People are asking me how I manage to keep up the ratings for my plugins at 5 stars. In this article, I will explain some basic stuff about how I make this magic happen. 🙂
So, when you’re working in any job where you come into contact with customers, at some point you will have to handle customers who are challenging, difficult or just downright rude. And yet handling those interactions in a positive way can turn the most awkward, obstinate customer into a lifelong advocate for your brand or product. A customer who has had a complaint resolved to their satisfaction is far more likely to be a repeat customer than one who has received lacklustre service.
I’ve been working in customer service for my plugins for well over 3 years and have built up a repertoire of good habits which will help smooth any customer interaction along.
Here are my top tips to always maintain top quality feedback for products you are selling:
1. Always Remain Professional
Ha. I’m sure you’re sitting there right now thinking “Who’s she kidding?! I’m ALWAYS professional – in everything!” Well, the bad news is, you’re probably not. Hey, I’ve been doing this for decades, and I still slip up from time to time!
Remaining professional means removing your negative emotions from the interaction. Don’t think about how annoying this customer is being. Don’t think about how you’ve been slaving away on this product for months and their negative feedback is just so unfair. Don’t fall into the trap of responding “Hey doofus, I made an FAQ section for a reason, maybe try reading it?!”
Remaining professional also means don’t stoop to their level. Sure, receiving one-line emails that just say “this isn’t working why” or “ur an diot u scumbag i hope u never sell something online again” is both annoying and upsetting, and it can be very tempting to just blast one back telling them to pull their head out of their ass. Don’t respond in kind. Reply to ALL emails as if the customer had sent a nice polite inquiry. “Hi there Alan – I will need a little more information in order to determine what the problem is. Can you tell me… etc”. Always sign off an email with “best regards” or “I hope this helps” or something similarly polite.
2. Put Yourself in the Customer’s Shoes
If you’ve provided something to the customer and they’ve experienced some sort of problem with it, then for you that may be a slightly annoying ripple in your day. For them, it may be a major inconvenience that is costing them time and/or money. So maybe the problem is nothing to do with you – say you’ve sold them an e-book, but they can’t work out how to open it. Is that your fault? No. Should you try to help? Yes, of course.
Think about how you’ve felt when you’ve called some place for help with something, probably sat through 10 minutes of call center menus and hold music, before getting through to someone who says “Sorry I can’t help, I’ll put you through to another department.” ARGHH! If you can help, do! Don’t fob them off to some Microsoft Knowledge Base article or tell them to “read the manual”. This is your chance to turn this customer from someone frustrated and annoyed at your product to someone who is fantastically loyal and will buy again. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by!
3. Under-promise and over-deliver
If you’re investigating something for a customer, or providing them with something that will take some time to deliver (e.g. a website design), be realistic about the time frame, then add on another 20% for good measure. This ensures that if you’re delayed for any reason, you should still be able to deliver on time, but it also means that if you’ve told a customer “This will take 5 days” and then you deliver in 3, they’re going to be really impressed with your speed.
This also holds true if you’ve promised to contact a customer back. If you’ve said “I’ll email you by the end of the day with the information”, but the information isn’t ready by that deadline, email them anyway and let them know there’s been a hold up.
4. If you’ve done something wrong, admit it and apologize.
We all make mistakes and at some point you’re going to drop an absolute clanger with a customer. It happens. The worst thing you can do is try to blame the customer, a third party supplier, or an act of god. The customer isn’t stupid and they’re going to know that you’re not serious with them. Simply say,
“I’m really sorry – I’ve made an error [with whatever] which has caused [the problem.] I do apologize. What can I do to make it right for you?”
Listen to what the customer says, and try to find a solution that will work for both of you. Maybe it’s a refund, maybe it’s one month free, maybe something else. You may end up out of pocket, and you have to accept that and chalk it up to experience.
Here’s an example of my own stupidity and how I made up for my error.
I had a web design client who was relaunching her business under a new name. Along with the website which I was designing and hosting, she was also doing a local leafleting campaign. When we discussed email addresses for the site, I did not make a note in her client file of her preferred email address for the website. So when I set it up, I only added one email address. However, when she ordered the leaflets, she added a different email address – which didn’t exist.
We discussed it like rational adults – I wasn’t sure of whether we had talked about the email addresses during our meetings, but as I hadn’t written anything down about it, I accepted responsibility and didn’t try to push the blame on her. I ended up paying for a second leafleting campaign for her, which cost me about £80/$120. That represented about 20% of my profit on the job, so it was a bit of a smack.
However, I took that experience and turned it to positive. The customer was happy that we’d reached an agreement, and I made sure that in future, when I set up email addresses for clients I
a) write it down on their agreement and
b) set up a “catch-all” email address so that any emails to non-existing addresses get forwarded on anyway.
5. Learn to welcome negative feedback
Positive feedback is great, isn’t it? It makes you feel all warm and fuzzy and that all the hours of hard work on the project were worthwhile. But wait, what’s this? An email from some guy saying “Your training videos are crap”? HOW DARE HE?!?!
Although positive feedback feels great and looks good on your sales page, it’s actually negative feedback which is the most valuable to you as a professional, because it tells you exactly what you need to improve. If you hired a team of market researchers to get ideas and suggestions on your product, you’d be paying hundreds or thousands of dollars. Now here’s a customer giving it you for free! Embrace them with open arms, because they are about to help you make better products.
Put your ego away.
Yes, you slaved for hours/days/weeks/months creating this product – well done. That doesn’t make it perfect. In our world, there’s no such thing as the perfect product. Thing about the biggest selling products of all time – they all have flaws, in some cases major ones. How about the iPhone 4 – released to huge fanfare, but it turned out that if you held the phone in your left hand, the signal kept cutting out? It still sold millions of units. How about (if you’re old enough to remember it) Windows ME, the predecessor to Windows XP? Actually, how about Windows Vista? In both of those Windows cases, Microsoft listened to the feedback, and incorporated the stuff that was fixable into their next product.
If Apple and Microsoft can drop the ball that badly, so can you. Stop thinking of this product as your firstborn child, and get your objectivity on!
Listen to the complaints, and ask for more detail if necessary.
So you’ve got someone who says “Your training videos are crap”. Send them a polite inquiry to ask in what area they could be improved. (DON’T send something snotty saying “Please share your opinion about in what way they are “crap”” – be professional and just ask “Could you be a little more specific? I’d like to improve them if I can.” Now you should hopefully get a response that you can actually make use of. Maybe your microphone is crap. Maybe you recorded your screen at too low of a resolution and the customer can’t see the details on their big-ass monitor. Or maybe the customer is hearing-impaired and needs a transcription or a separate PDF manual.
Even if you can’t make improvements in this particular product or service, you can use this feedback to improve your next one – just like Microsoft and Apple did.
If you can’t fix the problem, give a refund.
Sometimes it’s best to just move on. If the customer asks for a refund – even if you think they’ve wasted your time and they haven’t even used it, or they just want to charge it back and keep the product – just go ahead and refund. It took me a long time to learn this lesson, particularly with customers who I suspected were dishonest and just wanted a free copy. However, the amount of time and energy that you will spend arguing about it, and the potential for the comeback from their complaints on review sites and the like, far outweighs in almost every case the amount of money you will not have to refund them. Just refund it and move on – it’ll take like one minute, as opposed to hours fighting it.
And when you write them back, again keep it professional. No firing off emails saying “Here’s your refund you CHEAPASS.” Just “Sorry to hear our product wasn’t for you. I’ve processed your refund and that should be back in your Paypal account very shortly. Best regards, etc.”
There are many other tips to giving great customer service, but for me these five are the most fundamental and basic ones. Get these under your belt and practice until it becomes second nature.
Got some of your own to share? Post a comment.