17 December 2014 | 20 Comments
As I mentioned last week, I’m at the peak of “shipping season” for my two 2014 Kickstarter campaigns, Tuscany and the Treasure Chest. It’s a stressful time, and I must admit that I haven’t been my best self. I strive for great customer service, and I think I’ve been falling short on some requests.
Here’s a specific ongoing example: In a recent Treasure Chest project update, I informed US backers at the $39 and $59 levels (special December delivery for backers only, not pre-order customers) that all of their orders had been shipped. If they hadn’t received a shipment notification from Amazon fulfillment, I asked them to e-mail me so I could make sure everything was okay. The update went on to note that all other US Treasure Chest backers would get a notification when their shipment arrived.
Over the next couple of days, I proceeded to get several dozen e-mails from $33 backers (January delivery) telling me they hadn’t gotten notification from Amazon. The e-mails ranged from super nice to super aggressive.
Under normal circumstances, I reply to backer misunderstandings in a really nice way. Sure, they hadn’t read the update very carefully, but it’s just a few backers out of thousands. No big deal, and it’s a reminder to me to be clearer in updates to avoid confusion.
However–this is no excuse, just reality–it’s shipping season, so I’m inundated with e-mails and logistics. Time is precious. So I have to admit that these e-mails have been getting on my nerves, and I’ve replied in a much more snippy way than I should.
Then, just a few days ago, a contributor to the Kickstarter Best Practices group on Facebook (Rafal Pilewicz) linked to a brilliant article by Derek Sivers about customer service. Reading it really centered me on the great philosophies about customer service that I was falling short of achieving.
The article reminded me that the true test of great customer service isn’t when you’re at your happiest, but rather when you’re stressed and short-tempered–those are the defining moments (for you, at least. The customer doesn’t know your mood, and thus your mood should never impact their experience in a negative way).
I’m going to summarize the article here (the bold part of each point is a direct quote from Sivers’ article), but I highly suggest your read the full article.
- You can afford to be generous. Derek talks about the attitude of abundance and how customers respond to it. He also talks about the opposite: “All bad service comes from a mindset of scarcity.” And yeah, sometimes things truly are scarce on Kickstarter. You made a print run of 1500 games from 1400 backers–the margin of error while shipping is pretty thin. But…he’s right. By being generous, your customers will be the ones who champion your product.
- The customer is more important than the company. This is sometimes the hardest to implement when the company is just you, as many Kickstarter creators experience. In those circumstances, the advice could be rephrased like this: “The customer is more important than you.” That’s a tough pill to swallow, isn’t it? How can you survive if you always put other people’s needs before own? The truth is that you won’t just survive if you do that–you’ll thrive.
- Customer service is a profit center. Businesses spend tons of resources (time and money) trying to get new customers. Kickstarter creators do too. Are you trying to launch a product or a company? If it’s the latter, each customer you already have is worth way more than customers you don’t have. Stop spending so much time, energy, and money on the people who don’t support you and start focusing on those who already do.
- Every interaction is your moment to shine. This one really hit home with me for the reasons I stated at the beginning of this post. I had an opportunity to shine–to be kind, to make the customer feel smart instead of dumb, to connect with a backer–and I wasted it. Think about this: Even on Kickstarter, when direct interaction with individuals is relatively high, you will still probably only have direct contact with about 10-20% of backers at most. The vast majority will never comment or send you a message. So if someone takes the time to contact you–no matter their attitude or tone–it’s a a huge gift to you. It’s a rare opportunity for you to shine. Don’t waste it like I’ve been doing.
- Lose every fight. Damn Sivers, it’s like you know me. Again, this one really connected with me. I didn’t realize I was doing it, but I was essentially trying to “win” those backer exchanges. How dumb is that? The thing I learned while waiting tables a long time ago is that the customer isn’t always right, but they’re always respected. It’s disrespectful to get defensive. Instead of pointing out to my backers why they were wrong, I should have apologized for the confusion my update caused. By eating humble pie, you put your backer in a power position–you get to make them feel good. That’s a win every time.
- Rebelliously right the wrongs of the world. A great Kickstarter creator doesn’t just make their project better when they treat their backers well–they make all of Kickstarter better. The longer Kickstarter exists, the more people are going to get burned at some point. Those people may not return, and that hurt other creators just as much as it hurts you. So here’s your chance to keep this awesome platform alive. By treating backers with kindness, empathy, and generosity, you allow them to continue to feel good about Kickstarter. That’s pretty cool to me. I love my backers, and I also love my fellow creators for the risks they take to create something awesome for the world. Every little bit I can do to help both of those groups is worth it to me.
What do you think about Sivers’ philosophies? They apply to pretty much any business, so can you think of a time when you’ve done one or more of these things and were surprised by how well it worked out?
Also read: Kickstarter Lesson #72: The 10 Elements of Great Customer Service for a Kickstarter Creator