I can recall a time when customer service meant a smiling individual who looked you in the eye and attentively listened to the issues you were having and went the “extra mile” to help you out. Today, in our highly transactional economy, it is funny to imagine ever dealing with such an individual and the whole concept seems anachronistic.
More and more industries have continued to drive towards self-serve solutions as the price of labor, skilled or otherwise, continues to rise. Retailers, such as Home Depot and Target, have added self-checkout, you can expect this trend to spread. Once driverless cars become ubiquitous we will even lose the (hopefully) friendly conversation with our taxi or Uber drivers. Rating your robot driver on, “Above and Beyond” or “Great Conversation” seems silly.
This doesn’t mean that good customer service is dead, only that it is now both highly targeted and often not face-to-face. This, of course, holds true for bad customer service as well. We only need to look at the somewhat recent fiasco with Comcast, or United Airlines, etc., etc.
I bring all of this up, as I recently had a couple of very interesting examples of the wide variability of customer service experiences and how it can dramatically impact our view of a service/product, as well as our future actions towards or away from such a business. Let’s look at one recent example that happened to me.
Over the last year, I have bought a number of socks from Bombas as I liked their mission and product. Overall I have been very happy with my new foot coverings and even told a couple of friends they should get some of their own. Recently though, one pair had developed a small hole in the toe, which surprised me since I had not owned them that long. I kept meaning to email Bombas, but because of my expected (negative experience) around customer service, I was hesitant to do so, fearing I would be more frustrated than happy, which is kind of the opposite of what one would want. After a while, a second pair developed a small hole and I decided my frustration with defective socks exceeded my fear of bad customer service. Prepping for frustration and incompetence I muttered to myself, “let’s do this”
In our modern era of visual digital communications, I pulled out my phone, took two pictures of my defective socks on my feet and emailed them off to customer service fully expecting my message to then be lost in the ether of futile communications and that I would be taunted by an automatic response of, “we got your message and we will get right on that for you”, never to be heard from again. In less than a minute after I sent my message, I was proven totally right! I indeed got the email I expected.
At the bottom of their email, I read saw this little gem, and thought, “yeah right”
Then something totally unexpected happened. I got another message. This one literally four mins later and from Caroline Sweeney.
After shaking my head in disbelief I got right back to her with my selections and she responded in kind. Literally in less time than it took me to finish drinking my coffee she had a tracking number sent to me. Mind. Fucking. Blown.
Now here is the interesting part. I went from being happy about my previous sock purchases to telling everyone and their mother about how awesome Bombas is and how everyone should get their socks from them. When my new socks came in, hell, I think they even felt cozier than the previous pairs. It is like my amazing customer service experience literally made the physical product better. That is the power of good customer service.
This is my ultimate point, it doesn’t matter what your business is - if you want to create fans, not just customers, what Kevin Kelly calls a thousand true fans, you need to find your own specific solution to your customer service challenges. For me and my industry of video games, it is a mixture of solutions, from working closely with hardcore fans to help shape future products, to fixing the frustration of your highest monetizing customers while they are potentially screaming at you.
The good news is that your opportunity to be highly successful is only limited by your willingness to put forth the effort. You have so many tools available to you, from robust data about user spend, retention, usage, churn probability, and even social graph, you can be highly targeted in your efforts and calculate ROI for your action. And remember, never underestimate the power a great customer experience can have on someone, it can have long-lasting results, including getting fans to write long blog posts about it.
In the end, there was only one way I could respond after filling out a very positive customer feedback survey. I sent Caroline the only message that summed up my experience: