The importance of good customer service: A tale of 3 bike shops
Have you really thought about your customer service lately?
These days customer service is touted as an “omni channel” undertaking, which means service via phone, email, instant chat, social channels, and smart phones, as well as your physical, brick-and-mortar business.
Good customer service is more important than ever. In fact, 97% of global consumers say that customer service is very important or somewhat important in their choice of and loyalty to a brand, and 44% of U.S. consumers have taken their business to another company due to a poor customer service experience. That means poor customer service could be costing you almost 5 out of 10 of your customers!
I buy a lot of stuff on Amazon. I love the convenience and, because I have Amazon Prime, I can get most of what I want within 2 days with free shipping. Sometimes it even arrives faster, which is good for someone with the need for, if not instant, than at least non-delayed, gratification.
But there are some things I don’t want to buy online (or not until I’ve checked the physical product out first): cars, bras, phones, comic books and computers, for instance. And recently, bicycles.
In my never-ending quest to lose weight, eat better and find an exercise that I actually enjoy, I decided to get a bike. I did research online, decided on a couple of bikes I wanted to look at, then found one on sale at a sports store that was going out of business.
Of course, the buying doesn’t stop at the bike – there’s more, such as the helmet, gloves, bike bags, clips, and cute biking outfits (which aren’t strictly necessary, but I like to adhere to the tenet set forth by Billy Crystal’s Fernando in the SNL Fernando’s Hideaway skit: “It’s better to look good than to feel good.”)
So, over the course of a few days, I had occasion to visit three bike shops, and just like with Goldilocks, three was the magic number.
Shop 1: This one was too big
This was where I bought the bike. It’s a big box store, and even on the best of days, you’re on your own because finding someone who is truly knowledgeable about the product you’re buying, is a crapshoot. After all, there are dozens of sports represented – with thousands of sports-specific products – and only a handful of sales associates on any given day. In this case, the store was going out of business, so sales associates were largely absent and the most direction I got was a reminder that all sales were final.
Shop 2: This one was too small
This was a small independent shop with a very attentive sales associate. A little too attentive. He jumped on us as soon as we arrived.
I like to browse; mainly because at my advanced age, I have to walk around a bit just to remember why I came to the store in the first place. So when I’m accosted immediately upon entering, and pushed to itemize what I need right away, I go into fight-or-flight mode. Or worse, deer-in-headlight mode, which is what happened in this instance. The salesperson pushed a couple of items in my direction – it appeared selection was limited and I wasn’t going to have time to think about that – and, next thing I know, I’m leaving the store with three things. Ok, so my bad for buying impulsively. But after some research I found one of the things I bought was priced at least 50% higher than anywhere else. Not only that, it didn’t fit my bike, and, upon closer inspection, it became obvious that it had been used. So shame on me, but shame on the salesperson for pushing the inferior and overpriced product on me. I was able to return it, but I won’t be returning to that store.
Shop 3: This one was just right
This was a large bike specialty business. I brought my bike there because I got a flat the first day I rode the bike (apparently, the tires weren’t set up correctly, causing a tear in the tube). The young man that I dealt with at the service center took my bike right away, and allowed me to watch as he changed the tire, taking time to explain what he was doing so I could do it myself next time. He was helpful, friendly and attentive, and fixed my bike even though I hadn’t bought it there, even giving me maintenance tips on my way out.
Guess where I am now going when I need something for my bike? Even if it costs me a dollar or two extra, I will go there because they clearly value my business. And I’m not alone: 76% of consumers say they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them.
At this store, salespeople quietly approached and asked if I needed help, but otherwise left me alone. When I got my tire fixed, I wasn’t pushed to buy anything else, but, because the tire that came with the bike was cheap and likely to lead to another flat, I bought a new one. By simply being helpful and providing useful information, the guy at the service center made an extra $25 for the company (which, by the way, is the whole concept behind content and inbound marketing).
You see, it all begins with the people. Sure, there are other factors when it comes to good customer service: How fast a site loads, whether the company has the product they’re advertising, or even social media presence. But one study revealed that human contact is one of the most important drivers of customer satisfaction. Whether in person, on the phone, or via social media or the Internet, you and your employees are the first line of defense against poor customer service.
Unfortunately, good customer service isn’t exactly the norm: one-third of consumers say they’d “rather clean a toilet” than speak with customer service. But more alarming, an estimated $41 billion is lost by U.S. companies alone each year due to poor customer service. Check out the stats below and then really think about your customer service: Is it costing you customers – and money?