Customer Service in Tough Times

How much do you enjoy hearing an automated answering service say, “Listen carefully as our menu options have changed? Press 1 for . . . .” It’s not once but a series of, “We need a little more information in order to solve your problem.” By the time you have negotiated the automated jungle for fifteen minutes and still have not reached a human, the frustration is at its maximum. If you pressed one key wrong in the process you may have to start over. Heaven forbid if the call is dropped in the automated chain of events.

Authentic, caring and personalized customer service invites rather than repels business. Humanizing your business puts the service back in customer relations and fills a customer satisfaction need.

Automation saves the company money

Does it really? BI (before the internet), a happy customer told three and an unhappy customer told ten. Now with the social media platform, an unhappy customer can tell hundreds with a few keystrokes. It is not a savings if it irritates customers so much that they leave.

Social media can be a positive or a negative. You can humanize your brand by personally responding to customers in a prompt manner. If they wrote telling you that your app is not loading correctly on their smart phone or that your purchase link is broken on your web site, you know the problem and can immediately offer a “work-around” solution while you correct the issue. If instead you issued the canned, “We are sorry for the inconvenience, how can we help you?” response, they immediately know it was a pre-written standard message.

So what can you do?

Personalize your customer service by returning calls, emails and social media communication promptly with a human response rather than a canned reply. Set up an online chat room and staff it more than a few hours a day. Use follow up “how did we do?” emails or surveys; they can be as short as two or three questions. Even better, make a telephone call to inquire about their experience.

Show customer appreciation by sending a note card. Even two lines on a handwritten card can make or break a relationship. Thanking someone is good but thanking immediately is double the positive impact. Thank them even if their comment was not positive. The fact that you cared enough to send a note will do wonders to bring them back into the fold. If the conversation is agitated, take it offline to work through the details and find a solution.

In Tough Economic Times, Tensions Rise

This can be one of the most challenging customer service issues. Customers who always paid on time are now running late and customers who had a record of paying late may not be paying at all.

Customer service will shine or crash in challenging economic times. Customers are naturally more edgy when the bottom line goes red instead of black. Sometimes they are looking for someone to blame, anyone except themselves.

Reach out to them with a helping hand. Call with the genuine motivation of asking how they are doing. Be willing to extend caring without attempting to sell or collect any past due amounts. Starting a conversation with “How much can you pay?” will be a conversation stopper. Create more of a business partner than a supplier/purchaser relationship. If they say they need to bring in more business, offer low cost ideas which will truly help. has the freedownloadable design templates for postcards and brochures. These templates will allow them to create their own designs and receive professional results without the professional creation price.

Suggest mailing to the customer lists already in their database rather than purchasing new lists. Hand distributing brochures to local businesses and existing customers would increase their customer connection and keep costs to a minimum.

Caring customer service can cement the relationship and assist them in getting back on their financial feet.