Most small business owners and and sole proprietors do not have enough financing to be able to afford proper customer service. Therefore, the role of providing customer service often falls on the employees. The founders of software company, Fog Creek, fell into this category and were forced to provide customer service themselves. They go into great detail about how they learned to provide excellent customer service:
As a bootstrapped software company, Fog Creek couldn’t afford to hire customer service people for the first couple of years, so Michael and I did it ourselves. The time we spent helping customers took away from improving our software, but we learned a lot and now we have a much better customer service operation.
1. Fix everything two ways
Almost every tech support problem has two solutions. The superficial and immediate solution is just to solve the customer’s problem. But when you think a little harder you can usually find a deeper solution: a way to prevent this particular problem from ever happening again.
2. Suggest blowing out the dust
Microsoft’s Raymond Chen tells the story of a customer who complains that the keyboard isn’t working. Of course, it’s unplugged. If you try asking them if it’s plugged in, “they will get all insulted and say indignantly, ‘Of course it is! Do I look like an idiot?’ without actually checking.”
“Instead,” Chen suggests, “say ‘Okay, sometimes the connection gets a little dusty and the connection gets weak. Could you unplug the connector, blow into it to get the dust out, then plug it back in?’
3. Make customers into fans
4. Take the blame
5. Memorize awkward phrases
6. Practice puppetry
7. Greed will get you nowhere
8. (Bonus!) Give customer service people a career path
The last important lesson we learned here at Fog Creek is that you need very highly qualified people talking to customers.
Seven steps to remarkable customer service – [Joel on Software]