Even more important than making your customers happy is not making them UNhappy. Are you doing things that make it harder to do business with you, or just annoying your customers?
Last Friday afternoon I placed an order with an online tech company. First of all, their Web site rejected the first two credit cards I tried to use, saying that the security code I entered was incorrect. It was not. I got out a third card, and that one took. I had to answer a bunch of security questions to verify my identity before they would approve the order, but it was approved and I got an e-mail confirming the order. OK, a minor annoyance with the credit cards, but at least I would have what I need in time for an event.
Four days later, I got another e-mail saying that my order was pending verification by their credit card department. I had to call them before they would ship. After spending 45 minutes on the phone (mostly listening to really bad music), they decided I really was who I said I was and released the order. Because I raised a stink with customer service, they did upgrade me from 2nd day delivery to overnight, so I will have the item when I need it. But the whole experience was simply unpleasant. There was no explanation or apology, just “this is our procedure.”
Will I order from them again? Not bloody likely.
Annoyances do not have to be even this extreme to drive customers away. Having a slow-loading Web site or a Flash intro that can’t be stopped, requiring a special plug-in or browser to view your site and other technical “glitches” can do it. So can requiring customers to provide a lot of information before they can access your site or view your online catalog.
How can you avoid annoying the customers?
Give people a way to contact you. E-mail is acceptable, but live help and/or a phone number is better. And when they call, keep phone menus as simple as possible. If they have to press 12 buttons to get to a human, there is something wrong with your system. So many people are annoyed by this that there is a popular Web site to help you navigate the phone menus at lots of major companies: http://gethuman.com/us/
Make it easy to get information. Post store hours on your Web site (and keep them updated). Have a recording answer your phone after hours, letting callers know when your store is open or when the phones are answered live.
Train your employees. Do you get frustrated when you know more about a product than the salespeople? Me, too. Educate your staff so they can answer questions correctly.
When you do mess up, own it and fix it. Apologize. And not with one of those, “I’m sorry you are upset,” non-apologies. It is simple: We screwed up. I’m sorry. Here’s what we are already doing to fix it. Is there anything else I can do?
Think of your customers, not just yourself, when setting policies. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes now and then and see what it is like to do business with you.