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Providing the Best Online Service

Give your clients the earliest delivery consistent with quality – whatever the inconvenience to us.

- Arthur C. Nielsen

PROACTIVE CLIENT SERVICE STRATEGIES

REACTIVE CLIENT SERVICE TECHNIQUES

GATHERING INFORMATION THROUGH SURVEYS

Every company has to think about customer service. An online coaching company should obsess about it. Without the presentation of an office to visit or the kinship created when meeting face-to-face, earning and keeping trust is a more difficult task. Secondly, the actual “product” is often partially or entirely made up of service, making it an even more significant factor in your success.

When people initially think about customer service, they often visualize the systems and people put in place to put out fires. That’s accurate, but we also need to focus on the proactive customer service strategies and efforts made to reduce the fires in the first place. There are several strategies you can implement to prevent problems from starting – for example, creating a comprehensive sales page that presents all the information a prospect may possibly need in a straightforward manner. Include frequently asked questions in several locations, including but not limited to your post purchase Autoresponder, Website page, and inside your product. Consider adding a live chat feature to your Website and providing a toll-free phone number for people with questions.

No matter how many precautions you take, occasionally you will have a problem with a client. Some reactive client service techniques will come in handy. Abiding by the age old adage that the “customer is always right” and making an earnest effort to find out why they are upset and try to fix the problem is a good start. When faced with returns and refunds, it’s important to consistently honor your guarantees and policies. If handled well, these clients still have the potential to go on to become loyal customers.

The first days after finally launching my first financial planning information product, I walked into my office to see a returned kit sitting on my desk. I couldn’t imagine how after all that work someone could just send it back! I called the client to see what was going on and was informed that the information just wasn’t what he was looking for. I refunded his money and gave him a free subscription to my new membership Website – he would be the very first client. A couple of years later, he was not only paying for the membership but was also instrumental in helping us get the attention of a broker we were interested in forming a joint venture with. He became our biggest client almost every month. Don’t write people off too early, as some of your most important relationships are based on the trust earned solving a problem.

Proactive Client Service Strategies –

Reduce the need in the first place

Although providing excellent customer service is a great opportunity to earn the trust of a client or prospect for the long term, needing a lot of support to react to your customers concerns is a sign that something is not right. So before we talk about any specific problem solving techniques, let’s cover a few proactive measures you can take to prevent the need for reactive client service in the first place.

The most important work that you do for customer service is often the effort that you put into making sure that it isn’t needed. You can reduce the time you spend running your business and automatically increase sales without spending additional time. Here are some tips to make sure that your customer service is required as little as possible:

• Make sure that your sales page is comprehensive. The most basic and perhaps often overlooked step you can take to eliminating the need for reactive client service is to provide, clear, complete, accurate information on your sales page. Regrettably, that does not mean that all of your prospects/clients will read the information you have provided, but it’s a basic move in the right direction. The more aligned the clients expectations are with the results the less likely they will have problems later.

• Send your new clients an order confirmation e-mail and let them know what they should expect to happen next and if and when you will contact them with an update.

• Include answers to common questions in your sales copy, in follow up e-mails, in the packaging (if it’s a physical product), and on an easy-to-find Web page on your site. Never make the mistake of assuming including it once is enough. Remember, you are likely dealing with a busy overachiever who doesn’t have a lot of extra time to search for answers to their questions.

• Consider adding live chat to your sales and/or membership site.

• For membership Website subscriptions, include a tour, provide a free demo or video made of screen shots so that they have an idea of exactly how everything looks and is presented on your site.

• Give them access to a toll-free help line (if you can provide adequate information to your call center, you may choose to outsource this along with the accepting orders).

• Provide clients and prospects with an e-mail address where they can send questions and receive a timely response. Establish an acceptable time limit that you will commit to responding to messages within.

• Sell your products and services at fair value and load on bonuses.

• Deliver more than you have promised. It’s not a bad idea to keep a few little surprise bonuses secret.

• Gather feedback, by phone, through e-mail or even a web form. (In Chapter 12 – Testing & Surveys, pages 222-223 we will talk more about using surveys.

Chat Features (Autoresponder vs. live)

Chat is instant messaging, done on the existing Web page either with a “live person” or a programmed Autoresponder. Here are some of the benefits and drawbacks of each:

Autoresponder

Benefits

• Inexpensive

• 24/7

• Answer most common question – automated FAQ

Drawbacks

• Will sometimes give improper answers

• Impersonal

Live Define: Individual attention customized help

Benefits

• Answer client questions when they are ready to buy.

Have you ever been ready to buy but walked away because you couldn’t get help with a question? It’s not an uncommon experience, which is why it’s so important to answer questions when the buyer is “in the zone” so to speak and wants the satisfaction of the purchase.

• Capable of answering complex product questions. Because live chat is operated by an actual person you are able to get more accurate answers to questions, and prospects are less likely to have to pursue other options to get information.

• People can become very frustrated with the ordering process; live chat gets them high quality assistance fast before they give up on placing the order.

• Provide shopping cart support

• Suggest upsells

• Create relationships

• Create customized packages

Drawbacks

• Time intensive to be available when necessary

• Long hours to cover different time zones

• Delays in answers

• Do it yourself or train someone else. To provide an effective live chat service you will need to do your homework: Either you must figure out how you will be able to cover the job yourself (if even for the short term) or you must be capable of training someone else to do it for you.

Creating a comprehensive Autoresponder that acts like an automated “frequently asked questions” section and identifies key words or phrases and responds with the most likely answers may be a solution for some of your confusion, but it will not handle all of it. On the other hand, its low cost makes it an attractive solution if you do not have the money to outsource the work, or the time to do it yourself.

If you choose to handle the chat line yourself, you will have to make yourself available at regular hours to answer questions, which can be a huge drawback considering a huge benefit of this kind of business is being able to work whenever you want. (For example I am writing this section of the guide at 11:39 PM and in the morning I will be at the park with my son.) By committing to “manning” the chat line at specific hours you will tie yourself down to some degree, even if only to your iPhone. On the other hand if you are already working these hours, if your traffic is minimal and if you are trying to get some quick raw feedback from potential clients, then this is one way to do it.

Finally if you decide to outsource your live chat, you have the choice of having it covered for 8 hours during the week or 24/7 if you like without ever having to commit to “watching” for questions. You can also instruct them to respond in exactly the way you want, but benefit from the common sense that an actual human has, that an Autoresponder doesn’t.

If you set up your service to log all of the “chats” then you can monitor them to pick up on places that questions could be answered better or what you could do to improve your product or services. Of course, the downfall is that is doesn’t come without a price and outsourcing is not cheap. Depending on the level of service you require it could cost you as little as $20 a month or as much as a thousand or more, but you get what you pay for. Your rates will reflect the traffic to your site that needs help, the hours you want covered and the level of service you want provided.

**Possible solution: Outsource your call center. Here are some options:

• www.livesalesman.com

• www.zazachat.com

• www.m2mlivesupport.com

• www.salesrep.com

Summary

Live chat can save time and energy but will cost you, and the staff you outsource to can only answer questions as well as you train them to, but it is an improvement over the Autoresponder. Some call centers will allow you to get a live chat service started for as little as $20/month and can go up to a couple thousand a month depending on packages, and additional services offered like a 1-800 hotline.

Reactive Client Service Techniques

Every business has disgruntled clients; it’s part of the package. The question is how will you handle the situation when you get one? Refunds, chargebacks and unhappy dissatisfied customers rarely sound like a good time, but you can still make the best of the experience and every once in a while it turns out to be a blessing in disguise.

Make an effort to find out why your client is unhappy. Do your best to avoid becoming defensive and take the time to hear them out. Instead of offering excuses, apologize and ask what you can do to fix the situation. Sometimes people don’t need anything other than someone willing to listen in order to feel better. Other times you may have to take an action other than providing a refund. For example, offer some additional support, a supplemental product or and extended subscription. You must make the right choices for you, and if you hire a staff member to handle these situations you must empower them to make the right choices as well.

If the client requests a refund, honor your guarantees and return policy and process it quickly. The faster the matter is resolved the less likely your standing will be damaged by a client venting to others. Maintaining your reputation is extremely important to the success of your business.

Gathering Information through Surveys

Surveys are great for getting ideas and feedback from both clients and prospects. They can help you improve your client service, marketing and product mix. Here are some guidelines for using surveys that should help you:

• Keep it short and simple, and let the reader know it will only take “x” minutes to complete. If the survey looks like it will take too long, people won’t bother with it.

• Be careful not to lead them or you may inadvertently skew your results.

• Use clear questions that have one answer. Questions that achieve this include:

o Yes or no

o Multiple Choice

o Most important least important

o Check the boxes that apply

• Get them to participate.

o Use a conversational tone over a dry, technical one

o Tell them what you will do with the information

o Send them a reminder and second form if they don’t fill out the first

o Keep it quick and easy

o Offer them a gift or a chance to win something for helping out

• Collect and analyze the results and then use them to improve your business. Use the data to:

o Highlight different benefits in your marketing message

o Target a more refined niche

o Change advertising type and medium

o Create a product on a new topic

o Teach an old lesson in a new way

o Offer more/different type of support

o Change your top keywords

Summary

Both proactive and reactive customer service strategies are important factors in decreasing the amount of time spent running your business and increasing overall customer satisfaction and profits. Implementing automated systems are a great way to ensure consistency and prompt attention to issues. You must also take into consideration the level of personal assistance you may want to provide to your clients and how you can accommodate the time required to accomplish it. Surveys are a great way to gather feedback from your clients/prospects to continue to improve all aspects of your business.

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