Founder of Nicsocks.com. Co-founder of Motribe & Resolve Mobile. African mobile specialist.
I am baffled by bad service when I come into contact with it. I’ve dealt with good customers, bad customers, great businesses, horrible service, amazing products and almost everything inbetween and one thing remains consistent; if you provide great customer service the customer will most often leave happy.
Good service is something so simple that everyone can provide for free to make their customers feel important. Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos famously said, ”We’re a service company that just happens to sell shoes.” This is a simple statement that can apply to absolutely every business, just replace “shoes” with whatever you do. ”We’re a service company that just happens to sell pancakes”, ”We’re a service company that just happens to sell hot air balloons,” you get the point.
Customer service is something that I think I managed to mishandle at my previous company, Motribe. We often felt that our technology was so good that the problems being reported by paying customers was never ours. If the client or user didn’t use the platform the way we intended or if they had some feedback or a complaint that it was their fault and not ours.
Our technology was untouchable. In fact, many entrepreneurs believe that they are so smart, their tech is so good and their product is so game-changing that the problem is never theirs. If we all just shut our pie holes and listen to the customer we’d receive amazing insight into the user experience and be able to make the product better.
In technology startups it’s difficult to separate the tech from the product, the creator from the product and the user experience of the product. Ultimately the tech is the product and that’s something quite personal which leads to a lot of difficult conversations about the tech, the product and the customer.
With NicSocks I simply sell socks so it’s easier for me to hear feedback like: The stitching inside the sock hurts my feet. Because it probably does hurt that guys foot. I learned to disassociate myself from the product and the problem being reported.
When you sell socks the product is the sock, the website (tech) is merely the medium used to sell the socks. If the website (tech) is broken then it’s preventing people from buying more socks so it needs to be rectified immediately.
I would often descend into a rage behind closed doors about a difficult client or account manager from a customer at Motribe. This left customers more frustrated than me because that can always sense your frustration. It also meant that customers began to loath the technology we were peddling and look for more problems and take pleasure in reporting those problems.
This attitude quickly trickled down into my team who began to dislike these clients too. That’s tantamount to saying that didn’t like money because if you dislike the client you dislike their business and their money. The scariest thing was that there was no real reason to dislike them. We just had to listen more.
I don’t believe in the old saying that the customer is always right. People can suck and be blatantly wrong and there will come a time in every business where you’ll need to be harsh with a client or fire a customer. But that is a desperate and last measure. Most of the time simply being nice to the person and extremely attentive will solve the problem at hand.
NicSocks is a very lean startup started on a shoestring budget with the kind assistance of some of the best web designers in the business using WordPress. This small budget meant that technical issues were bound to pop up and we’ve had our fair share already. WordPress also comes loaded with it’s fair share of issues.
I’ve had payment systems not work, registration break, I’ve had users email me about usernames being incorrect and emails not being received and I’ve had a lot of customer feedback in the 3 months I’ve been selling socks. However one thing remains consistent, I haven’t lost a customer to bad or broken technology.
I have fought for every customer and salvaged every single complaint and turned them into a sale. How? I do whatever it takes.
At one point I sent one pair of socks up to a customer using express delivery couriers and made an R80 loss on that pair of socks. But, I now have a dedicated customer who will (and has) returned to buy more socks.
In today’s disconnected and removed world of emails and text messages, spam and reminders it’s easy to forget that a simple phone call or one nice email response in a timely fashion can win an irritated customer over. Remember that next time you’re about to explode – One nice email.
Great technology and world changing innovations can only be built by a select few but amazing companies with great customer service can be built by anyone.