How To Provide Excellent Customer Service

In this dog-eat-dog world, the only businesses to survive will be the ones who are so big that they own everything in sight really care about their customers. It’s important to be in touch with your consumer base in order to go above and beyond the call of duty. Here’s how to really meet their needs.

1) Have a great website. The more flashy stuff, the better. Seriously. Things that flash, and lots of it. Customers appreciate a website with a little bling. Nothing like a seizure to make them forget about a rough day. They’ll thank you.

2) Provide a contact link. Customers like to be able to get in touch. Know what they also like? Easter egg hunts. Who doesn’t love an endless search for the prize? Be sure to hide that contact link in the least likely place you can think of. If you’re really committed to providing a good time, move the link every couple of weeks.

3) Know your customers. Like, really know them. On your contact form, request as much information possible. You never know when you might need to know the name of their mother-in-law’s best friend’s dog.

4) Address all complaints in a timely manner. In order to do so, don’t feel compelled to read their entire complaint. Every third word will do. After all, time is money. They’d rather you get back to them in a hurry with any answer than to have to actually wait for the right one. I’m pretty sure.

5) Timely, but not too timely. Don’t respond to email complaints immediately. It makes you seem needy. A waiting period of at least twelve hours sends the message that you are prompt, but not desperate.

6) Provide a detailed solution. The more complicated steps required, the better. The harder they have to work for it, the more appreciated the result will be. It’s especially effective if they’re required to restart their computer several times in order to read the instructions again. And if correcting their problem involves the use of a piece of equipment they don’t actually have, so much the better!

7) Find the cause of the issue quickly. By blaming them. When they feel like they’re the entire problem, you have empowered them to become the solution. And if you’re convincing enough, they’re less likely to sue you.

8 ) Always apologize for any inconvenience. Whether you mean it or not. After all, there is nothing worse than inconvenience. In the lesser-known eleventh plague of Egypt, God removed all the Redboxes and 7/11s. And horror filled the land. Inconvenience is the pits. Your customer is not screaming at you because the computer monitor you sold them set their hair on fire. They’re complaining because it will be a total pain in the behind to drive over to Wal-mart and buy makeup so they can draw their eyebrows back on. Apologize. Often.

9) Don’t live in the past.  Keep no records of your clients’ customer service history. If you have any questions, you can always ask them again. And again. And again.

10) Encourage two-way communication. By limiting your email responses to a single, incomplete sentence. People love cliff-hangers. They’ll send you back a reply almost instantly and be ready for a response from you, which you can supply. In twelve hours.



Update: An excellent post on creating a user friendly website can be found here. No tongue in cheek, just really good advice.

Technical Difficulties

From the day I opened the box, I thought the color on my new computer looked weird. And not just a little. Every page I visit appears as though it has been bleached by the sun. I have tinkered with the color saturation and brightness. And that’s the most annoying part. Every single time I reboot the computer, I have to adjust the color again. I’m ready to scream. I am working on a book about the tortoises at my zoo, and being able to sort through my blue-million photographs and see which ones are good is kind of important. I am not above thinking that this issue my fault, but I decided to contact the company for tech support.

The moment I went to their site, I was invited to register my purchase. So I did. My dog is registered, so why not the computer? The first thing they requested however, requested the model number. Which happens to be on the bottom of the computer and contains more digits than the profit sheet of an oil company. The process would have been a wee bit simpler if I could have typed the digits in myself, but computers are not here to make our lives easier. Instead, I was presented with a drop down menu and asked to select my model number. From a list of 75 nearly identical numbers, all in tiny, cross-your-eyes pale blue font. It took several minutes of scrolling, turning the machine over to double check, scrolling some more, before I located what I was looking for. Wait. Does that have an extra digit? It does. Where is mine? Where is mine? Just as I was about to quit altogether, my model number appeared as if by magic. A few more clicks, and the process was complete. On to the help center.

The first request in the help center was, of course, my model number. Again. I scrolled, I studied the bottom of the computer, scrolled some more. Clicked it, moved on. I discovered that the page was a dead end for me, so I clicked to go back to the help center. And I was asked to select my model number. Scroll, turn, scroll, swear, scroll. Click. Another dead end, and back to the help center. To select my model number, which now is suddenly no longer visible. I may not know Squish’s social security number yet, but by golly, I can rattle my model number in my sleep. And I did.  For kicks, I had it tattooed on my bum-bum.

After about eight tries Finally, I found the right page and was able to send off an email requesting help. When I woke up this morning, I had this response:


If you need me, I will be drinking.

Am I a Cool Kid Now?

I’m typing this post on my brand new computer. Don’t get all excited and try to locate the GPS coordinates to my house in the hopes of stealing a valuable piece of machinery. It’s never safe to assume that “new” means “top-of-the-line-Mac-daddy.” Especially when it comes to me. I haven’t used a Mac since I was 14, and I’m not wealthy in the mood to relearn a system. It’s a  PC. And I feel like a filthy cheater.

For the first time since the old lap-top’s battery bit the dust two (or three?) years ago, I am not tied to a wall when I write.The cord for the old Dell has been replaced once already, and if the cord is breathed on wrong bumped by kid or dog, the computer dies an instant death. I should be delighted that I charged this bad boy yesterday, and it’s happily ticking along. But I’m not. It feels somewhat indecent to be sitting and typing away in Panera with my new toy while Old Faithful languishes at home.

Yes, I said Panera. Isn’t that what the cool kids do? Drag their machines to Panera for the magic cup of coffee that buys them six free hours of wi-fi and blog? Does this make me a hipster now? As you answer, please ignore the Gryffindor messenger bag I used to tote the thing in here. And the bag of bagels sitting on the table waiting for me to take them to the church brunch tomorrow. And the fact that it’s not a Mac.  I’m totally cool, right? Maybe it’s safer not to answer.

This new computer has lots of fancy features, a gajillion times the memory of the old one, plants vs zombies (which I definitely think I should try), and it even has a built in time-travel feature. It must, because it allows WordPress to save my drafts two full minutes before my computer’s clock says I’ve even written them. Time travel rocks. But what it doesn’t have is my enormous collection of photographs. So for awhile, the only pictures you see of me will look like this:

I know. Dead ringer. Adidas track suit and everything. Yes, I drew this myself. I even put five fingers on each hand. I was going to stop at four, but I go the extra mile for my readers.

I am sure that over time, I will fall totally in love with my new computer. But I will never learn to love Panera and the horrible, horrible jazz they play on their muzak. I think I have to leave now. Before I kill someone.

I See What I’ve Been Missing

We cut off cable a few years ago when we moved to our new house, and we never bothered to have it hooked back up. After a Saturday at my mother’s house with access to 300 channels, I am now discontent with my life. We need cable.

I was there to take care of Mom following her surgery. But apparently post-op patients tend to take a lot of naps, which left me in control of the remote. Such power! I skimmed through that awesome and amazing TV guide channel and discovered the most amazing things. I found an educational program called “Brazilian Butt Lift” on the ABC Family Channel. As the old adage goes, “Families that lift their bum-bums together go to therapy together,” and who wants to stand in the way of that?

I scrolled through more channels and found about fifty more workout programs. I didn’t bother. According to a fellow blogger, I would actually have to do the exercises in order for them to help. As if.

And there were a few dozen home improvement programs. Watching a team come in and knock out half of the walls, paint everything green and purple, and spend large sums of money on weird bits of furniture is good fun. The families are always so excited about that latch hook Dogs Playing Poker rug in the living room and the velvet Elvis on the bedroom ceiling because it’s all in such good taste.

I finally settled on Planet Earth, a nature series with spectacular cinematography. And even better commercials. I timed it. Three minutes of commercials for every five minutes of programming. You know what that means? Too much programming. I found that I have been missing out on a lot of great stuff.

I need a GoJo. It’s the truly hands-free headset, and I need to use my hands less. And I want one for the whole family. We don’t have cell phones, and I only voluntarily make one phone call a week, but we need this thing. With this device, I could do back flips and carry my five pound laptop without even using my hands. I have always wanted to be able to do a back flip.

And there was this sticky roller thing used to get pet hair off of clothing. They said that buying their product could save me $100 a year, and who doesn’t need extra cash? But here’s the sad part. Vince promised that if I called within the next 20 minutes, he would double my order, but they couldn’t keep the offer going all day. And apparently he meant it. I couldn’t find the phone, and they never ran the ad again.

So here I sit, sad and still covered in cat hair, unable to lift my Brazilian Butt off the couch, and still using my hands to hold things. I am way behind the modern world. I may never catch up.

Dude, with a GoJo, you could be holding that cat hands-free. I swear!

Moving On

If it doesn't come with a mouse, I am no longer sure how to use it.

I got an e-reader for my birthday. Being able to curl up in bed, electric mattress cover set to high, is about as close to heaven as it gets in this life.

Last night I was sitting in my living room reading. No matter how hard I tapped, the page stubbornly refused to change. I was ready to bang the thing on the ground when my husband spoke up.

“Babe, you sent the reader back. That’s an actual book.”

I stared at him, puzzled. He rolled his eyes and explained. Apparently, I have to turn the page manually, and he showed me how. Grip page between fingers, move to left. Every single time I finish a page. Really? What are we? Cave people? I feel my carpal tunnel kicking in.

I was super-annoyed when the book didn’t save my progress, either. Apparently, I have to slide a thin, flat object such as my library card or a twenty-dollar bill between the pages and hold the spot myself.  Confusing, but I will learn. You can teach this new dog old tricks.

I found a CD that I wanted, but no matter where I clicked on it, or how hard,  I couldn’t add it to my shopping cart.  The sales clerk gave me a dirty look and finally put it in my hands. People are so weird. And as I was checking out, I had the hardest time with the shipping options.

“You just take it with you,” said the lady behind the counter. An actual counter. Seriously low-tech.

“Or?” I asked. But apparently, that was the only option. That is unfortunate. I love getting mail. But then again, I don’t have to wait two business days to receive it. I suppose it’s a trade-off.

It’s a difficult adjustment, but it’s not all bad. I went into my family room and discovered that if I am looking for something to read, there are literally hundreds of those weird paper versions to choose from. That’s kind of cool. I never did find instructions on how to get my collection onto the reader to begin with. Waving it around in front of the shelves never worked, and the USB port seemed kind of a small target to shove them in. I might actually be low-tech at heart.

I think I’ll be okay.


Attention Impulse Shoppers (and kids!), Amazon Wants YOU!

If you received a Kindle Fire that was purchased for the holidays, you may have until January 31 to return it. If you know someone who purchased one, especially if it was for a child, be sure to share this information with them, as there is a new policy that may be a deal breaker. I posted about my frustration about Amazon’s credit-card only policy. It stinks. But this one is scarier.

Now that lots of people have brought home that awesome Kindle Fire for the holidays, a brand new policy has been implemented. Downloading free apps now requires that users enter some form of payment. Of course, your account won’t be charge for the free stuff.  And it can even be a gift card, so long as it has a balance of at least $.01. But here’s the problem. This new policy means that users who would like to download free apps must activate 1-click payment.

What this means for parents is that the device you put in your kid’s hands would now be connected directly to a payment method without the added step of password protection. They click it, they buy it. And it bothers me.

The timing of this policy is interesting, I think. It wasn’t on their site three weeks ago when I was first considering returning my Fire. But with only two weeks left for holiday shoppers to return the goods, it has made its magical appearance. And I’m not okay with it. Yes, you can usually return the things that were bought on impulse or by accident, but dealing with customer service can sometimes take hours. And it can take several days for the money to be credited to your account again.

One of the concerns I initially had with the Fire was the 1-click payment. If you check reviews, some users experienced what amounted to identity theft when their device fell into the wrong hands and someone simply changed the shipping address and had a nice spree. Amazon did respond and create a way to disable 1-click. But now users will have to reactivate it if they would like to take advantage of free apps.

The important thing is for users to decide if this new policy is a deal-breaker. There are workarounds.  If you choose to keep the device, you can:

Purchase an Amazon gift card to connect to the account. I contacted Customer Service because the smallest increment I could find was $50. You can purchase cards for as little as $1, but you may have to contact customer service in order to do it. I couldn’t find a way through the normal links.

Disable 1-Click after you download the free apps you want.  This may be a hassle. You’ll have to reactivate it each time you find new apps you want to download.

But there’s not a lot of time to decide. There are only a couple of weeks left for holiday returns. Good luck.