When it comes to the startup world, the more people you ask, the more ‘secrets’ they’ll share with how to achieve amazing growth. Some will say it’s about iterations at light speed, exhaustive user testing, or scaling as fast as you can. However, there’s a less jargon-filled and much simpler secret to super fast growth: customer service.
According to the Touch Agency, more than one million people view tweets about customer service every week. Roughly 80 percent of those tweets are negative or critical in nature.
Tech startups have to be plugged into the social world—but that also means word travels quickly when the company isn’t helping its customers. In Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising report, the number one reason people trust companies is based on “Recommendations from people I know.”
According to Benchmark Portal, “People now expect the same—if not better— level of service from online storefronts and service channels as they do from a visit to a retail store or a phone conversation with an agent.”
We’ve identified four companies that have all put the customer at the heart of their business on the way to success.
Amazon: The customer is always right
In boardroom meetings, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos regularly keeps a chair empty to remind those in the room who the real boss of the company is: the virtual customer. While that may sound a bit gimmicky, Bezos has built a company that serves 164 million people annually, and employs 56,000 people, according to Forbes. So the empty chair is clearly doing something right.
Of the metrics the company tracks to measure its success, 80 percent are customer-focused ones. Amazon’s obsession with the customer’s experience reveals that just a 0.1 second delay in how quickly the page loads can lead to a one percent decrease in how much a customer might spend. As a result, Amazon posted $29 billion in revenue last year, beating all analyst expectations.
Ritz-Carlton: Surprise the customer
Waiting times are highly subjective, both to the task trying to be completed and the person trying to complete it. Think about how you wait for food; if you’re at a fast food chain, two minutes might feel like an eternity—yet if you’re at a fine dining establishment, you’ll happily wait 20.
At the Ritz-Carlton chain of hotels, this idea is understood, and so every member of staff is given $2,000 to solve any customer complaint in any way the employee chooses to see fit.
When Forbes writer Carmine Gallo was eating at a Ritz-Carlton restaurant, his appetizerwas delayed by 20 minutes. The moment he was about to flag down the waiter and complain, he brought out a free appetiser, ‘courtesy of the chef.’ Because it was preempted by the staff, Gallo didn’t mind the extra wait and was surprised by how attentive the servers were.
Nordstrom: Make every customer feel special
Last week Nordstrom posted its quarterly report, and the company’s revenues had jumped 10 percent in a quarter. Compare this to its biggest rival, JC Penney, who missed its estimate for sales and took a 10 percent beating in its stock price. While there are a number of different reasons why the company might be struggling, when we compare the two’s customer service, there’s a huge difference.
At Nordstrom, the employee handbook on customer service is so notorious, it even has its own Wikipedia page. The company has built the shopper experience around being different from its competitors. Every sales person can take your items and ring up your purchase without you ever having to wait in line. Once a sale has been made, your server will walk around the counter and hand you your bags.
The shops even have separate checkout bays in every department so customers need not feel like cattle as they are shunted through a central checkout bay. Does JC Penney do any of that? Making your customers feel special can help you stand out and build loyalty quickly.
Zappos: Don’t mimic your competitors
The online fashion marketplace is one of the most competitive. Heck, even Amazon has a stake in it. When you have companies as large as that in the space—and who are deeply customer focused as we mentioned above—trying to outdo them would be a thankless task. Instead, Zappos has defined its own metrics to what constitutes excellent customer service.
According to research firm Software Advice, while many companies measure how many calls a customer service agent can handle in a day, Zappos measures the length of time of each call. Rather than encouraging them to be shorter, one agent was on the line for eight hours helping a caller find a cycling shoe on another site when they were out of stock.
“It’s more important that we make an emotional connection with the customer, rather than just quickly getting them off the phone,” says Derek Carder, customer loyalty operations manager for the Zappos.
This type of treatment makes even retail giant Amazon, who likes to bury its call center number deep inside the website to encourage everyone to use its web portal, seem archaic.
Zapoos meanwhile, uses a “Happiness Experience Form,” where each customer service rep has to satisfy the following:
- Did the agent try twice to make a personal emotional connection (PEC)?
- Did they keep the rapport going after the customer responded to their attempt?
- Did they address unstated needs?
- Did they provide a “wow experience?”
Zappos also spends zero money on advertising, instead choosing word-of-mouth as the only way of attracting new customers. When a company is making $1billion in revenue from just clothing and accessories, you can start to understand why.
From the above four examples, you can see that customer service has helped these companies gain an edge over their competitors by seeing customer service as the key to building a successful brand. How have you and your business used customer service to supercharge growth?
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