Beyond Basic Customer Service

Robyn Greenspan

Updated · Jan 11, 2001

Good old-fashioned customer service, or
“customer relationship management” as
it's now being called, has evolved into
becoming one of the technical skills that
comprise the e-business machine. There are various
systems, processes, and routers that accommodate every
type of customer inquiry but there is still a deficit in actually
“serving” the customer on a more emotional level.

To further elaborate, imagine this scenario: a customer
calls/e-mails your company because an order that was
placed a week ago still hasn't been shipped. The customer
is upset because the product was supposed to be a gift
and now it's going to arrive quite late.

There are two ways that a customer support person can
handle this particular situation and others just like it — they
can provide an “answer” or they can provide a “solution.”

The “answer” response could be that the item wasn't in the
warehouse as originally thought and needed to be special
ordered. They expect it to arrive within three days and
then it would be shipped as planned.

The “solution” response could go something like this: “The
item had to be unexpectedly back-ordered and is
expected to arrive in three days. I can upgrade your
shipping to overnight status without charge or I can help
you choose a similar item that is available immediately.”

So, which method of customer service does your company
practice? Both models may offer a 24-hour support
number, online tracking, coupon incentives, and timely
e-mail response, but which is more effective at satisfying
and retaining the customer?

Another example of providing answers vs. providing
solutions: A customer calls tech support because they are
having problems completing a transaction. An
inappropriate answer would be to inform the customer that
the site is temporarily down and they should try again later.
A better solution would be to offer to take the order over
the phone. The customer already has their credit card in
their hands! If you don't take the order now, some other
site will.

Online consumers have more control than ever before,
especially due to the lack of geographic restraints. The
buying public no longer has to settle for what the
neighborhood retailers have to offer and they have become
more demanding and time-oriented while utilizing resources
for finding the best pricing. Furthermore, there are plenty
of e-tailers that are willing to strike the best deal to gain
customers. Consider it part of our new collective shopping
mentality where you can haggle, auction and choose the
prices you want to pay. E-stores now have to be worthy
of earning some of the digital dollar pie.

The Internet is already a faceless, somewhat anonymous
arena and customers want to feel special and important if
they have chosen to spend their money with you instead of
some other e-tailer. Some consumers are even willing to
sacrifice the lowest pricing for excellent customer service.

In addition to establishing a customer service training
program, an emphasis on hospitality training is more
effective for consumer satisfaction. Once you are certain
that your customer support team is up to par, feature your
policies prominently on your Web site. Let customers
know that they are highly valued and extensive measures
will be taken to retain their business.

Originally appeared at E-Commerce Guide.

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  • Robyn Greenspan
    Robyn Greenspan

    Robyn Greenspan, an independent researcher and speaker, is interested in innovation, market trends and information technology. She was a participant in the AI Summit and also took part in the IEEE International Conference on Edge Computing, International SOA Symposium series and the International Cloud Symposium series. She graduated from Temple University. She was previously the communications and research manager for the AMS, an internationally recognized professional association that advances knowledge in the IT and business management areas.

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