Customer Service Serve Better, Sell More
By Irene Cherkassky
Mike Faith, founder and CEO of San Francisco, Calif.-based headset provider Headsets.com spoke about customer service at the 6th Annual Merit Direct Business Mailer's Co-op and Interactive Marketing Conference held this past July. Founded in 1997, Headsets.com has grown from a $40,000 investment to $17 million in sales last year. Projected sales for 2005 are in the $30 million range. Faith attributes much of that success to the company's dedication to exceptional customer service. His firm belief is that customer service is not only the right thing to do, but also is good for a company's bottom line.
Faith believes the single biggest factor that determines whether a customer will purchase from you again is how he or she answers this question: How do you rate the service you received from the customer service person who took your order?
Here are eight of Faith's top tips to ensure an exceptional level of customer service:
1. Love your customers. Be whole hearted in your dedication to customer service throughout your organization, from marketing to the mail center to customer service. After all, says Faith, these are people who are giving you their money. They always deserve your respect.
2. Hold executives and managers accountable for customer service. For example, Headsets.com puts the name, telephone number and e-mail address of the company's CEO, shipping manager and customer service manager on every piece of mail or communication that goes out from the company.
3. Ensure your customer service reps truly are experts. At Headsets.com, customer service reps go through a two-week training period.
4. Hire the right people. Headsets.com's hiring process, says Faith, can last as long as four weeks. In that time, candidates can go through as many as nine interviews, including a phone call with Faith to evaluate their phone skills. Although Faith admits this process has slowed company growth, he feels it is essential for long-term success.
5. Ask customers how you're doing, and share this feedback with your entire organization.
6. Don't let technology call the shots. Ask yourself, "Is it the right technology for the customer, or is it just saving a bit of money?"
7. Stop selling and talk to your customer. Listen to them, says Faith.
8. Value your customer's time as much as you value your own.
Faith adds one more piece of advice: Overpromise, then surpass even that commitment. Faith's company holds to the goal that 98 percent of callers get a live person in four rings of the telephone. If they don't get that, the company promises a callback within two hours, but executes on that promise within an hour.