Many companies spend thousands on surveys, focus groups, and marketing studies. They want to know what their customers think about their products. But they have a free channel to their customer everyday through their Customer Service Department.
As far as brand building is concerned, we think Customer Service is an essential link in the chain. If your customer service team is well trained to take advantage of their very special position, they can save you money and increase your business. Your marketing, production, and quality control people need to take heed to what they discover and report. Satisfied customers are the foundation of brand reputation, and their product experience is the road map to success and sustainability.
Here are 4 more tips for getting the most out of your customer service people:
4. Don’t use demanding language. Today, many people you hire may already use crutch words, phrases and responses. Saying things like “I want you to…” and “Here’s what I want you to do for me…” are counterproductive when dealing with an upset customer. What you can do for them is more important. Expressions like “No problem,” should never be used as a replacement for “Thank you,” and “Glad I could help.”
5. Don’t simply refund their money. If you get a bad pizza and they refund your money, do you ever go back? What do you tell your friends about the quality of the pizza? Wouldn’t it be better if they said, “Please give us an opportunity to show you that we can make a delicious pizza? Your next one is on us. ” Now they have given you an opportunity to confirm their brand promise and better yet, tell your friends how they treated you. If handled properly, a customer’s less-than-satisfactory experience can actually build your brand’s reputation.
6. Ask questions. Your Customer Service Department is a veritable fountain of information and feedback from real users of your products. While you have your callers live on the phone, not only satisfy their concerns, but ask a few important questions. Where and when did they buy? What did they pay? How long have they been a customer? Was the product easy to use? Did it live up to or exceed their expectations? What do they wish the product could do that it doesn’t? Was there anything difficult about the packaging or directions? Don’t just put it on them and say, “Well, is there anything else I can help you with today?” Take advantage of this great opportunity to improve your product, and thereby, your brand.
7. Report to Production and Marketing. Next to your sales staff, your customer service people are the primary source of customer feedback. If you empower them by directing your marketing and production staff to listen and respond to what your customer service people have discovered, your products can’t help but improve. Set up the channels of communication now so Marketing and Production can take advantage of these direct customer insights and suggestions. Make sure everyone understands the value of hearing firsthand from your customers.
By appreciating the value of your customer service people, giving them the right tools and the right training, and by directing your marketing and production folks to take heed, you will go a long way toward improving your brand’s reputation. Don’t think of your customer service staff as “complaint resolution; ” think of them as where the rubber meets the road!
Who Are We.
Having built and sold a bestselling national brand, we appreciate the value of brands and everything it takes to make them successful. Companies are valued by their brand equity. Achieving and maximizing brand equity requires tremendous respect for all your customers, from your wholesaler to your end user.
Starting in our laundry room with no money and no knowledge of the industry, we built the famous Barefoot Wine brand. We learned a lot they don’t teach in school and much of it the hard way. Although our success was in consumer products, our real world experience will be helpful to anyone looking for information and advice about brands.
We have written the New York Times Bestselling Business Book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand, which chronicles the history of the famous brand from its inception through its acquisition. Our book is now required reading in schools of entrepreneurship across the country. We hope this book will provide inspiration and encouragement for all those contemplating starting a brand or wanting to improve their existing brand.
Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey
-Barefoot Wine Founders