A few weeks ago I was on a plane and struck up a conversation with the gentleman sitting next to me. He was a retired US Navy veteran who had traveled the world. After thanking him for his service we spoke about many different topics, but the one I remember the most was about an article he was reading in The American Legion Magazine. The article was originally written by a former Navy Seal, Brent Gleeson and published in Inc. Magazine. Here is the text from the article, titled which is mean to help anyone “live to be your most effective.” I am sure the following are hugely important on the battlefield, but I personally enjoyed how they are applicable to business and life in general. I wanted to share them with our team members and clients. Here they are:
Be Loyal. “Loyalty is about leading by example, providing your team unconditional support and never throwing a team member under the bus.”
Put others before yourself. “Ask yourself waht you will do to add value to your team, such as simply offering your assistance with a project. The challenge is overcoming the fear that your team member might say, ‘Yes, I really need your help with this project … tonight.'”
Be reflective. “Reflective people often spend too much time analyzing their actions. But imagine if you could harness this talent into something highly valuable.”
Be obsessively organized. “Some of us innately have this ability, often to a fault, and some have to work at it a bit more.”
Assume you don’t know enough. “Any effective team member understands that training is never complete. It’s true in the SEAL teams, and it’s true in any elite team. Those who assume they know everything should be eliminated. Those who spend time inside and outside the workplace developing their knowledge and skills will provide the momentum for their team’s forward progress.”
Be detail-oriented. “Don’t ask yourself what you are going to do today to be successful; ask how you are going to do it.”
Never get comfortable. “Always push yourself outside your comfort zone. If you do this with every task you take on, that boundary will continue to widen. This process will ensure that you are continually maximizing your potential, which will positively impact your team.”
Today one of the challenges we face is just as the internet is an amazing avenue to market your website, products and even yourself it is equally an amazing way for disgruntled users to tarnish your otherwise good name. The internet has given a voice to everyone. Good bad or indifferent people of all walks of life speak their minds freely in every conceivable way on the internet. They also tend to be braver and more disrespectful as they can use the anonymity of the internet to hide behind. So with that said if you work in an online environment long enough you are going to upset someone enough where they will feel it necessary to berate you beyond reproach. I know for a fact most of these people would never act this way or even say anything at all however that isn’t what we are dealing with here.
Let’s say for the sake of argument that you did in fact make an honest mistake and messed up a customer’s order. Maybe you shipped it late or you sent the wrong item. This customer decides that this is the end of the world blasts you on the popular forum or facebook page. If it was in fact your fault, admit it. Respond politely, honesty and with dignity. Accept responsibility for the mistake. Your customer absolutely doesn’t want to hear nor do they care that the UPS or FEDEX guy didn’t show up on time. The only thing they know is they ordered a particular item and you failed to deliver it. So own up and apologize publicly. You would be amazed at what a simple apology can do to calm an irate customer. Now let us say this doesn’t calm them down. Publically offer to make it right. Perhaps offer a coupon code for them to use on their next purchase. What is important here above all else is to take the high road and maintain integrity. Do not under any circumstances lose your cool and retaliate. Continue to offer to help the customer and anyone else reading the post will quickly see who is trying to fix the situation and who is simply there to stir up trouble.
Another solution is heading it off before it ever happens. If you know you did something wrong, such as you discovered you sent the wrong part to the customer because you attached the wrong shipping label to a package, call them first. Do not wait for the customer to be surprised. If you call them before they notice it shows you are on top of your game as a company and it will also give you the opportunity to control the flow of information. You can apologize for the mix up before the customer even has time to get mad about it. More often than not this will solve the problem assuming you have the correct part on the way.
Once again I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to maintaining a high level of composure. Trust me when I say you will be tested like never before. People will say horrible things, make threats and demand ridiculous actions from you. Simply apologize and offer reasonable solutions. Never argue as it will only escalate the situation and make you look unsympathetic. Again if they are acting like a crazed person on the internet it will quickly become evident. If you have a particularly tricky situation give us a call and we will do our very best to help you smooth over a bad situation.
They say the key to any good healthy relationship is communication. I could not agree more with this statement. Many of you may not look at the retail store owner to customer as a relationship but it most certainly is just that. Like any other relationship these also require time, effort and most importantly COMMUNICATION. It is far too easy for E-commerce store owners to silently hide behind the digital wall that is their website and not acknowledge a customer’s concerns. How many of you have had this scenario play out where the customer ordered a product through your website only to find out it is no longer in stock. This is a prime opportunity to reach out to a customer and see if you can help meet or possibly exceed their needs in another way. E-mail them or even better call them up. Thank them for their business and offer them a viable alternative. Maybe you will sell them something else and maybe you won’t. What is important here is you will be showing them a higher level of customer service than most see in dealing with web based businesses and you are building that relationship. In taking that little time out you will be giving the customer a positive view of yourself and your store. You will also be given the opportunity to showcase your knowledge of the products being sold in turn building that ever elusive customer confidence. This all goes a long ways the next time they are surfing the web looking to make their next purchase. I will go a step further on the topic. Let’s say you are late in delivering a package to a customer or for one reason or another it will not be there at all. Do not under any circumstances make your customer wonder what is going on and make them contact you as a result…trust me they will be upset with you at this point. The better mindset or approach is “bad news is still better than no news”. If you are proactive and contact the customer first and give them honest information you will serve yourself well in the ways of damage control. Things do go wrong or change from time to time and people understand that much better if you are upfront about it in the first place. Remember everyone has a voice on the internet these days and if you don’t communicate with your customers they will “communicate” about their experience on every social media, forum and blog outlet they can get their hands on. So speak up and reach out to your customers and let them know you care. Good communication can help preserve and grow your business to new heights.
To continue with our series on applying brick and mortar ideas to your online store, this segment will cover how you can implement tools to make your online shoppers feel as though they have the same customer service that they would at your shop.
When you go to a retail store, one of the first things that will happen is a sales associate will greet you (hopefully in a friendly manner) and ask you what you are looking for or if you need help finding a specific item. The associate might also tell the customer what specials are going on or what products are currently on sale.
You can do several different things to achieve this same effect online, utilizing multiple features to recreate some of the convenience of having a sales associate to reference.
To assume the role of greeter for your web store, you can use bright banner images on your landing page to greet your customers. This will need to be friendly, informative and aesthetically interesting to engage your customers and get them to look further into your shop. Think about what you do when you visit a site for the first time. Do you give the site a chance to load fully and display all of its images? Do you read the full page before deciding to navigate further? Normally, you are going to have less than 10 seconds to get a customer hooked on your page. The landing page will serve as a greeter and hopefully will achieve this for your web store.
In addition to having great content on your landing page, having a chat feature is another wonderful way to engage your customers. A chat feature allows customer to interact with your support staff in an anonymous way (if they choose) that often times gives them a sense of security. It can help your customers who may have anxieties about talking on the phone with a sales rep as it is a digital interface.
Another tip to creating a great service element is having a properly functioning search bar. If a customer can search for a certain product within your site, it is a great tool for them in navigation. It’s almost like having a salesperson there who you can ask what isle you’ll find the product in. This feature should be user-friendly, adapting to misspellings and other factors of human error. Maybe you don’t carry a certain product online but you carry it in store. This tool should be used in the same way a sales person would be. If a customer asks for something that doesn’t exist in your store, can you offer suggestions like a salesperson would?
These simple steps, although they’ll probably take some programming work from your developers, will ensure that you don’t lose sight of customer service on your ecommerce site.
When you start any social media page, you are opening yourself up to two-way communication between yourself and your audience. The public has the ability to share comments about your business with friends and others in that network. Eventually, no matter how hard you try to please everyone, there will be that one person who is incessant on posting negative things on your page. Don’t worry, this is not the end of the world. In fact, depending on how you handle this situation, you can turn a cranky customer into a lifelong shopper.
One thing that we see on corporate sites all the time is the bland, generic answer that is almost like the computer is talking, not a customer service or PR rep. Do not respond with a cookie cutter answer that is impersonal and – to be honest – mildly offensive to the consumer. The last thing you want to do when a customer gets upset is coddle them with a generic response. Imagine if you went into a brick and mortar store, upset about service, and the salesperson or store manager simple pulled out a cue card from behind the register and began reading a scripted prompt, asking you to call an 800 number or email the corporate offices. It would be a slap in the face.
If you are a professional in the public relations or internet marketing field and you are managing social media pages, you should be embarrassed if your company is responding this way. How hard is it to respond to the customer complaints on an individual level?
Doing this on Facebook or Twitter is especially damaging because now potential customers can track your conversations and decide if they like the way you handled the situation. In addition to that, the person who has complained can also share these comments with friends and respond to them in an unsavory manner. Don’t treat your customers this way. Send them personal messages and always assume that the customer is in the right – even if they aren’t. Responding with scripted answers makes your customers feel unimportant and will lose your company business.