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You’ve heard it a thousand times: Happy customers translate into repeat business. For small businesses, truer words were never spoken. So why do some business owners view customer service as an unnecessary cost, believing in the adage that “a great product should speak for itself”?
“Many companies say that customer service is a low-level, entry-level type environment,” said David Hassell, founder and CEO of employee engagement platform 15Five. “They’ll say ‘let’s hire the cheapest employees,’ or ‘we’ll offshore it.’”
Hassell and his team, on the other hand, believe that great customer service should be a core component of 15Five’s product experience.
“It’s the difference between being great and being excellent,” Hassell said. “It’s through this approach that customers may not only accept your flaws, but in some cases, they may even begin to love you for your flaws.”
Hassell and his team have built a top-shelf customer experience by following these three simple rules:
A strong customer experience begins with the people at the front lines of your organization. Your customer-facing staff—from entry-level associates up to executives—are the ones who define your brand for consumers.
This kind of customercentric attitude and commitment to service can’t be fabricated.
“You need to find people whose natural demeanor, strengths, and gifts are aligned with providing outstanding customer service,” said Hassell. “They enjoy helping people and interacting with customers and making someone’s day by doing something unexpected and delivering delight.”
Hassell and his team believe that customer feedback is a core part of the product development process. He pointed out that after nine months of development, the new version of 15Five received glowing reviews from all of their beta testers—except one.
“Floyd Marinescu of C4 Media tried it out and said that he hated it,” Hassell said. “He wanted the old version.”
So Hassell and his team started to dig deeper. They realized they had sacrificed some of the ease and simplicity of the first version in favor of a nicer aesthetic design.
“It would have been easier to be dismissive of this negative feedback. Instead, we took his feedback to heart and went back to the drawing board on some of these issues.”
Following Marinescu’s response, 15Five decided to revamp two major functions of its platform. The resulting product was a serious improvement on the version it had been testing.
“It wouldn’t have happened had we not been customer-oriented and listened to his concerns as a customer,” said Hassell.
Marinescu went on to become a long-time customer of 15Five. Later, he became an investor.
“We learned not to hold too tightly to our own ideas and to be open to reconsidering things based on customer feedback,” said Hassell. “Putting our egos aside allowed us to come out with something that’s really phenomenal.”
Hassell believes that customer service is everyone’s responsibility. Because of this, 15Five ensures that all employees are well-positioned to create a positive customer experience.
“We do a few things before tackling customer service. We educate our team on our culture first,” said Hassell. “What are our values? What do we care about? Why is what we’re doing important? How is the product helping provide value to our customers?”
According to Hassell, the key is empowering team members on a personal level so that each employee feels passionate about their contributions.
“We’re really expecting the people we hire to be naturally inclined to be of service and to enjoy doing it,” said Hassell. “We want their individual spark and uniqueness to come through in their interactions.”
Customer service doesn’t need to be a separate business function. Instead, it should be wholly integrated into daily business functions and operations.
“If you really integrate [customer service] by making it a companywide value . . . it ends up being something that everyone thinks about. It’s top of mind for every team member,” said Hassell. “That’s when you get into really unique ways of approaching customer delight and success.”
Ritika Puri specializes in business, marketing, entrepreneurship and tech. She writes for American Express OPEN Forum, Forbes, Investopedia, Business Insider, CMO, the SAP Innovation Blog and others.
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