Do you know what email conversations take place between your customers and your staff? How is your staff representing your company? It becomes increasingly difficult to keep track of customer/staff communications as your small business grows. The recent Ocean Marketing PR controversy has shown how poor customer service can greatly affect your business.
The heated email exchange between a customer (Dave) and a marketing representative (Paul) went viral resulting in a swarm of negative reviews for the Avenger controller and its creator N-Control. Whether your business outsources its marketing or not, be careful to avoid making the same mistakes as N-Control and Ocean Marketing.
Know who is representing your company
It’s been said “good help is hard to find” (I’m sure N-Control can relate to this). Carefully choose people who will represent your company. Company representatives should be friendly, patient, and trained to handle customer questions and concerns. Establish and integrate a process for addressing customer inquiries and building customer relations. Instead of outsourcing your customer service department, use your in-house staff. These people already know your customer, products & services, and company values. It is much easier to monitor in-house staff versus an outside company working from a remote location.
Use email etiquette and people skills
– Greet your customer. The first thing that caught my eye was that Paul Christoforo from Ocean Marketing didn’t even say “Hi.” No matter how rude your customer could be (which in this case Dave was not), they deserve to be properly greeted, especially if it’s the first email.
– Apologize. If the customer is unhappy, no matter whose fault it is, you should apologize for the inconvenience and offer a solution.
– Answer the questions. It means not just answering the clearly stated questions, but also addressing any concerns expressed in the message. It is obvious from the email that Dave needed his Avengers before Christmas, and Paul failed to provide any info regarding the delivery date. It took him two more messages to admit that he can’t guarantee Christmas delivery.
– Watch your grammar. No one likes to read poorly written messages packed with run-on sentences and typos. More importantly, this is a representation of your business. Grammar mistakes aren’t professional and lower customer confidence in your company.
– Watch your language. Building a long-lasting professional relationship with your customers should be one of your top priorities. It’s ok to be friendly, but you shouldn’t get too familiar with the customer. Colloquial words like “dude,” “son,” and “LOL” are not appropriate and could even be considered offensive.
– Don’t argue with a customer. This is simply unacceptable. Diffuse an escalating situation by allowing the customer to “vent” and respond by being friendly and polite.
Deliver on your promises
N-Control advertised that their Avenger controllers would ship early December and those who pre-ordered the product would receive it before Christmas. The company failed to fulfill this promise leaving many customers disappointed. On top of that, N-Control offered “all pre-order customers and new customers $10 off their next purchase.” This move even further frustrated pre-order customers who at that point had neither the product nor the $10 discount they could have used to purchase it.
In order to avoid situations like that, try to make promises you’ll be able to fulfill. Sometimes things happen that are beyond your control, such as product held back at the customs. In that case, promptly inform your customers and keep them updated. They will appreciate your concern.
Don’t underestimate the power of the Internet
This screenshot of an Amazon listing is an illustration of how much social uproar one unsatisfied customer can cause. Dave has sent his email conversation with Ocean Marketing to multiple online media outlets. This story of horrific customer service went viral and generated tons of negative publicity for Ocean Marketing and N-Control.
Amazon users exasperated by the story generally rated the Avenger controller with one star. Many consumers didn’t know that Ocean Marketing was an outside company unrelated to N-Control. Unfortunately, because of Ocean Marketing’s poor customer service, N-Control’s reputation suffered as well. In the long term, N-Control could lose some sales because many buyers rely on Amazon reviews and rarely order 2-star products.
Quality customer service is EXTREMELY important for the success of any business. Know your customers and treat them with EQUAL respect. Even if your typical customer is a teenager, it doesn’t give you a right to approach them with a parental attitude. And after all, the customer you are talking to can be far from typical. In this case, it turned out that Dave had a lot of influential friends who quickly put Ocean Marketing out of business.