Providing exceptional customer service can be tricky. The easiest way to deal with difficult customer inquiries is to keep the customer in the dark until you have a satisfactory resolution. That way, this individual won't have any idea that something has gone wrong, and you can save face.
Unfortunately, this strategy is counterproductive. Customers appreciate when businesses are up front with them. They’ll have a better idea of what’s really going on, and can manage their expectations appropriately. By giving customers a brief glimpse of your flaws, you’ll actually show them exactly how much you care. At the same time, you'll also give them reason to trust your brand.
Beyond that, it is a business’ responsibility to be honest with customers. In his groundbreaking book Good Profit, Charles Koch wrote: “The role of business is to provide products and services that make people's lives better -- while using fewer resources -- and to act lawfully and with integrity.”
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If you're not being honest with our customer service, you're not acting with integrity and will fail to create long-term value for your customers, employees and society.
Below are the true benefits of honest customer service policies and a few noteworthy examples.
The benefits of honest customer service policies
Besides simply being the right thing to do, providing exceptional, honest customer service has benefits: First, it generates trust with your customers, who will come to expect that you'll be able to solve any problems they have without any hassle.
And, second, there's the benefit of word of mouth: Word of mouth of your policies will quickly spread, giving you invaluable referrals and brand recognition. It will also improve the morale at your company by building a business environment your employees can be proud of.
Most importantly, honest customer service will improve your bottom line. An investment in client happiness tends to generate greater profits by increasing customer retention and offering customers additional value.
Here are three important examples of businesses getting customer service right:
Zappos is an online shoe retailer that knows how important customer service is. It always goes the extra mile, with next-day shipping on orders made before midnight; help for customers to find out-of-stock items on competitor websites; and no-cost, hassle-free returns. Zappos even ensures that its hands-off customer service is honest via an inventory management system that is accurate 99 percent of the time.
By ingraining customer service in everything it does, Zappos has been able to build itself into a true online juggernaut.
2. L.L. Bean
L.L. Bean manufactures and sells rugged outdoors, travel and camping goods, including clothes, backpacks, footwear, and luggage. It's known for producing quality goods and backs up that reputation with its incredible lifetime guarantee.
While a lifetime guarantee may seem like a gimmick, L.L. Bean takes this very seriously. It will happily return items that are one, five, even 10 years old. Steve Fuller, L.L. Bean’s chief marketing officer, has said he believes this is a huge advantage.
In response to an inquiry about a reporter’s colleague who repeatedly returned a backpack, Fuller responded: “How many times has your colleague talked about the fact that she's returned that backpack, and L.L. Bean gave her a new one without question? That's really the value of the guarantee."
When we first started Amerisleep, a provider of luxury mattresses, the biggest issue we faced was overcoming the hurdle of selling mattresses online. Showroom mattresses allow you to test a mattress' comfort for several minutes, but a website doesn’t allow you to try it at all.
We decided to turn this obstacle into opportunity. So, to ensure that customers find a mattress that works for them, we offer a 100-day sleep trial. In the rare instance that a customer hasn’t found the perfect bed, we have partnered with local charities to donate any returned mattresses and help those in need.
We also take customer satisfaction a step further by including a 20-year warranty with any mattress our shoppers purchase. Combining this with a lengthy trial, Amerisleep ensures that every customer is satisfied with his or her purchase.
Providing exceptionally honest customer service requires complete organizational buy-in. You cannot provide honest customer service unless you have support from sales, marketing, operations and more. If you coordinate your efforts and follow the lead of the companies described above, you will thrill your clients and boost your bottom line.