One of the big things that IowaComputerGurus has done over the years is to create a network of service providers and product vendors. This has allowed us to provide a full range of service, including items outside of our functional area. The process that we follow to select these vendors for recommendation is a fairly complex operation and at minimum includes our usage of their services. We do not believe in simply linking to products/companies unless we not only believe in the products offered, but in the ongoing support that is provided. Why is this important? Why are we blogging about this under a "Customer Service and Customer Retention" blog?
The answer to this is simple, we have a very clear mission statement:
"Our desire is to provide high quality technology solutions at an affordable price, with the very best customer service."
This has been the driving force of our organization and with this in mind, we constantly evaluate potential recommendations on their ability to deliver service to our clients in a similar manner. With our customer experience and our experience working with other vendors we have came upon a few "truths" in customer service that with proper handling and acknowledgement can result in high quality customer service and high customer retention levels.
1. Things Will Go Wrong
The first rule in customer service is that something WILL go wrong, in software development it is almost impossible to "never" have a bug or defect in a delivered technology solution. Understanding this is the first step to providing top quality customer service. It is all focused around setting the proper expectations with the client and identifying what you will be doing if something comes up.
2. Communication Is Key
If the proper expectations have been set with a client, once an issue has been identified, or a customer service representation has been contacted with a question the service clock starts. At this point, regardless of the end solution, communication is key. Again, setting expectations here is key. Communicate reasonable times to follow-up and stick to them.
If a customer reports a site outage, let them know you will look into it and get back to them in 30 minutes with a status update. Most people understand that items take time to research, the key is that you MUST get back in touch with them in 30 or less minutes. DO NOT wait for 40 minutes, even if you think you will have an answer by then.
3. Honestly and Closing Follow-up
The final piece of the Customer Service puzzle as we see it is to provide your customers with honesty and always follow up each issue with a closing message that re-caps what has transpired, and what is being done to mitigate the risk in the future.
Even with a phone conversation, a secondary follow-up e-mail confirmation the discussion from the phone is a nice touch, and typically leaves the customer feeling good.
Most of these items should seem "common sense" to most of you, and it truly is, however, finding an organization that truly embraces the spirit of customer service is not an easy task. We are constantly on the look-out for vendors and partners that exhibit the strong desire for customer satisfaction as we find that using this model, even if issues do arise we are able to maintain a very high customer retention rate.
The recommended vendors that you will see on various sections of this site or in other blog postings here have all been evaluated through this system. Some more than others, but we can strongly say with all of them that we believe in their products and customer service. This is important for us, as we are all customers as well.