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Customer service used to be about your relationships with people that were doing business with you or might do business with you. Back then, you had face-to-face, phone, or mail. Now we live in the Digital Age and have Customer Relationship Management (CRM). What’s changed about customer service? Nothing has changed except the communication delivery options. It’s still about the relationships. We’ve compiled some advice from Carl Phillips, founder of Customer First and principal at Business Evaluation Services, on best practices for customer service in the digital world.

I learned about customer service from my dad, an old-school salesman who still believes that it’s about the relationship and taking care of people beyond their expectations. Carl Phillips says, “Always under commit and over deliver. Beat their expectations consistently.”

The phone is still an important tool, but conducting business face-to-face is a much smaller portion of the pie.  On the phone or in-person, we have the benefit of interaction through voice, facial expression, and even body language.

According to Carl Phillips, electronic communication can lead to the loss of empathy and urgency customers need to sense from you when there’s a problem. For example, an email expressing a problem may lead you to action but not an immediate reply to the customer emphasizing your concern and attention.

Tip #1

If you get an email from a customer with a complaint or question, answer it immediately. If you don’t know the solution or answer, say something like this:

“Dear Mr. Hollister,  I apologize for the problems with your order. This is unacceptable. I’m working to resolve the problem right now. I’ll get back to you by COB. Warmest Regards, Fred.”

Carl Phillips recommends assessing how long it will take to resolve the issue before giving your client a time frame. So, if you’ll get it figured out within an hour, say COB. You’ll far exceed the expectation created. “We often jump on getting the concern fixed but don’t always deliver the “oh my gosh, that’s horrible” moment that shows you are concerned about their issue.”

Tip #2

“Over emphasize an understanding of your customers concern when communicating electronically.”

You’ve got to over emphasize sincerity because there’s no voice inflection or chit-chat as with the phone or in-person.

Tip #3

Strive to make raving fans out of every customer or potential customer by looking for connections with people whether in reality or virtually.

Carl’s point here is to remember that we all have six degrees or less of separation. Make enough conversation with those you encounter to create a sense of connectedness. It may be a connection through kids, geography, school, or your last home improvement project. Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with people based on what you can observe.

This tip ties back to exceeding expectations. Your competition wants to deliver goods and services to the same people you want to serve. The people who feel connected to you are more likely to go out and tell others about your product or service.

The tenets of customer service have not changed. Take care of people and build a relationship. When there’s electronics involved, be sure to remember the need for emphasis and careful word selection to convey your concerns.