When we first started Manawa Networks, customer service was important but it wasn’t the most important thing. We prided ourselves on a variety of criteria. As the company has grown, developing our people to deliver outstanding service and build long-term relationships with our customers has become our core focus. I was reminded of this with a story that happened a few weeks ago.
I received a phone call from an employee, who works for one of our larger customers. She was on maternity leave and became quite agitated because her backup drive crashed along with all her digital photos of her newborn son. I gave her instructions and walked her through the steps about how to recover her data. I also gave her, the name of one of our partners to call, if her efforts didn’t resolve the issue.
I felt that helping an employee recover her files was just part of the job. The email I received from her the next morning was unexpected and reminded me why we started Manawa. It read as follows:
If you didn’t already know this, your last name in German, means “hero”. And you certainly lived up to that yesterday! Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me about my hard drive issue — your advice was so invaluable, since last night at 11 pm, I was able to recover all of my files!!!! So, smile and feel good for doing something really nice for me. You are my hero! –Tamara
In his book, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose, Tony Hsieh, talks a lot about building trust through customer engagement. Yet, rather than use social media or integrated marketing to build buzz, he prefers the telephone – that antiquated low-tech device few people associate with technology anymore.
Hsieh says, “The telephone remains one of the best branding devices out there. You have the customer’s undivided attention for five to ten minutes, and if you get the interaction right, what we’ve found is that the customer remembers the experience for a very long time and tells his or her friends about it.”
At Zappos Inc., phone sales account for only 5% of their business (most sales are driven through the Website). On average, a customer contacts Zappos at least once during his or her lifetime. According to Hsieh, “we just need to make sure that we use that opportunity to create a lasting memory. We’re not trying to maximize each and every transaction. Instead, we’re trying to build a lifelong relationship with each customer, one phone call at a time.”
“Call centers sit on the frontline of customer experience, where they provide sales, support, and customer service functions. They’re often customers’ first — and sometimes their only — human interaction with a company. Even with conservative estimates, it’s easy to make the case that large call centers have customer influence on par with, if not greater than, that of mass advertising campaigns.”
Since 2007, Forrester has been tracking US consumer satisfaction with phone conversations across multiple industries. In 2010 surveys, consumers rated interactions with call center agents not only lower than in-store interactions, but also lower than faceless online interactions in 12 of 13 industries. Customers actually prefer dealing with websites instead of people over the phone. Only one sector, namely investment firms saw customer satisfaction rise in the past 4 years.
Most customers experience a feeling of dread and rarely have high expectations when calling a company for support. Consequently, if the customer is helped and treated with respect during a call, they are much more likely to spread their positive experience to friends and family.
The late Steve Jobs, who built Apple into one of the wealthiest companies in the world is quick to point out that brand equates with trust, which directly impacts customer experience. Jobs elaborates in this 2006 interview:
“Brand equals trust. If we have a good brand, that means people trust us to make great products and to give them a great experience and if something goes wrong, to take care of them. Focus on the basic stuff. We don’t spend a lot of time talking about the brand. We spend a lot of time about making the best products in the world. How to make the best buying experience in the world? How we take care of customers? If we do that, customers will trust us. Companies that worry about their brand instead of worrying about their products maybe don’t get what customers want.”
More often than not, we take for granted the simple and easy ways to make a difference. Answering the phone or calling someone back quickly to listen to their concerns and needs is simple and easy. It really is the perfect opportunity to make someone’s day by spending a few extra minutes with them that puts a smile on their face.