As a startup, you’re naturally going to be strapped for resources, and customer service may take a backseat to some of your business’s more “critical” operations. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Here at totallee, we know the growing pains of a nascent business all too well. We aren’t experts per se, but we do make a concerted effort to go the extra mile and provide the highest quality customer service possible. Below we’ve put together a handful of pieces of advice and personal examples of what we’ve done to keep our customers happy over the past three years we’ve been in business.
Stand Behind Your Product
Take pride in what you’re selling. If you don’t like your product, chances are your customers won’t either, and dealing with their questions/comments is going to be like pulling teeth (unless you’re a dentist, in which case… sorry?). Offering your customers a quality product is 90% of the battle.
How totallee does it: We are so convinced that customers will love our cases that we back them with a 2-year, no-questions-asked warranty. On the off-chance someone dislikes our product or orders the wrong size, we either issue a full refund or send a replacement case pronto.
Make Promises and Keep Them
Since you care about providing quality customer service (that’s why you’re reading this), go ahead and let your customers know upfront that your goal is to be of service to them. Let them know you intend to ship their product on time, to answer any questions they may have, to refund their item if it isn’t what they expected, etc. But! Make absolutely certain you can deliver on whatever you promise. In fact, if you can leave yourself a little leeway to over-deliver on your promises, that’s even better.
How totallee does it: We promise to ship all orders within one business day. We pack our orders and drop them off at the post office every single day. Sometimes we upgrade our customers to expedited shipping for free--just because.
Embrace Your Limitations
Every startup is unique and has its own limitations; embrace them! Maybe you have one dedicated customer service rep answering calls and returning emails, maybe it’s just you--or perhaps you have your whole team providing customer service à la carte. Don’t see these quirks as limitations; see them as an asset. You can provide personalized customer service through one-on-one, direct human interaction. You won’t mindlessly transfer people into interminable black holes of holding tones, or send auto-response emails that regurgitate cliche phrases and provide little-to-no information.
How totallee does it: As a small business, not all of our team members are able to handle our customers needs. Enter Johanna, our customer service wizard. She makes it his personal duty to carefully listen and treat each person like a human being, and respond to any inquiries as quickly as possible. We understand each customer is unique and equally important to our success as a business and deserves quality service from someone who cares. Exceptional customer service needs to come from the right place--intentions matter.
Create A Memorable Experience
Just like your product, packaging, website, and anything else you create, customer service is part of an overall experience. The customer-service experience shouldn’t be over after you’ve picked up the phone and answered your customer’s questions. You need to create a memorable experience--personalize, connect, engage with your customers. Making a heartfelt effort connects with customers on a deeper emotional level.
How totallee does it: This is a big one for us. To make sure our customer’s experience is as trouble-free as possible we inspect each case before shipping and include a hand-signed, 2-year warranty card. We even go a step further and do some delightfully unconventional things. Last year for Christmas we sent out thank-you cards and chocolate iPhones to past customers (we hand poured the chocolate in our office). And to celebrate the beginning of spring, we sent out iPhone spring cleaning kits for free.
Learn From The Grown-Ups
Bad artists copy; good artists steal. If you see another company doing something interesting or effective, go do the same--or give it a unique twist. Check out the poster child for customer service, Zappo’s, and the things they do. They’re known for their small, unexpected pleasant gestures for customers (google: Zappo’s flower story). Suggested reading: “Delivering Happiness,” by Tony Hsieh, and “Raving Fans,” by Ken Blanchard.
How totallee does it: We’ve definitely taken a page or two out of the Zappo’s playbook. For example, one time a customer called because he had ordered the wrong-sized iPhone case; he’d missed the 2 year warranty window because he was too busy with his newborn. We immediately sent him a free replacement case and even included a postcard, signed by every team member to celebrate the new addition to his family.
Hire Great People
In the beginning you’ll probably be doing most, if not all, of the customer service yourself. That’s OK, it’s what’s expected of a startup owner. At some point during your growth, however, you’ll be too overwhelmed with the million other things you have to do that you’ll need someone else to take over. The key is to find a person who enjoys communicating with others, someone who’s preferably lively, outgoing, and who has just as much of an ability to listen as talk. Let your whole team (even those not in customer service) know that keeping your customers happy is a top priority.
How totallee does it: For the first two-and-a-half years totallee’s founder, Matt, answered every email, call, voice message, piece of mail, and carrier pigeon that flew through his office window. It was exhausting, but he was happy to do it. Now Johanna runs the show and does it even better. We have a wall of printed out feedback for all the compliments Johanna has received for his work. “There’s no script for talking to customers,” Johanna explains. “I like to think of it as one human being having a conversation with another.”
No one said customer service was easy. It takes effort and requires constant care. It’s not one of those set-it-and-forget it things. But having pleased customers is something you can’t put a price on. Customer service has become part of our company culture; it pervades everything we do, from the care we take in packaging our products to the phone calls we answer. If you have any questions about the things we do, email us anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org, and feel free to leave any comments and feedback below.