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Are you delivering the best customer service you can?
Customer service and moments of truth
Running your own business can be very empowering; you provide great products and services to your customers, help to ensure they get what they want and that their experiences leave them satisfied.
Trust is very important to the ongoing success of your business, and part of that trust comes from dealing with customer problems in a clear and effective way. Used correctly, customer problems can actually be a benefit to your business, allowing you to improve customer satisfaction.
There are several steps that you can take right now to streamline and improve your customer service processes, provide the right information to your audience and ensure that any 'moments of truth' they have with your small business leave them wanting to deal with you again in future.
In this series of articles we'll explore exactly what you can do do increase customer satisfaction, help your customers and ultimately protect the long term success of your products and services.
In this first of two articles, we'll cover:
- Moments of Truth and why they matter
- How you can turn customer problems into benefits
- Providing reliable, tested, clearly documented products and services
- Discussing Self Diagnosis – How does it help your customers?
- Making it easy to contact your small business
Benefits to you and your business:
- Learning about the critical points where a customer makes a decision about your business
- Finding out the key things you can do right now to improve customer experience
- Understanding how to provide clear documentation
- Discovering why self-diagnosis tools are vital
‘Moments of Truth’ and why they matter
There’s plenty of evidence that customer service and support is becoming a key reason that customers choose to spend their money with a particular business. Estimates of how many people a dissatisfied customer will tell about their bad experience do vary, but it’s certain in our connected world that they will tell people.
On the other hand, if you treat your customers well, resolve problems quickly and effectively manage expectations, you can build up a solid reputation for quality and reliability, leading to future business success. This is all based on building great ‘Moments of Truth’.
What is a ‘Moment of Truth’?
A ‘moment of truth’ is simply a time that a customer:
- Interacts with your business
- Makes a decision as a result
- Has an emotional reaction of some kind
These moments of truth may occur multiple times, such as:
- Using your website for the first time
- Signing up for a product or service
- Paying for a product or service
- Receiving / using a product or service
Moments of truth are important because they have an emotional impact on your customer, whether that’s of satisfaction, frustration, happiness or anger.
What causes a bad moment of truth?
These typically happen when something goes wrong. Websites don’t function as they should, a product or service fails to live up to standards, something isn’t well explained or a customer’s expectations aren’t met. Bad moments of truth lead to negativity and complaints: they are bad for business.
How can a moment of truth be transformed from bad to good?
Simply put, by making it easy, convenient and fast for a problem to be fixed, whether that’s a customer fixing the issue themselves, getting help directly from your business or through some other means. We’ll cover some of the main ways to do this below.
Why do moments of truth matter?
Because a happy customer, especially one that feels they have had a problem resolved to their satisfaction, can become an advocate for your business. This means that they’ll tell their friends when things go right, recommend your products and services and spread good word of mouth. It’s free marketing, done in the right way.
Why should I focus on problems?
There are lots of guides out there on how to get things right in business and that’s certainly important. However, it’s just as vital to make sure that all of your customers are happy. This means dealing with the problems as well as the plaudits.
How can you turn customer problems into benefits?
Although customer problems can come in a variety of ways, there are lots of practical steps that you can take to prevent issues happening in the first place, provide support and guidance when they do and resolve problems quickly and efficiently. You can accomplish this in several main areas:
- Provide reliable, tested, clearly documented products and services
- Allow customers to self-diagnose problems
- Make it easy for people to contact your business for help
- Fix the problem as quickly and efficiently as you can
- Keep up with communication
- Follow up and learn from the problem
We've summarised this in the illustration below.
The key parts of providing a great customer service experience
Produce high quality products
Create a website support section
Create easy communication routes
Fix the problem quickly & effectively
Test them to find problems
Create a knowledge base & FAQ
Demonstrate empathy & understanding
Follow up with the customer
Create excellent instructions & guides
Create a support forum
Meet your commitments
Learn from the experience
Useful books from Amazon
Providing reliable, tested, clearly documented products and services
The easiest way to resolve customer problems is not to have them in the first place. This involves identifying where potential problems might be and taking steps to resolve them before they impact on your customer. How can you do this?
Test everything yourself first.
Although you may know your product or service well, it’s very important to test it and make sure it performs as a customer would expect it to. Put yourself in a customer’s shoes, think about the questions they might ask or how they might use what you are offering? Will it deliver to their needs? Tweak your product or service so that it doesn’t have the potential to frustrate your customers.
Get external usability testing and feedback.
Get a group of testers to try using your website, products or services. There are lots of places online where you can ask for feedback and testing, from free websites to full-on, detailed (and expensive) analysis of every part of the customer journey. Getting outside users to test what you have is a great way to uncover problems you might not see.
Create very clear instructions and guides on using your products and services.
Next to having a great offering, you need to make sure that all of your instructions, guides and supporting documentation are clear, easy to follow and relevant. If you’re not a professional writer yourself, consider hiring someone to create your documentation. Having good step-by-step guides can see off many potential issues.
Allow your customers to self-diagnose and fix problems.
So, despite your best efforts, your customer has run into problems. It’s likely that the first thing they will do before looking for support from you will be to try to fix the problem themselves. You need to make this as easy as possible for them and the following advice will help.
Ensure your website has a support section.
Have a clearly and easily identified support section on your site; this should contain links to all of your main support tools, troubleshooting guides, knowledge base, forums, support contact details etc.
Provide a knowledge base, FAQ and troubleshooting guides.
People can only self-diagnose if they have the information to do so. You can provide this by having an online knowledge base that has answers to common questions and problems, an FAQ section and other troubleshooting guides that can help your customers get out of troubl
Provide a support forum.
If your products or services are popular and you have quite a few visitors to your site, then a support forum can be a good idea. People there can help one another with common issues and you can monitor it and provide advice to help people self-diagnose.
Make it easy for people to contact your business for help.
If a customer can’t self-diagnose, the next thing they are going to do is come to you for a solution. It’s important that this process is as painless as possible.
Make it obvious for how people can get in touch if they have a problem.
If someone wants a problem sorted out, they will want it to be as quick and easy as possible to contact you. You’ll need to make sure that support email addresses, forms and telephone numbers (if you have them) are easy to find and easy to use.
Let people know that they are welcome to contact you for advice or support.
Because so many of us have experienced bad customer service, we can be reluctant to approach businesses when things go wrong. Make it clear to your customers that you would like them to contact you with any problems and that you will resolve them as quickly as possible. Remember that every problem is significant for the person experiencing it.
Gather the information you need at the first point of contact.
It’s much easier to fix a problem if you have all the relevant information, and customers will find it much less frustrating if you don’t need to go back to them several times for further details. If you use a web-form to gather information about issues, tailor it so that you can gather the specific data that will help you at that first point of contact.
Secrets of exceptional customer service
Once you've got these steps in place, we'll look at what you can do next.
Do you have any suggestions or ideas on; how to provide excellent customer service? If so, please let us know in the comments.
Other useful articles I've written on customer service and feedback
- Customer Service - Fixing Problems, Communicating and Lessons Learned - How fixing problems, communicating and learning from your mistakes can help customers to trust your business
- Customer Relationship Management and Your Small Business - Tracking interactions with customers is essential to business growth. That’s why Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is a vital tool
- How to Get Great Customer Feedback - This practical guide solves the common problem of not getting enough quality feedback from customers
- Google Analytics - Learn how your customers use your site - This powerful tool provides valuable insights, here's a guide to the measures that matter