The Invisible Hand
Remember when going into business required you to rent office space, get a telephone, and hang out a shingle? People knew who you were and where to find you. Today, the Internet has become "the great equalizer." For as little as five dollars per month, anyone, anywhere can set up a business online that looks professional and "real." However, many online businesses today make it very difficult to find who they are and how to contact them. That's key information for any customer, especially one with a problem. If an irate customer can't find anyone to complain to, is he still always right?
Sadly, we have come to expect poor customer service in our dot-com world. Long turnaround times are the norm, and automated responses not only don't make sense, they don't answer our questions. Most sites make it impossible to find a phone number to call to speak to a "real human." And if by chance you are able to call, chances are you'll be connected to someone in a contact center in a faraway country whom you can barely understand.
Good customer service dictates that when founding a dot-com company you must employ the human element. Online customers' needs must be the top priority, empowering them with the tools and information that put them in control.
In regard to email, the industry standard should be an 80 percent response to all email within three business hours; 90 percent resolved within the first contact; and 100 percent of email responded to within 24 hours. A toll-free phone number should be designated specifically for customers to call in and speak to a live person.
Response time is imperative, yet what's most important is a high level of quality among employees. Many companies have a false sense of economy when they outsource their customer service to a "low-cost" provider, as it takes a lot longer to resolve issues than if you have local, bright company employees providing the same service. It is of great benefit to have:
- motivated, college-educated employees to answer all customer inquiries; and
- employees who regularly review all products and services to be sure they are legitimate.
Interestingly, many of the quality initiatives employed in the United States derived from cultural techniques used in Japan, a country that takes to heart the mantra "The Customer is God." In fact, Six Sigma, the training strategy incorporated into many contact centers, is derived from many principles employed in Japan. But, in the end, there's no place like home.
Outsourcing has turned out to be penny-wise and pound-foolish: Paying people a living wage has incredible benefits to the quality of service provided, and, even more important, a company will save money in the long run by improving customer satisfaction. After all, we may be live in a digital world, but at the end of the day we all require a human touch.
About the author
Diana Kyser is Vice President, Customer, at TheLadders.com, the world's leading online job site for executive search, managing the teams that give support and service to job seekers and recruiters. With over 20 years of experience leading and growing businesses, She cofounded C3i Inc., a world-class service provider for customer management integration and ongoing support solutions for many of the world's leading organizations. She has also held senior leadership positions in marketing and customer care at American Express, Hotjobs.com, Premiere Global Services, and JPMorgan Chase.
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