Kill Crappy Customer Service
This is my site Written by Alora on June 9, 2010 – 11:13 am

Customer ServiceMany people don’t think about it specifically, but know it intuitively: if you want good customer service, skip the big guys and go to a small company. In Small Business’ Competitive Advantage, I discuss that Customer Service is the magical pixie dust for small business.

Think about your normal daily experience: if you need to deal with your bank, your insurance company or your utility provider, you call an 800 number, where you are greeted with an automated message, a phone tree that routes you through a series of menus, as much automated information as they can possibly prepare, and then — if you’re problem is too complicated to automate — eventually you may get a person.

And then what happens?

You have to repeat your account number, despite having entered it already (at least once); you have to answer questions to validate your identity (or, worse yet, you don’t, which always begs the question: who else can get into my account?); and then you can get around to your question.

In many cases, by the time you get to speak to a real person you are dealing with a call center on the other side of the planet, non-native speakers (who sometimes struggle mightily with English), and in worst case scenarios, people who are clearly reading from a script with very little real understanding of either the nature of your problem or how best to handle it.

And when it’s all said and done, how often do you go through all of that, and get off the phone feeling totally confident that your issue was resolved? Rarely. More often than not, most of us get off the phone feeling like we just got the run around so badly that we need to double and triple check our next round of statements to make sure no one messed anything up.

All in all, because of the economic needs for businesses to automate and off-shore customer service functions, the general state of Customer Service is often crap.

This is where small business owners can be Superman. Seriously. For most small businesses, we don’t have the volume to go through all of that expense and hassle. Our customers often have our direct phone number. They know where to find us, how to reach us and what our specialty is. And while that may not always be great for our daily productivity (and it can certainly be abused at times), it gives small business owners the chance to leave our customers with a far, far better customer service experience than the one they just had with their credit card company.

We talk so much about business that we often over-look the most important fact of all: business is conducted between two or more PEOPLE. Sure, there are functions that can be automated and there are often good reasons to do it. But when you leave your customer feeling like less than an actual person, you’ve just provided a lousy customer service experience. Small businesses, because of logistics, have a built-in advantage. And it’s one we should all remember to take advantage of.