The Rewards of Customer Service

Customer Service is that ephemeral quality about a business that is tough to define in words, but crystal clear in experience. We know when we’ve been treated properly, our concerns or issues taken seriously, and our business appreciated. We also know when we’ve been discarded, disrespected and dismissed. It’s no secret that Good Customer Service is something every company should provide. But many choose not to, and their reasons range across the map. So I thought I’d perhaps convince a few of them to reconsider their decision based on my own recent experience.

This time that experience comes from the Seller / Merchant side of things, not from the usual “Customer Perspective”. Confused? Read on …

When I Get An Instant Message

Customer Service begins when a current (or future) Customer contacts you. Whether they drop you a Notecard (ugh! do people still do that?), send you an Instant Message, file a Support Ticket .. or however they reach out, the way you respond sets the stage for the conversations to follow. Perhaps contrary to the sentiments of many (including myself from time to time) the tone and success of the interaction is entirely within your control. What you do and how you do it can virtually guarantee a certain outcome, negative or positive.

During my “Professional Years” working for others, I gravitated toward those positions with a lot of customer-facing duties. I loved working with the Customer (and their staff) to resolve issues. I thrived on the feeling that my “Rep” was solid with “My People”. And I use those words deliberately because I often approached things from the perspective of being a member of the Customer’s team and not my employer’s. (Gasp! You Traitor!)

Perspectives and Decisions

Adopting the Customer Perspective really can help you reach success faster and with less grief. Many will argue, and perhaps rightfully so, that it is also more expensive in both time and money. In the short-term I would have to agree that it does cost more to be “Super Nice”. But I would also point out that the “short-term” is not how I view my business. Putting myself back in the Merchant Perspective, I can see that giving a little bit today may … MAY … yield benefits sometime later.

This is where the decision occurs. The decision to respond in a specific way, with a specific tone of voice … with an outcome already in mind. Staying in the Merchant Perspective but only thinking in the short-term often leads to a tendency to rush things along or push the Customer into a solution that doesn’t really meet their needs. Focusing on the long-term though, that will take a bit more time and might cost you some money, but it almost always has positive results in real times of need.

A Personal Example

But how do we know? How can we actually believe without any reservation that being “Super Nice” has real benefits? And how can we do that without having to wade through stacks of boring statistical charts and spreadsheets? For me, that knowledge comes from personal experience. In particular to this post, a set of experiences that I just recently encountered. (I promise, I’m not turning this into a product plug piece.)

Just recently I turned out a big update release for one of my major products. A central component of that update requires that My People take big chunks of their time, buzzing around the SL Grid and doing low-level editing stuff to 100’s of devices. When it comes to major Ugh! duties .. it’s one of the ughiest.

I happen to be one of the battle-scarred veterans of the Marketplace Wars that began way back when XStreet was sold to Linden Lab. I’ve seen the anger among the Merchants of SL when it comes to having Ugh! duties forced on them. I have screamed (in print) along with those others, frustrated at being forced into performing mind-numbing tasks that demand big chunks of my time. I am particularly sensitive to forcing similar duties on anyone else. That is why I was prepared for a lot of push-back from my Customers over the update.

And then it didn’t happen …

Positive Benefits

My Customers responded with rapidity, jumping immediately in to applying the update. They contacted me with legitimate questions or asking for clarification on points that were a bit fuzzy. But not a one of them hurled any invective or even slightly angry words. Even when there were “bumps” in the process, their opening tone and their level of intensity(?) was delightful and very productive. Issues got worked out fast … and I didn’t need my fireproof pants.

What Is Profit?

Since businesses run on money, and money is at the center of most decisions, we tend to think of money as the sole unit by which to measure Profit. But as the sole owner of a very small but happily operating Virtual Business, I also like to think of Profit as something I gained that was more than I would have had otherwise. I measure Profit not so much in the number of Linden Dollars littering my account, but in the products I’ve delivered to happy Customers, the issues that I have resolved and the time I have saved myself and my Customers. I measure my Profit using a bigger scale. On that scale, I have no trouble directly connecting my method of Customer Service with a higher Profit. (Any my ulcer agrees!)

Why Are YOU in Business?

This is perhaps the most important question you need to answer. For me the answer is … Profit. I want to get to the end of each day with a little bit more than I started with. How I measure the “more” is the secret to my success. (Although as secrets go, it’s not very well kept.) If you think likewise, if you can and do measure your Profit in terms much larger than simple money transactions then it would also be in your best interest to provide the best, most effective Customer Service you can.

But if you prefer instead to measure Profit in terms of the cash flowing your way? Well, that’s a choice you make on your own. More power to ya’.

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