Nowadays, adequate customer service is a necessity. Solid customer service is a big help, and excellent customer service can lead to positive word of mouth. But there’s a tier of service quality that extends even further – the kind of customer support that can bolster a business’s reputation. At NOTCH, we call it Tier One customer service.
A Tier One reputation is hard earned, but achieving and retaining it is more difficult for an e-commerce business, where the shop door is permanently open. For example, we invite customers to step inside and browse at a time that suits themselves, regardless of location. Online customers want to engage in the here and now, and they can rightly expect our assistance and help with purchase decisions. There and then, not some time tomorrow.
Our instinct was to provide a service no different to customers who walk into our high street store. That meant taking a personal approach to each enquiry, no matter its scale or urgency. And responding as quickly as possible, ideally inside two minutes.
If we could do that every time, we could go further, and actively seek out the places where our brand was being shared and talked about, join the conversations, use feedback to shape our product range, and slowly start to amass a loyal and growing customer base wanting to wear and share our brand.
From the outset, in-bound customer contact came thick and fast. Clusters of Live Chat, a barrage of Facebook messages, Instagram volleys, emails from both flanks, phone calls from over the top. All wanting to know more, learn more, try more. But we knew that with world-class customer service, customers would buy more too, and, crucially, they’d tell more people about their experience, taking us towards our Tier One goal.
Industry research has proven that brands won’t be able to achieve a customer first culture without also putting their employees first and ensuring a highly trained, responsive and attentive team is in place. The customer service landscape has evolved significantly over recent years with the sector making real efforts to craft a highly skilled team in order to improve business productivity according to research from Hubspot.
Underpinning Tier One customer service is a customer relations desk that’s open 12 hours a day, seven days a week as a minimum. When a question comes in at 8.50pm on a Wednesday evening, you can answer it and have everything resolved before the nine o’clock news if you really want to, and when you do, the customer reaction is one of amazement.
When you take that step further and go out of your way to demonstrate how much you value your customers, results go off the scale. A couple of NOTCH examples: a Facebook post from Julie lamenting the loss of a precious bracelet, and an email from a fostering charity seeking support. Both are gilt-edged Tier One opportunities.
Imagine Julie’s response to a Direct Message letting her know that you’d seen her post and that a complimentary replacement bracelet would be on its way to her in the morning! Or the charity’s reaction to a reply email letting them know that personalised raffle prizes were already with an overnight courier, in time for tomorrow evening’s fundraiser!
Deeply personal touches are immense opportunities too. Good examples: recognising a partner’s joy at their other half’s London Marathon achievement. Or sharing with parents, the sheer pride and emotion of a Royal Navy passing out parade.
Stand your ground with this approach, because the resulting customer endorsements are exponentially more powerful for your reputation than any advertisement you care to fund. And they lead directly to positive implications for your bottom line.
Staying at Tier One takes constant vigilance and the involvement of all colleagues, regardless of their role. Not just their buy-in, but an absolute innate belief that going out of their way to “wow” customers is the gateway to profitable growth.
Everything stems from the one irresistible belief that our customers will always value us, if they know we value them back. And such beliefs will only remain long lasting convictions if colleagues are empowered to do what it takes to make customers happy, without rules or restrictions. Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings’ mantra of, “no rules, rules” has become a foundation for our business and is crucial for Tier One consistency.
Two and half years in and we have growth, returning customer numbers, conversion rates and review scores that we couldn’t have dreamed of when we were scribbling plans on menus. Proof, for us at least, that rule number one for a business seeking to thrive and grow, is to “wow” customers, day in and day out. And rule number two? Well, that’s just as important! Never forget rule number one!
Christopher Healy, co-founder of NOTCH