When running an online business, the temptation to put customer service on cruise control can be incredibly strong – and frankly, this is understandable. Since you don’t have to deal with dissatisfied and disgruntled patrons face-to-face, there doesn’t seem to be any real incentive to go above and beyond in the customer service department. Separated by many walls and many miles, it’s easy to regard unhappy customers as a veritable non-entity. However, despite the general decline in person-to-person interaction, good customer service has become more important than ever.
Word of Mouth on a New Scale
Before the Internet reigned supreme, it was easy for businesses to get away with mistreating patrons, provided they didn’t do it with alarming regularity. Customers who felt they’d been wronged would generally complain to assorted friends, neighbors and family members, but this seldom had any lasting effect on the offending establishments. After all, even a social butterfly’s inner circle was small potatoes when compared to an entire city or township full of consumers. However, with the advent of the Worldwide Web, the game changed considerably. Consumer review sites like Yelp make it easy for unhappy customers to make their grievances known to millions of people across the Web. According to SF Gate, some businesses directly attribute their closings to scathing reviews posted on Yelp. Additionally, social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have proved instrumental in taking down unscrupulous businesses. The more shares and retweets a negative remark about your business receives, the more your profits will impacted in the long term.
Being Prompt and Courteous
To prevent your online business from falling victim to a poor Yelp review or social media onslaught, you’ll need to enact the foremost tenets of good customer service: speed and politeness. When a customer has a query or concern that needs to be addressed, she doesn’t want to wait days, or even weeks, for a response. With this in mind, make a point of answering all customer correspondences within 24 hours of receiving them. This will show your patrons that you care about their grievances and want to work with them in finding a suitable solution. Furthermore, be as courteous as possible when dealing with unhappy customers. Adopting a smug or condescending tone is practically guaranteed to earn your business unfavorable reviews.
Swallowing Your Pride
When dealing with disgruntled customers, don’t allow your pride to get the best of you. As anyone who’s worked in customer service can confirm, the customer is not always right. Certain consumers have a habit of making unreasonable demands of businesses and blowing minor grievances out of proportion. However, in many cases, it’s best to swallow your pride and give these people what they want. Even if your business ultimately has to take a small loss, appeasement will reduce their likelihood of posting negative reviews around the Web.
According to Forbes’ Kyle Wong, all online enterprises, particularly startups, need to prioritize customer service. Just because customers can’t voice their grievances in person doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Ignoring customer queries and complaints on the grounds that the offended parties can’t see you can have disastrous effects on your business.