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Customer Service in a Web World

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CustomerShortly after posting a recent article about Google Documents, I was emailed by a director in the Google Documents team requesting more information on how I use the service.  Additionally, a post about Google Gears spurned a blog comment/email discussion with a member of the Google Gears team about how Google Gears could be leveraged with other sites around the web.

This post isn’t about praising Google, rather merely using them  as an example of good customer service.  Google is a large corporation with thousands of employees focused thousands of products/initiatives.  Yet, they take the time to reach out their customer base to enhance their products and gain feedback from users.

In another example, Netflix has experimented with online customer service but has recently launched an effort to handle customer service requests over the phone.  According to the IndyStar newspaper, online retail outlets rank higher in customer service satisfaction than brick and mortar stores.

We all have customers, whether we are freelancers who have to consult with clients on a project or every-day employees who have to keep in contact with teammates and bosses.  How do you keep customer service at a high level when you’re located hundreds if not thousands of miles away?  The key is communication.  In fact sometimes it might mean over-communication and dialogue.

Luckily web workers have cheap (if not free) tools such as email and VoIP to help us keep in touch with our customers.  Largely good customer service just requires dedication to “reach out” to your stakeholders to seek feedback and build trust.

How do you ensure good customer service to your “customers”?  Which tools to you employ to accomplish this goal?

(photo credit: Flickr user striatic)

10 Responses to “Customer Service in a Web World”

  1. I’ve found Twitter to be a good source of customer support, mainly for Twitter tools, but for other apps too.

    Blogging about products does tend to bring in the PR/customer service comments, too, but is that so bad? I haven’t been asked to write nice things, just engaged by the company, and I like it.

    Gives the feeling/illusion that someone cares.

  2. In the age of web 2.0 companies struggling for users and market share, many focus on building businesses focused on low-cost / high-volume online services, devoid of any human interaction or customer service.

    BusinessWeek magazine covered the same topic in a recent article called Consumer Vigilantes. In it, they describe how customer service is the new form of marketing and that many organizations are missing out on opportunities to retain customers due to lack of communication and poor customer service.

    Our company owns an online project collaboration solution called Joint Contact. Overall, we see ourselves as more than just a website, but providing a full-service experience that is unique in our competitive landscape.

    As described in your article, this translates into reaching out to customers to obtain feedback, as well as being proactive through the use email, phone and other communication channels. Other online services like My Emma and Domain Direct have also adopted this strategy to build great businesses.

    The goal should be to empower customers because they are essential to business growth.

  3. Big companies can afford to have lackluster customer service because it won’t affect their revenue much. Smaller companies, on the other hand, need personal communication to ensure the customer is satisfied and that their problems are being handled. Nobody likes to feel ignored, and if you can take a person’s worries off their shoulders and make them feel like they can rest it on you, that’s good customer service.

  4. jake la fontaine

    uh, i don’t think that’s “customer service” as much as it is “PR”. after all, they responded to you writing an article on their products, and they contacted you in order to get you to write good things about them. which you then proceeded to do. fair enough on google’s part to promote their products, but how can you legitimately claim that’s “customer service”?

  5. From my personal experience, a number of large companies still have to come to grips with that.
    I had to jump through hoops to get a clear answer on why a Reynolds Plastic Wrap product had been deleted after I was`asked for the reason by my readers.
    Worse even, customer service at my wireless provider told me I could not get in touch with them by e-mail.
    In not so many words, there is a lot of room for improvement.
    Companies have to make themselves accessible.