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Customer Service, the Internets Primary Neglected Business Concern


Customer service is everything to a business. Just look at big, successful retail chains: They let you return perfectly good merchandise just because you changed your mind. Is that insane? Yes, pretty much, but it's also good customer service, and it's a good investment, and the "secret" of success, for a lot of big companies.

Let's turn to the Internet. I find that the vast majority of companies selling things on the Net can't be contacted at all. Not presale, postsale, or anywhere in between. The only time they talk to you is if you get really angry and start complaining. Everyone else is apparently seen by customer service, but ignored.

Even if you're using an autoresponder to handle 99% of your customers automatically, the least you can do is try to personalize the messages based on whatever meager information they've given you. While I'm at it, what's wrong with allowing people to contact you on the phone if they're getting frustrated? Does this increase or decrease the chances that a person will develop a vendetta against you and your company? I think the answer is obvious.

Most Internet companies simply do not offer personalized service. It might sound like a contradiction, but I believe in both automation and service. Some people want to call someone on the phone before they sign up for anything online. Customers beware: The biggest, most respectable companies on the Internet are even harder to talk to than your phone company. Small scam-based companies are extremely likely to have a toll-free number.

Sole proprietors like me don't want to get phone calls all the time, so I don't show you my phone number. Of course I have a phone number that you can call, but you have to commit a little bit of effort to get it. First, send me an email with your question or complaint, and explain why it would be easier to talk to me on the phone about it. Give me your number and I'll call you. If you're afraid to give me your number, ask me for mine and I'll probably give it to you, if you don't sound like a crazy person. You can also talk to me on AOL Instant Messenger, which is a free download with only a little bit of adware/spyware. (I hate AOL in general, but AIM is less of a spam magnet than ICQ.) Just get my contact info from the little "contact" link on this page.

I mentioned that you can make autoresponder messages personal; In fact, personal enough that some people think you're sitting there typing them in and hitting the "send" button. This can only be done by acquiring extra information from the customer. The type of information depends on what your mailing list is about. In the case of my mailing list, this information mainly involves Internet, business, and general computer experience.

If you're currently on my mailing list and don't remember giving me this information, perhaps I obtained it subtly or just haven't asked you for it yet. I know it might sound scammy, but this truly is the best way to take care of the needs of the customer with the limited amount of time available to a small Internet business.

Let's think about it from another angle. My phone company is making tons of money from me, and It takes me an hour to get on the phone with them. They have a nice Web site to take care of most of my concerns, so they don't have to hire as many customer service reps. This is a win/win for everyone, except that this same phone company fires so many reps that my phone experience returns to normal, i.e. unacceptable.

Compare this to someone like me. I work alone, and I don't have a long queue of phone calls at any given moment. I get a lot of emails, most of which are spam, but I know how to handle that. When I get an email from someone who is actually interested in Online Honesty, I'm pretty excited, and I make it my #1 priority to solve whatever problem this person has, even if they're not remotely interested in buying anything from me. I might be on vacation or something, so I might not be reachable by phone for a week. I can, however, read my email several times a day no matter where I am.

It's a matter of respect. I try to respect people, no matter who they are (sometimes unsuccessfully, but I try). If they just want advice, I'll do it for free. Give people respect, and they respect you in return. You don't have to buy anything from me. Just tell your friends, if they're looking to do business online, that I seem like an honest person and I know certain things about business and the Internet. That's all I ask.

I recently heard the term "karmic marketing". I guess that's what I've been trying to do: Make people happy first, then worry about money later. This is possibly the safest kind of marketing in terms of legality, though probably not the best way to make fast money. This is the kind of tradeoff we all have to make.

Mike Jolley is a longtime programmer and writer who recently turned to Internet marketing and publishing full time. Find lots of related articles at OnlineHonesty.com.


MORE RESOURCES:

Customer Service - Google News

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Busse: The intersection of customer service and social media - Long Island Business News


Long Island Business News

Busse: The intersection of customer service and social media
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randi-busse If you're a regular social media user, you're probably familiar with people using these channels to make complaints, praise companies, start a discussion, or indulge in a mud-slinging match. Online social media communications have changed ...

55% Of Consumers Welcome Customer Service Chatbots - Retail TouchPoints


55% Of Consumers Welcome Customer Service Chatbots
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Chatbots — AI applications that simulate human conversation — are becoming more pervasive in online and mobile customer service, and acceptance of them is growing: 55% of American consumers, and 65% of Millennials, report that they want chatbots ...

Joseph E. Huerta: Not pleased with Comcast's customer service - Longmont Times-Call


Joseph E. Huerta: Not pleased with Comcast's customer service
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I continued to view charges on page 3, listing "Your new charges" in detail — bundle, additional services and equipment, and then the red flag, "other charges and credits," including a broadcast TV fee (paid in TV starter) and regional sports fee (no ...

Exceptional Customer Service And Low Cost Are Not Mutually Exclusive -- Here's How To Achieve Both - Forbes


Forbes

Exceptional Customer Service And Low Cost Are Not Mutually Exclusive -- Here's How To Achieve Both
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Singapore Airlines (SIA) cabin crew undergo some of the most rigorous service training in the industry, instilling a business culture that is exceptionally customer-centric. As a result, it is regularly voted one of the best airlines in the world. Yet ...

These Two Customer Service Formulas Can Improve Employee Performance By 100% - Forbes


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These Two Customer Service Formulas Can Improve Employee Performance By 100%
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Even the most engaged, best-intentioned employees (and their managers) can benefit from knowing a couple essential expert formulas that will improve their customer service performance day in and day out. Today I'll share two rules of thumb how to ...

MTA, union deal will create hundreds of new 'customer service ... - New York Post

Seven Customer Service Practices That Will Help You Win Over Clients - Forbes


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Seven Customer Service Practices That Will Help You Win Over Clients
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Back in the mid-90s when Amazon was first starting, I felt that Amazon gave me the best customer service and best customer experience. Instead of jumping around different websites, I had everything in one portal. In Amazon I found a company that gave ...

Why is Customer Service in Asia so Terrible? - Forbes - Forbes


Why is Customer Service in Asia so Terrible? - Forbes
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Asia's service sector is booming. This article takes a closer look at how this lucrative sector is developing. Don't miss out on the investment opportunities that are ...

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Telefonica suspends customer service operations in Guatemala after killings - Reuters


Telefonica suspends customer service operations in Guatemala after killings
Reuters
GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - The Guatemalan unit of telecommunications firm Telefonica SA suspended its customer service operations and closed its shops over the weekend after three of its employees were shot to death in the Central American nation.

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