No Brainer Customer Service

In today’s highly competitive economy, I’m always shocked when business offer terrible customer service. It seems to me that some things are just no-brainers. For example:

  • This past Saturday I went to Autobell car wash with a Groupon print out. They guy there told me that I didn’t print out the right certificate (I printed just the Groupon page). But he said with a smile, “we’ll gladly take care of you today. Just remember when you come back next time to print the right certificate.” They gave my car a great wash (inside and out) and everyone there was polite, smiling, and called me sir (they all looked like teens or college-aged kids).
  • I returned a broken vacuum cleaner to Costco. I didn’t have a box or receipt. Without asking questions they took it back and gave me store credit. One of the reasons Costco is as successful and huge as it is (Wal-Mart too) is because of their no questions asked return policy. I spend exponentially more there than what I return.
  • Last week a photographer looking to join our Teen Identity Network clicked the link to become a Lifetime member. The rate had gone up to $399 from $299. But the advertised price was still $299 (I had forgotten to update the blog after updating the Paypal link). I gladly gave her the $299 rate.

In the grand scheme of things, these are just little things. But they play into an overall plan or policy. You should have one in your business.

Five Tips for Giving “No-Brainer” Customer Service

  1. Set Expectations, Then Exceed Them: always set expectations with your clients. One of the #1 issues with a poor experience is clients not getting what they expected. After you set the expectations correctly, exceed them (within reason) whenever you can. One of the ways we set expectations is having clients initial key paragraphs in our contracts (i.e. turn around time).
  2. Hire the right people: don’t you hate it when you go to an establishment and the employee is grumpy? Make sure the people working for your buy into your customer service experience policies, and are willing and able to do it. I’ll never forget the time I worked for a company where we frequently had walk-ins. The receptionist was in my department, and called her in to talk about her poor attitude when greeting customers that walked in. With all seriousness she asked me “What am I, the damn welcoming committee?” I kid you not. She was no longer receptionist after that. I eventually moved her into accounting. 🙂
  3. Don’t Be Penny-wise and Pound Foolish: my first year in business as a wedding videographer, I remember a client asking if they could have a few extra DVDs to give friends. (At the time, my package only included one DVD). I told them it would be $25 each. They passed. Their wedding was my best edited wedding at that time. It would have been great to have friends and family see it. I gave up some great word of mouth just because I stuck to my guns of charging $25/extra DVD. Within reason, I now give my wedding clients (the few I still get each year) as many DVDs as they want (if they ask for more than the 3-5 they naturally get). Extra DVDs are cheap marketing.
  4. Responsibility & Immediacy: when you do make a mistake, take responsibility for it and make amends as quickly as possible. Sometimes it’s how you handle the mistakes that will endear a client to you more than how you handle business as usual.
  5. Know When to Say “No”: there are some people who really should NOT hire you (or rather, you really should not take their business). You’ll know them when you see them. Avoid them like the plague. I can’t tell you how many times in my career I took jobs I knew I shouldn’t only to have the pain of that client relationship be a bane to my existence at that time. The money will not be worth it 99.9% of the time.

What are some of your key customer service policies that make your business stand out?

5 thoughts on “No Brainer Customer Service

  1. I think when you change prices, you’ve got to be especially lenient for a while until you make the full transition. We recently restructured our pricing for baby sessions, and any time I have someone say “I thought the price was …” (meaning they were expecting the old prices), I just give them the old rate. I’m guessing I’ll be making exceptions for about the next month to make sure people don’t feel like we did a bait and switch. Our reputation is too valuable to not try to accomodate.

    1. You should be careful about giving old clients old prices just because they THOUGHT your price would be lower. In the situation I describe above, I had an advertised price that was different from the actual rate. That was my blunder. However, if you raise your rates and it’s advertised accordingly, in most situations you should honor your new rates. With your Teen Identity Network memberships, we gave about three months of warnings in each email newsletter that rates were going up. That’s something else you can do.

      In most cases where a studio raises their rates, especially if it’s a studio that is relatively new and their rates are going up because the skill and experience are more on par with competition, the studio will most likely need to market to and reach a whole new client base as the old base will be stuck on the old prices.

      Oh, and FWIW, we refer to it as an “investment,” not “prices” when referring to our photo and video services. That’s what we believe they are to our clients, so we want them to know that.

  2. Ron
    Hmm, what we’ve found is that quite a few of our customers have stayed with us as we’ve done incremental price changes over the past few years. It makes sense to us that we can adjust prices slowly so our existing customer base doesn’t feel like we’re completely abandoning them. I think one big contributing factor is that our customers are relatively young, and they’re growing in their career just like we are. If we hadn’t improved our skill and increased rates, they very well might have looked for a photographer who was “another level up”. That’s just based on our experience. I’m sure everyone has a different experience with adjusting rates.

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