Is Your Customer Service Good Enough?

Are Your Customers Being Served?

“How many times have you been impressed by a donation request and then given to the organization, only to not feel quickly and properly thanked—with your name misspelled. Or received the incorrect item, and the customer service department was unwilling to pay to have it reshipped? How long did you wait until you got a response?”

Katie Rogers of SIPA member Direct Answer wrote this in a recent white paper on her site. She pointed to an American Express study that says, “Americans will spend 9% more with organizations that provide excellent stewardship” and “91% of Americans consider the level of customer stewardship important when deciding to do business with a company.”

This resonated even more for me when I read about Paul Mandell, an entrepreneur who started a legal temp firm called Clutch Legal Staff, sold it for $2 million and then started Consero, a company that puts on “intimate conferences for narrow groups with similar backgrounds and jobs.” (The business model is that sponsors underwrite the event.)

He says this: “I was comforted that I knew the legal industry relatively well and had some experience in staffing. My dad taught me to be extremely customer-service-oriented, such as get back to people quickly and pay attention to details. I still make more edits on draft legal documents more than people appreciate.”

So the question becomes: are you doing enough in the area of customer service? Here are a few tips from SIPA members:

1. Ask what customers want. Denise Elliott of Kiplinger said that “at the end of each year we were sending all subscribers a ‘love offering’ that was the same as the premium each new subscriber received with their order. It cost about $100,000 in printing and mailing every year. Instead of sending it, we asked the subscribers how many of them wanted it, either as a download or in print. Only 7% wanted it in any format. We quit sending it and there has been no effect on renewals.

“We were printing a one-page ‘key points summary’ with each of our monthly articles,” wrote Jennifer Pai of EB Medicine. “It cost us thousands of dollars per year. In January 2010 we stopped printing the summary and made it available online. There have been no complaints from subscribers and significant savings.”

2. The readers’ needs matter most. Graham Ruddick of the NEC Group said that he made a mistake by insisting that the value of a piece is dictated by the effort taken to create it, rather than a calculation based on the readers’ needs.

3. Simpler is often better. Make your best content easy for subscribers to find; post links to it in more than one place.

4. Don’t complicate customers’ lives; improve them. “We tried a new marketing campaign for one of our new books,” said Robert Williford at EB Medicine. “We sent one to each of our 500 best customers as a ‘courtesy’ to enable them to review the book and pay the invoice if they wanted to keep it. We received hundreds of calls from customers who were extremely upset about receiving a book they hadn’t ordered. We ended up letting everyone keep the books at no charge. This is definitely a campaign we won’t do again!”

5. Stand behind your products. Christopher Moffa at Kiplinger recommends a 100% money-back guarantee. “It helps tremendously with the offer, and very few people take advantage of it.” You may not have to go that far, but the concept is the right one.

6. “Stay in close and constant contact with your customers,” said Rob Lawson of Credit Today, LLC

7. “This is a PEOPLE business,” wrote Rick Biehl of Atlantic Information Services, Inc. “It is important to maintain strong, positive, honest relationships with employees, customers, publishing and marketing partners and vendors. A people-friendly corporate culture is (in my opinion) a prerequisite to long-term business success; as a bonus, it also improves the quality of life for everyone involved.”

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Customer service will be on the table at the:
2011 Winter Publishers Roundtable
March 14-15, 2011
McGraw-Hill Conference Center
1221 6th Avenue, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10020

Join us this March in New York City for a one-day
roundtable conference where you help set the agenda,
and we make sure you pick up the tools to profit!
Attendance is limited. Sign up today!

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