16 June 2016 | 28 Comments
Recently I had the pleasure of chatting about customer service with podcaster Steve Ruduski on episode 60 of The Company Bard. You can listen to the episode to get the full story, but I took some notes about interesting things Steve said, so I wanted to share my thoughts on them here.
- Be responsibly responsive
I’m at the computer for about 14 hours a day. If I get a message or question from a customer, I try to reply within minutes. However, this isn’t always a good thing.
Sometimes the questions I receive are tough to read. Either the tone is overly aggressive or I made a mistake or one of my colleagues made a mistake–the point is, I get a bit heated reading certain messages/questions.
So what do I do? I respond right away in the heat of the moment. Sometimes my replies are composed, and other times they’re much blunter than they should be.
Here’s Steve’s advice for those situations: Reply right away to tell the customer you’ve received their e-mail, but save a detailed response for a few hours later. This is SO much better than what I typically do, and I’m going to try it from now on.
2. Empathize with pain
Steve brought up empathy, which is one of my favorite words when discussing customer service. It’s the simple solution of putting myself in someone else’s shoes and treating them as I would hope to be treated.
When Steve apologizes to a customer, he includes a key phrase that I’d like to incorporate into future apologies I write (not just because it’s effective, but because it will help me be more empathetic). The phrase is: “I’d be frustrated too if…”
It’s empathetic, it puts myself in their shoes, and it shows that I’ve correctly identified their pain.
3. Empower the helpless
Something I’ve realized over time is that a lot of the pain and frustration customers feel stems from helplessness. For example, if a creator isn’t posting project updates on a regular basis, customers may feel helpless because they don’t have any information. They don’t know what the silence means, and they’re helpless to learn more.
Sometimes it’s less overt. Like, sometimes a customer will receive a damaged game, and they’ll tell me about it. I used to to just tell them what we’d do to solve the problem, but solving a problem doesn’t always make a customer feel less helpless.
So now I give the customer the thing they’ve lost: Control. I put them in control of the solution by offering them a few solutions, and they get to pick the one that’s right for them.
4. Engage inactive customers
There will always be customers who are inactive simply because no one has ever asked them if they had anything to say. Every now and then, Steve will reach out to an inactive but consistent customer to check in with them.
I love this strategy, whether it’s during a Kickstarter campaign or after you’ve released 20 products. Maybe the customer won’t care or won’t respond, but at worst they’ll probably appreciate that you took the time to consider them. At best, you might learn some really interesting things from a valued customer.
The one thing Steve and I couldn’t figure out is how to identify inactive customers. There are ways to see if a customer has ordered multiple products, but it’s much harder to track their engagement through social media and e-mail. If you know of any solutions for this, please share in the comments.
Steve and I talked about one other interesting element of customer service near the end of our conversation, but it’s a topic for its own post, probably next week. What are your thoughts on these elements?