When you think of companies with millions of customers, a good customer experience often isn’t in the cards. For instance, the last time I called my Internet company, they put me on hold for thirty minutes when I just needed to ask a quick question.
Thirty minutes of listening to horrible elevator music for a simple question. Then, the answer I got was convoluted so I wasted another fifteen minutes while they figured it out.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Just because you have millions of customers, your interaction with them doesn’t have to be a bad experience. At 37signals, we have millions of customers, but our support team only has eight people.
How does a small team like ours do it?
With a small team and lots of customers, we have to focus on specific ways of interacting with customers. With an online app like ours, our primary method is email. Email is the perfect medium, because everyone knows how to use email. It’s easy and doesn’t require any complexity on the customer’s end or ours.
Twitter has always proven to be a great avenue to work with customers. Again, its power is in its simplicity. Since there are only 140 characters, it forces both the customer and our team to be really clear on the question and the answer.
Short questions and answers mean we can respond to a customer rapidly. It also gives us a way to update lots of customers at once with news and updates.
We also engage in proactive customer service by offering online classes each week. These are live and include a Q&A portion. The classes give customers a chance to ask questions and to see the answers instantly.
It’s only an hour of our time each week, and our customers love them; plus, it gives us another channel for connecting with them.
When customers contact me, it’s usually because something is broken. Often they’re frustrated. When this happens, I have to be as clear as possible in my response to them.
When you are frustrated, complexity and confusion are the last things that you need. You need an experience that is going to be clear, concise, and fast.
That means my response to the customer focuses on short sentences. Here’s what happened. Here’s how I fixed it. Everything is in simple, easy to understand language without any tech lingo.
For me, the other part of clarity is conciseness. Our customers are busy, and I don’t want to tie them up any longer than necessary. That means my emails are short. I don’t write lengthy novels and include information they don’t need. I focus on communicating with them in the shortest time period possible.
Now, this doesn’t mean I rush a customer. I’m with them for as long as they need me to be. But when I do an online class, I keep to the scheduled thirty minutes. A customer’s time is a valuable resource that I’m not going to waste.
No one likes waiting for help. From waiting in line at the DMV to waiting on the phone, I hate waiting, especially when something is wrong. Adam has talked before about a customer response time.
For us, our goal is five minutes from the time they send us an email. Five minutes is a long time when you need help. Five minutes is an eternity when you’re stuck on hold with elevator music.
There is an old phrase that goes “Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.” Working with customers online is similar. If you communicate clearly, you’ll be concise. And if you’re concise, you’ll be fast.
You already know that there is no magic formula that you can plug variables into and automatically create a great customer experience. But these two concepts are good places to start.
Let your customers know the specific channels they can reach you through. Then focus on making your responses through those channels clear, concise, and fast.
That’s how we do it, and it can work for your team too.
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