During my years as an eBay seller I had the opportunity to interact with 81,000 customers.
How did I speak to so many customers? Here are the numbers:
- 9: years of selling
- 300: number of days I did customer service every year
- 30: The average number of conversations per day
- 9*30*300 = 81,000
If I take into account all the customer service work I’ve done at Crazylister, that number goes up to 100,000 customers. In the early days I viewed customer service as a burden, but I’ve changed my mind very quickly.
During the same time I started selling on eBay, I also started buying on eBay and I experienced customer service from the buyer’s point of view which influenced my own views on how customer service should be performed.
I’m going to share the lessons I learned from the 81,000 customer service conversations. The list is in no particular order but I left the most important lesson for last.
7 customer service tips I would have given to my younger self
Always be gracious
Customers may be upset and they may be right or wrong but never let emotions interfere. Your job is to solve their pain and using inappropriate language won’t get you closer to solving their pain, it will only make things worse.
Give the fastest answer in fewest words
Customers write/call when they have a pain that needs to be solved, your job is to pinpoint the pain and provide the most straightforward answer at the quickest way. Don’t waste their time with non relevant information, provide a direct answer that solves the pain.
End with a smile (emoji)
Always end a conversation with a nice word/phrase, it may seem like nothing but the psychological effect can make the difference between good and great service.
Don’t keep them hanging
People today need everything right here right now, they don’t have time to wait days or even hours, if they inquire about an item and you don’t reply in minutes they will move on to the next seller. If they already bought from you and have to wait hours/days to reply then they will deem your service as sub par and will notify their friends to stay away (with social media it’s ever so easier to destroy a business’ reputation…just look at United airlines incident with Dr. David Dao…)
Anticipate pains (and tackle them)
This one is very important in my eyes as it can help you dramatically reduce the amount of time spent on customer service. When you get a query, try to identify what else the customer may need to know and answer it in advance to prevent a long ping-pong conversation. For example, if a customer wants to know his tracking number, you can simply send him the number but even better than that would be sending him a link to the online live tracking service, providing him with the latest update on his shipment status and the estimated delivery time. This way you answered all his potential questions about tracking, prevented the ping-pong, and the customer will most likely be more satisfied and think higher of your customer support which may lead to him coming back and possibly referring his friends.
Your time is money
In the early days, I cared about every penny so I used to argue with customers about refunds, trying to prove I was right and they had no real claim (when you sell online you encounter a fair share of fraud attempts). In some cases I was right, in others – wrong. What I didn’t realize is that the time I spent on arguing could have been used to growing my business, listing more products, finding new suppliers, improving my business operations and so on. Time is valuable when running your own business, and you have to know where to spend it. I don’t imply that you should always refund every customer, but pay attention to how much time you spend on this and set limits to yourself to manage your time efficiently. With some customers it’s worth refunding and moving on even if you’re 100% convinced you’re right (especially if you argue over $10 for 2 hours).
Customer service is for brilliant people
Customer service is often considered as an entry level position, because of that some people have this notion that customer service is somehow less important than other tasks in the organization. I would argue that the people who believe that are not only wrong but are more likely to achieve worse results than those who realize that customer service is as important as any other task and put the same effort into recruiting brilliant people for this position as to any other position.
Whether you sell laptops, dresses or footwear, your customer service rep should be highly knowledgeable in all aspects of your business from the tiniest item specifications to logistics.
How many times have you walked into a store, wasn’t sure about something and didn’t bother to ask one of the reps because you know they are paid minimum wage, received minimum training (if at all) and cannot possibly be useful to you.
On the opposite side, how many times did you speak to a customer service rep and were surprised (not even astonished, just surprised…) by the high level of knowledge and expertise they demonstrated?
That’s why it’s crucial, especially in the early days of your business, to do the customer service yourself. Don’t agree? See what customers think of that:
Over to You
Overall I’ve probably interacted with over 100,000 customers when combining my work as an eBay seller and at Crazylister.
Over the years I saw the immense effect that the level of customer service has on the business. It’s a challenge measuring customer support since it translates to things like referrals, word of mouth and reviews which in turn bring more customers. I assure you that with time you will see these things positively impact your business growth.
Plus, it’s always a pleasure to see reviews like this pop up on the internet: