As both consumers and business owners we have all had bad customer service experiences with other companies. Whether it is in line at a fast food place or when dealing with a software or hardware vender, we have all had our blood boil at one time or another.
Today more than ever, we all want to work with people who we trust, treat us with respect, and provide a high quality service or product.
With all your competitors fighting for your business, it is often the one that provides the best customer service that wins in the end.
Recently, for an article I was writing for another publication, I interviewed John Jackson, president of RSI, an Austin, Texas-based custom computer software firm that provides custom software to companies both large and small. I was writing about the emerging trend of Software as a Service (SaaS). I asked Jackson what the five most important considerations he would give my readers about selecting a SaaS vendor. Jackson, a CPA by education and experience, indicated that if a company is looking for SaaS vendors to work with nonfinancial data, customer service should be the number one concern. If a company does work with sensitive financial data, he rated physical and electronic security as number one, with customer service being a close second.
Jackson’s point was that you need to trust the company that is providing you a product or service. Especially in today’s climate, where every dollar counts, you want to know that your vendor isn’t going to let you down when you need them most.
The same day I interviewed Jackson, I worked on a project for a friend who is trying to quickly get an online e-commerce store open in the next few days. My friend has had traditional brick-and-mortar stores for 20 years, but he wasn’t sure how to manage the project of picking a Web-hosting platform, a shopping cart vendor, and a credit card processor. I offered to help. My friend already had a Web-hosting platform for his company Web site, and I was determined to help him find an good electronic shopping cart vendor as well as a payment processing gateway.
I did my research and found a number of choices for shopping cart vendors. I looked at as many reviews as I could before I picked up the phone to start calling vendors. The first call I made was to an electronic shopping cart vendor that impressed me with the features listed on their Web site.
After navigating the gauntlet of an automated phone system I was able to speak to an actual person in sales. I had a host of questions to ask them. The first person I spoke with could only answer about one forth of my questions. I asked if there was someone more knowledgeable I could speak with. She said she was not allowed to transfer my call. I asked her for her name to document my notes should I call back. She said, “In our industry, it is not normal for someone to give their name out.” Red flags started going up immediately for me. This wasn’t a collection agency call. I wanted to purchase their services. I immediately struck this company from my list even though I liked many of the software features.
While I was helping my friend find a shopping cart vendor I was also trying to help him find a credit card processor.
My experiences were exactly the opposite. I didn’t have to run the automated attendant gauntlet to talk to a real person, and the representative I reached was helpful and knowledgeable about their product. She followed up by e-mail and phone over the several days it took to get the credit card processing set up. I was very impressed with this company. Incidentally, it was the first credit card processing company I called. This company, First Data, did not let me down.
When it came time to do the connection of the credit card processor with the shopping cart vendor, First Data took care of the details with no problems. My friend has been dealing with credit card processors for 21 years. He felt First Data’s pricing was comparable with the best pricing he has seen. But it was their customer service that earned them my friend’s business.
When it came time to finally get a shopping cart vender picked, I got the idea to call the Web-hosting company my friend was using (and likes) and ask them for their recommendation. Again, their customer service was impressive and the agent I spoke with indicated that most of their e-commerce customers used Pinnacle Cart. This time I was determined that customer service was going to be my number one criteria. The representative I spoke with talked me through their packages and features. Because of the helpful customer service I recommended my friend use Pinnacle. As a bonus it turned out that Pinnacle’s software is very feature-rich and easy to use.
A few hours into setting up the shopping carts for use, it was time to upload the several hundred items for sale. When we hit a small but challenging hurdle late at night, I called Pinnacle’s tech support. My problem was a little obscure but the tech support guy had me e-mail him the product upload file and he fixed it in about four minutes. Ten minutes later all the items had been entered.
I think most people buy like I do: they want to buy from someone they trust. When they find outstanding customer service they will pay a little more for a product or service because of the value of the relationship. Those that fail at providing good customer service and technical support end up losing customers at a time when every customer counts. Then there is the impact of the negative recommendation factor. If anyone asks me to make an electronic shopping cart recommendation I will say whatever you do, stay away from XYZ Company.
If your company’s customer service isn’t the best it can be, fix it before it’s too late.
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EXTRA: If you have questions for Sam regarding business financing, the credit market, and similar issues, please send an e-mail. Your questions will be recorded and Sam will answer the best ones in his Ask the Expert podcast show.