Customer Service is a function that does not get enough attention from early expansion stage company managers. They tend to focus mostly on lead generation and sales, which is hugely important, as these are the shortest term vehicles for growth (customer renewal and growth is a smaller portion of the overall revenue stream for these companies than for later growth companies).
At some point, however, many management teams notice low renewal rates and wake up to the fact that having customers who love them is a hugely important factor in growing their business (both to retain customers and to have those happy customers telling their friends about their experiences). At this point, they start turning their attention to longer-term vehicles for building great companies, competitive advantage and customer service.
The Key Customer Service Opportunity
The key opportunity is for you to make your whole product offering so intuitive and easy that you prevent customer service issues, and for those issues that you can’t prevent, offer unbelievably easy ways to address your customers’ problems. You can measure your success with a very small number of customer service metrics.
My Amazon Example
I am on vacation this week, so I thought that I would download a book to my Kindle and give it a read.
I went to the Kindle store via my Kindle, found a book, pressed “buy”, but I received a message that I had already purchased the book and that I could find it in my Kindle archives.
I went to the archives, but the book wasn’t there. So, I tried again and received the same message.
This time I noticed that the message had a telephone number to call if I had an issue.
My first reaction was “too much work,” but I decided that I wanted the book and gave it a try.
I needed to listen to a voice menu and press #4, but I then received a message that someone would be with me within a minute.
Nice and quick, I thought.
Then someone jumped on the phone within 15 seconds (“wow” I thought), took my basic information, asked me what the issue was, and proceeded to solve my problem with the book arriving on my Kindle within about 30 seconds.
My issue was resolved within 90 seconds of picking up the phone…I was truly impressed!
This is what I call amazing customer service. As I thought about it, I thought that Kindle now has a much more loyal customer. Why would I even try another service with this service being so great? I also remembered other instances with other companies that took me a half day to resolve and thinking then that if any other service came along I would give them a try because of how pissed off I was about their sloppy service.
Pretty interesting that a problem I had with a product turned me into a more loyal customer.
This example again cemented my view that great customer service builds loyal customers and brands…Amazon even got a plug on my blog!
The OpenView Approach
To help highlight the issue for our portfolio companies and offer help with improving customer service, last year OpenView Venture Partners recruited Bill Price to set up a Customer Service Forum for our portfolio companies and then to engage with them on specific projects to help them improve their customer service.
Bill wrote the book on Customer Service, The Best Service is No Service, and coincidentally ran customer service for Amazon for a few years. Bill also did a really great series of customer service videos with OpenView Labs that are short and to the point on various customer service issues.
At the highest level, Bill’s approach is to use the valuable information coming through customer service to improve your products and help resources and then to manage your customer service group to resolve the remaining issues professionally and, most importantly, quickly. Pretty simple powerful idea, but it takes work to set it up!
If you have customers, consider what you can do to improve your customer service, read Bill’s book, and watch Bill’s video series.
It is a lot easier to keep customers than win new ones, and happy customers tend to want to tell others about their experiences with you…this is the best form of branding and lead generation!
Are you offering the Amazon experience, or are you ignoring the opportunity?