Is it really that difficult to have good customer service?When we first started with MailTrack.io back in November, 2013, there were a few values that we wanted to make sure were embedded in our startup. We wanted to be global and dynamic, since the very beginning; data-informed and constantly put into question by our own hypothesis.And for sure, we wanted to be one of those companies considered to have the best customer service and helpdesk in their sector.An a year after we created MailTrack.io, we can say we’re very satisfied with how our customer service has developed. Just a few weeks ago, we reached over 1,000 reviews on the Chrome Web Store, while maintaining a 4.62 grade out of 5 (which the Chrome Web Store translates into a ‘Love it!’ sentiment).That was not an easy threshold to reach, and demanded a very active and planned out work. For every 1,000 installations we have through the Chrome Web Store, 14 users gave us a review. This might not sound impressive, but it’s incredibly high if we compare the performance of top popularity apps on the Chrome Web Store.
How did we do that?
The Psychology Behind the “Good Listener” Approach
As Paul Jarvis argues in an article published by Help Scout, the basis of excellent customer service is good listening. And science shows that the ability of good listening can make a real difference in the perception that your clients have of your product.But what exactly is “good listening?” Bernard T. Ferrari’s Power Listening (2012) reminds us that hearing what some say should not be a passive, procedural behavior, and has, in fact, to be an active one in order to benefit both the listener and the speaker.
In a study published in 2012 by the Journal of Research in Personality, Daniel Amesa, Lily Benjamin Maissenb, and Joel Brocknera argue that listening attentively not only allows you to better understand the person you’re talking to, it is actually an incredible way of emotionally attaching to your interlocutor, and even influencing them.Their results say that good listening skills can have a stronger effect than talking when building trust between two people. And this is an indicator of how important it is for any organization to build a systematic and professional “listening” structure as its base for brand loyalty.
Happy or Unhappy Customer: An Option
So this is what we did in our company. First of all, we decided that the best customer relationship would demand our startup to be really focused on what our users were thinking about MailTrack.io. I know this sounds very trivial, but it’s really not. Consider Micah Solomon’s point when arguing that a company can be designed to have a bad customer relationship management (CRM), either intentionally or not. As he puts it, if you say you have an outstanding helpdesk, but you have people in charge of the wrong profile, too much work on their hands, bad training and equipment… You’ve taken the right decisions to make your customer relationship bad.
Of course he exaggerates for the sake of the argument: businesses that are worried about what their clients think of them might commit these mistakes without noticing it. But, still, this doesn’t change the fact that the decision was made maybe indirectly, maybe unconsciously.Even before lauching MailTrack.io in its beta version, we decided to sign on a helpdesk tool to systematize our support workflow, and for that we chose Help Scout. Even when the helpdesk was solely under the responsibility of our CEO and I (no kidding, this was a real four people startup at the beginning), Help Scout helped us promote teamwork and made sure we kept track and took good care of every email sent to us.
Also, one very important aspect that was with us since the beginning is that we must be fast responders! We never leave an email waiting for us for longer than 24 hours (with the exception of weekends), and we make sure the cases that are being studied by our technical team will receive a proper feedback, even if the problem couldn’t have been solved.
After a Mistake: Learn Fast and Correct it
We’re usually really spoiled by our users. Almost every week, we’re sending through our private team chat (we use Atlassian’s HipChat) some kind of demonstration of kindness related either to our product, or to someone on the team. They come through email, Twitter, comments on websites… Even through the Chrome Web Store, which is supposed to be filled with reviews on the product only :)But once in a while, of course, we learn we didn’t perform well in some specific case. And this is when we work to transform that bad experience into a positive one — a very important principle here.I could give you many examples of that, of course, since we’ve been around for over a year. But allow me to show you how a user told us we were using UserEcho in the wrong way.One morning, we received this tweet from Atul Agarwal, co-founder of AdPushup and a valuable early adopter of our tool.
We were surprised! We had been using UserEcho for a little while already, and even got great insights on which should be our priorities regarding new features and bug fixing… But we never thought our users could be thinking we were not paying attention on what they were saying there. And it was then that we realized it was not enough to give our MailTrackers a channel through which they could openly discuss our app. We had to be active in it as well! We then decided to apply some of the protocols that have been working great through Help Scout, adapting, of course, to its characteristic. But the bottom line was to treat it just like we do with our social media channels: no debate should be going on without a person from our team discussing the topic as well.
Whatever it is that you’re trying to sell or convey to any given public, a rule from the Public Relations techniques applies beautifully: relationships are the most important asset your organization can have. If people say good things about you, celebrate it and thank them. But if you make a mistake, recognize it, correct it, and people will understand: they and everybody else make mistakes as well.
Our little pieces of advice
Here are the “Dos” and “Don’ts” we’ve learned the easy, and also the hard way:
1. Answer fast, answer well
Loads of people thank us so much for replying to their message as fast as we can! Sometimes, a technical support can take days, or even weeks. But if you’re proactive with your user, and let them know what’s going on — and that you didn’t forget about them –, they’ll thank you some way. Who knows, even by recommending you!
2. Be a great listener
It’s usually the case that the great teachings of life can be applied in your business or organization. Try as much as you can to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Do not give up on them if you’re unable to understand their problem. Too many emails and little understanding? Offer them a telephone call!
3. Actively work on your communication skills
Listening is an active exercise. Start paying attention to good communicators from all different fields and circles (maybe even in your family!), and check what their good habits are when listening to people. Try it yourself when in communication with customers and everyone else. Make it a habit.
4. Be calm and have patience
We all can get nervous on services or products that are not working, and some people can even get aggressive. But remember: don’t fight fire with fire. Someone in that conversation will have to turn down the heat, and that’s going to be you. Our experience is that almost all the cases in which users were really angry, we were able to turn things around by using this principle. Try to see what their problem is beyond their negative reaction. They might recognize your effort.
5. Assess your customers’ opinion periodically
We are all too busy with our lives. But when we have a project, we tend to think, sometimes unconsciously, that others will see it in a special way. Forget about people actively looking for you in order to solve their customer pains and problems… Only a few will! Therefore, establish how often you’ll ask your users about their opinion on what you’re selling. You’ll see they’ll appreciate every aspect of this routine.
6. Be as sincere as you can about your limitations and mistakes
Getting your customers feedback cannot become a bureaucratic routine. That information is key for your business, and the fact that people are willing to give it to you at all is priceless. Don’t lose this opportunity! Show the public there are human beings behind your project. And be one.
7. Finish your conversation in a positive way
After all problems are solved, or at least overcome, check again if your user has any other problem, question, or suggestion. They have to keep in mind this “happy ending” experience with your brand: that’s what they will transmit when they talk about you with someone else.