Technology can provide nearly every business with new and innovative ways to make the customer buying experience faster, easier, and more enjoyable. It’s what makes new technology so alluring to most business owners since making a customer’s experience faster and easier and making them feel good about their purchases are all key elements to increasing sales.
There’s probably no better example of tech shaping a business than the largest company in the world, Amazon. From its earliest days, Amazon gave buyers what they wanted, the ability to purchase just about any book on the planet, quickly, easily, and affordably. They provided a forum for reviews so you could read what others thought of the purchase you’re contemplating. They made returns almost as easy as buying, and with Amazon Prime, they made the shopping experience even easier by providing free shipping.
Yet, with all the shimmer and shine Amazon has on their retail platform, the real money they’re making is in web hosting. Earlier this year, Amazon posted the largest quarterly profits in its history, nearly $2 billion, and a large portion of those profits came from the $5.1 billion in sales reported by Amazon’s Web Services division. If Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods, or their opening Amazon brick and mortar stores weren’t enough for you to stop thinking of Amazon as just an online retailer, the fact that more and more of their profits are coming from web hosting for companies like Disney, the National Football League, Symantec, and Turner should.
Whole Foods and brick and mortar stores aside, there is no denying the fact, Amazon is at it’s core, tech driven. Look under the hood a little though and you’ll find they’re a great customer service company as well.
Great communication is certainly the biggest key to being a great customer service company and Amazon excels in this department. Pick any channel on the internet, any means of communication and Amazon is using it to communicate with customers.
Scroll through their Facebook page and you’ll see each and every customer who’s posted a complaint has gotten an almost immediate response. Amazon’s Twitter feed is just as impressive. Search for an Amazon Echo on amazon.comand you’ll find the answers to nearly 1000 customer questions on the product’s web page. Give them a call, send them an email, post a message on any platform, and you get quick and effective communication.
But imagine for a moment what might happen if Amazon ceased to be a great customer service company and began to rely solely on their technological advantages to fuel profits.
Imagine Amazon trying to make a profit by overcharging customers for return shipping. Imagine a total lack of response when messaging Amazon on Facebook. Imagine waiting hours on hold to talk to a customer service representative because the only way to get a response from the company is by getting a live person on the line. Imagine unannounced downtime at Amazon Web Services and disney.com leading to a “host not found” error for even just a few few minutes. Combine all these scenarios together and it’s not hard to imagine profits plummeting for Amazon.
Every business has a public image and when customer service is ignored, it can quickly turn a darling into a dud overnight.
Amazon isn’t the only company that’s figured out marrying great customer service with tech is the route to huge profitability. There’s a reason Apple has leapt to the front of the pack in tech hardware sales. Not only do they provide just as many avenues for communication as Amazon, the Genius Bar at every Apple Store provides every customer with the opportunity to get questions answered by friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable customer service reps every single day.
And while great customer service is key for large tech giants, it’s just as important for small, local businesses as well.
For ACES Companies, a southern Utah based energy efficiency and solar installation company, happy customers are essential. “A huge number of our new clients are referrals,” said Josh Harris, the President of ACES. “And you don’t get referrals from unhappy customers.”
Harris says an emphasis on solving customer’s problems is more important that sales. “We’re not a solar company or an energy company, we’re a solutions company,” says Harris. “Our goal is to our customers lives better and to save them money. Yes, that usually involves a sale, but we place the emphasis on solving their problems first and let the sale handle itself.”
“Ask any business owner ‘what sets you apart from the competition?’ and just about every company will say ‘customer service,’” said Ryanne Day, the account and referral manager at ACES. “Everyone says it, but you have to live it. You have to commit to it. You have to make sure you aren’t stopping at emails and notes on a customer’s account in your database to ensure things get done, you have to follow through, and you have to communicate with customers, clearly and frequently and you have to do so on whatever channel they feel most comfortable using.”
Day pointed to one particular perfect example of how great customer service can provide dividends. “We sent a customer a small box with a couple of gourmet fudge brownies and handwritten thank you note a few weeks ago and she posted pics and an awesome shout out just a few days later. A post on Facebook that says ‘When you get an unexpected package in the mail thanking you for your business! Aces Companies, LLC are great examples of good business practices!’ and tags your page, that’s million dollar advertising money can’t buy,” Day said.
In today’s tech heavy landscape, a robust customer database that automatically emails customers a thank you note after a purchase, or setting up autoreplys with a canned response when a customer sends a question to your company’s Facebook page, or even a bot that chats with visitors to your website can all too often be seen as means to help provide great customer service. But businesses who ignore the old fashioned ways of communicating with customers like a phone call or a personal email and fail to solve those customer’s problems in a timely fashion, do so at their own peril.