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Customer Service Sucks, But it Doesn’t Have to..

August 6th, 2009 : · 5 Comments ·

Let’s look at a couple things that are as certain as death tself.

If you sell a product online, specifically one that you own, you’re going to have to deal with customer support issues.

I don’t care how great your product, how good the materials you’ve provided your customers ahead of time, you’re going to get a lot of support issues. That is a fact.

You’re also going to have customers who want refunds, again, it doesn’t matter how good your product. It is just a fact of life of doing business online.

You’re also starting the game with 2 strikes against you.

What do I mean?

Well how often do you get a refund request from a customer who is threatening to open a dispute, file  a charge back, report you to the Better Business Bureau, etc, and you’ve never even had a single email exchange with this person?

While these certainly don’t make up a majority of refund requests you will receive, I’m pretty certain that everyone that sells anything online has received more than a handful of requests that more or less follow that pattern.

It’s human nature for us to just blow this person off as a nut job, maybe a few are, but let’s look at this a bit deeper, and look at it in a way that each of us can relate to.

The bottom line is, customer service and support online and off has become so GD AWFUL that it’s what people have come to expect.

People have been pre conditioned to expect the worst, becuuse that is exactly what their experiences have likely been. They’re not ticked off with you, but have probably been screwed over so many times before that they just assume that’s the way things work.

Sure, there are businesses both online and off that still deliver, but the burden is now on the business to prove that they actually give a damn about the customer. Unfortunately, most don’t.

It has come pretty much full circle. Probably as recently as 25 years ago, you just accepted that companies and businesses would stand behind their products and services. Now most people just assume they are on their own when they make a purchase because the ugly truth is, in most cases you are.

We see it everyday, from dealing with airlines, to just walking into a department store and trying to get someone to wait on you or find someone who has even the slightest clue about what they are supposed to be selling.

Here’s a question?

Which side are you on?

Look yourself in the mirror and ask yourself if you would be happy with YOUR own customer service?

In the online world there’s a really simple way to answer this.

How long do you make your customers wait before replying to their inquiries?  After all, most of our support inquiries come via email.

If your answer is not at the very least same day, or a lot faster, you’ve got a problem you need to resolve.

The fact that customer service across the board is more or less worthless, means this is one area where almost anyone can stand out in a crowd quite easily.

When I started in the SEO business in 1996, virtually all of my customers came to me via word of mouth.

But here’s something that might surprise you. It wasn’t my paying customers that sent me most of my new customers. Nope, it was the people who I turned away.

How’s that?

My phone rang a lot, and in the early days of SEO, let’s say pre 2000, a lot of folks were getting ripped off big time by SEO companies. Most people had no clue what they were doing online, especially when it came to search engine marketing. I can’t tell you how many people that called me had already spoken to other companies who had given them quotes of absolutely outrageous prices (at the time) for services these people didn’t need.

I’d do a bit of research based on the info the caller gave me and I’d often discover that many of these folks were doing just fine on their own, they had no clue why, but they were already in many cases, ranking very well for the exact terms others wanted to charge them thousands for.

A lot of these people I just sent away telling them to save their money and use it elsewhere, that they didn’t need to spend it with me or any other SEO service, some ended up doing a 1 hour consultation just to get a better grip on the basics of what they were doing right.

The ones who I turned away, are the people that sent me the most customers over 8 years. Many sent me a LOT of customers. I had built up a level of trust with these people.

What percentage of online business do you really think have built up a level of trust with their customers?

Not many, and you know what, it really doesn’t have that much to do with whether your product is a great one, an average one, or one that really stinks, it’s how you respond to your customers when they have concerns.

Customer support is something that you have 100% TOTAL control over. Do it right and you build trust. Mess it up and you likely won’t be doing this 10 years from now.

If you are selling online, you are running a business, I don’t care what size or what volume you do, you’re running a business. Treat it like one, and remember who pays the bills. It’s those people sending you the emails.

What are your thoughts on customer service??

- Dave -

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5 Comments so far ↓

  • Mike

    Dave, I couldn’t agree more. As a matter of fact, you’ve responded to every one of my questions (and I’ve emailed you a lot!) since the launch of linkubaitor and it’s because of your impecable quick reponses that I’m with you on your latest projects..ie linkumate, profit loophole and soon to be linkvana. Going the extra mile also shows that your subscribers or clients matter to you and in our current online user experiences, trust leads to ’subject authority’ and in my opinion those two elements are critial for online success. Keep it up Dave!

  • richard

    Dave,
    We would like to implement automated support (like a virtual agent) to deal with FAQ’s and pass the rest onto us?
    Could you recommend a good product for that?

  • admin

    Richard, I can’t think of any products off the top of my head that can do this but if I were you, I’d post this as a job on one of the freelancer boards and get a coder to build you your own platform, it would probably be a lot more cost effective over time and something you could then market to others, and it would have all the features you need, not ones others think you need.

    - Dave -

  • Denny

    Hey Dave, glad to see you blogging. You have lots of great insights and I think it is important that guys like you are out here with a positive productive message.

    The so called marketing gurus have taken over the internet and pumping all kinds of non-sense out there. We need to win it back with solid business practices and usable advice for real online business owners.

    Having a venue for all of us to discuss trends, topics and strategies that isn’t some adolescent fueled forum will be nice and very productive especially if other like minded people join the conversation and take action with what they learn here.

    I plan on being a big supporter of your blog and a few others like it that I’ve found. I recently got my own blog back up and running and am having some fun with it. Still trying to find a direction for it, but for now I’m just kinda speaking my mind to all three of my readers (thanks mom and dad!)

    As for service, you set the bar for me. In the past 8 months that we have been doing business together you have been great about promptly answering my questions with real answers, no BS. I really appreciate your style and have mentioned you in example to a few people I associate with. You’re a class act!

    This is my first comment on your blog, so I’d also like to publicly say thanks for making me over $20,000 with just your loophole stuff this year (not bad for an initial investment of under $300) and realizing we could be doing a bit more with our loophole project we just expanded it again last month in preparation for the fall shopping season. I think I may owe you that trip to vegas soon!

    Thanks again Dave, and best of luck with the new blog!

    den

  • John

    Hi Dave,

    What you posted was a real meat and potatoes chunk of wisdom. Your posts bring together so many other ideas into what otherwise would be something tough to understand. Kind of like pulling many pearls of wisdom onto 1 string.

    As others have commented. I’ve also received blazing quick answers when I was stumped.
    Thanks…

    I’m looking forward to frequenting this blog
    and ramping up my learning curve.

    Thanks again

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