I’ve not written about a movie or a television commercial in a while, though they are one of my favorite topics of discussion. A recent advertisement i saw prompted this post.
The latest (not sure if its latest, but the one that’s on air these days) Titan, Be More TVC with Aamir Khan has a simple context of a broken computer at a senior citizens house. Aamir is fixing it while the senior customer is complaining of time taken to respond by the company, responsibility, etc. Aamir fixes it and while he’s leaving the customer asks for a contact number in the future. That’s when the customer and we audience realize that Aamir is not a service guy, but the MD of the company. The spirit of customer service is summarized by Aamir in one sentence “No task is big or small”
See the TVC here:
One main take away from that TVC is also the fact that for a company, customer service must be top priority. No customer is superior or inferior and anyone capable in the company should tend to serve the customer in need. All that i write here may seem idealistic to many of you who read it. I am sure people in the customer service departments of mobile operators and insurance companies will scorn at me! But, then again. Pause for a bit and think about it!
Definition of customer in this context is that person (individual or another business) who will buy something (product or service) from you.
A start-up must have customer service / customer experience as one of the top 3 things they will address as a company. The thought behind it is pretty simple and i practiced it as part of my first start-up Madhouse.
You build your product or run a service for the end customer to use it. More number of customers who associate themselves with you translates into more revenues. If each customer who has ever interacted with you, refers at least one more customer to your company will only mean double the sales. In all, one happy customer is bound to refer more customers. Consistent customer service with focus on experience and delight will only lead to constant customer referrals – the most cost efficient marketing methods for any startup to practice!
In your initial days, as a start-up, its too soon to classify customers as – ideal customer, loss making customer, high-maintenance customer, etc. All customers when you start off are good customers. Treat them in the same manner, give each one of them the real experience of your product/service/brand. Create a sense of “wow” in them. Instill confidence in your company by being consistent in each interaction, by making the customer realize that they are special, by showing the customer that the company cares.
A few ways you can deliver good customer service and impart a good experience are:
- Have an internally agreed upon Service Level Agreement (SLA) that the company will respond to any existing customer complaint within X hours, it can be 12 or 24. Live upto it. You can also make this public to set customer expectation and to ensure you deliver what you commit to.
- Have an SLA for potential customer inquiry or prospective lead. Timely response helps in winning customers many-a-times.
- Its not a crime to slip-up on a commitment to your customer, but do not make it a habit. For any slip-ups ensure you say sorry and compensate with something little that leads to customer delight. At Madhouse, if we missed delivering a movie to a customer or we committed on a movie and it was not there, we’d send the next best option with a personalized sorry note and a plum cake. This experience stayed with our customers and led to lunch time pantry talks, strong customer references. As a matter of fact, this also won us loyalty points and was one of the influencing factors – for our third co-founder to approach us and discuss possibilities of him joining the team.
- Be prepared to go all out to fulfilling a commitment to your customer, even if it means incurring some losses. That loss will be short-term for a long-term gain.
- As a company, everyone in the team must treat customer service / experience as super important and must be convinced about it. It must be imbibed in the culture of the company. That’s when naturally, customer related tasks will take precedence over other things that start-up teams will need to work on.
The above list is not exhaustive, but only indicative of the importance customer service / experience should get in a start-up.
One of the largest Retail Companies in India, a favorite of mine, Shoppers Stop from time immemorial have a simple designation attached that has made a difference in the way people have perceived that brand. Their MD is a Customer Care Associate first in designation and then MD. This small, but vital note – was a great move that has built trust among end customers towards the brand, specially in its initial days.
For a start-up if you are convinced that one of your prime tasks is to be there for the customer anytime, anywhere, anyhow – many things that you need to achieve as a start-up, your vision and the reason to exist – will all fall into perspective: the one that has a customer perspective!