reason), including sending flowers, free pairs of shoes, upgrading to overnight delivery, recommending competitors that are located nearby, and even using their internet access to help customers who are lost, shoeless, or simply hungry and need to find a pizza place. This sort of customer service 2.0 is what separated this online retailer from the pack, and has built a fiercely loyal customer base that will likely never shop for shoes anywhere else. Creative customer service not only keeps consumers happy, but it builds a sensation of trust and responsibility within the workforce of a company, and the employees don’t feel like Big Brother is watching their every move, since they are competent and mature professionals who truly love what they do. Customer service is not a department that should be shuttered away into some horrible warehouse of phone lines; these are the individuals that are in closest contact with buyers, so they understand problems and customer desires better than anyone, even those in research and development. They should be an active and utilized part of your workforce.
This unique and innovative approach to customer service is one of the many techniques that upper echelon companies are using more and more of in today’s markets. Dozens of other strategies and methods perfected by top businesses are dissected and analyzed in my book: