Customers are my reason for being. Without them I have no business.
At Bubbler Deals we have two very different kinds of customers. We have people who purchase vouchers from our site whom we refer to as our subscribers or members.
Then, we have the businesses who supply us with offers of their products and services to sell on their behalf, we refer to these as clients. In order for Bubbler Deals to deliver superior customer service, we must exceed the expectations of both these groups.
When researching to start up Bubbler Deals I saw a clear need for a customer service focused deal site. Pretty much everyone I spoke to told me of a bad experience they had purchasing from a deal site. The industry was fast losing the trust and respect of their members – their reason for being.
We set out with a clear purpose to deliver extraordinary customer service so we were delighted when we were announced the winners of the 2012 AusMumpreneur of the Year Award in the category of Best Customer Service. We were tickled pink as this was a voted category and we won because our members were motivated enough to get online and vote for us.
Here are five tips anyone who wants to improve their customer service should borrow and adopt.
#1: Really engage your customers
Your customers want to interact with your business, some more than others. If you do not already have one, create a Facebook business page and start posting some relevant content.
A Facebook business page allows your customers to speak with you about things that are relevant to them and provide your with invaluable feedback.
It is a great opportunity for you to learn more about your customer base so that you can tailor your service or product more appropriately.
I post a minimum of 3 posts every day on the Bubbler Facebook page. I time these posts to best meet my customer’s day. My customers are busy mums. I know that straight after school drop off, lunchtime and once the kids are in bed, are the best times to engage my customers. So, this is when I post on Facebook.
Keep in mind that Facebook is also one of the first places a customer will raise an issue they are experiencing. It is, therefore, important that you have the time to manage your page and address an issue as it arises. Other customers will watch how you manage the issue. If you actively manage your page, it will build trust with your customers.
#2: Respond to your customers
Problems arise in each and every business. It is important for you to respond, in a timely manner at that.
I started my working career as a sales representative, selling dog food to supermarkets around Victoria. It was a very large well known organisation and, I learnt the importance of the customer.
Whenever there was a customer complaint reported to the head office, the representative in the area was to drop everything and attend. It was the number one priority and they had a clear policy that all customer complaints had to be attended to within 24 hours. It is something that stayed with me.
You must be timely in your response to your customers’ complaints. People want to see action.
Many an issue has been avoided just by making contact as soon as the complaint is received, acknowledging their concerns and telling them that you will investigate it. People want their issues heard quickly. This extends beyond complaints. You really need to be responsive to all contact made by a customer or prospective customer.
I also stress the importance of delivering what you say you are going to do. Your efforts to be responsive will be in vain if you fail to deliver. Make your commitments to customers achievable and, ensure you deliver then. When you cannot deliver as you planned, get in touch and tell them why, as soon as you possibly can.
#3: Be relevant
Do you know what your customers actually want? Part of any good customer service plan is about delivering what the customers want.
As a mum of three young kids, I was finding the deals hitting my inbox from the mainstream deal sites did not apply to me. I mean, how much IPL, Photo books and Paintballing could one woman want?
My business came about largely because the existing offerings in the marketplace lacked any relevance. I set about delivering a niche offer which was tailored to mums, aged 25-44 years, with children aged 12 and under. I ensure I am relevant to my target market. Straying from this model would see my customer interest drop sharply.
#4: Stand out: be extraordinary
Do something unexpected. Go the extra mile every time. It will pay back in droves.
I am a huge believer in Karma. Give extraordinary service and, people will come to you. They will hear about you from your loyal fans. They will become your best form of advertising.
I once had an offer on my site and received some really negative feedback from our members that the venue was unsuitable.
Six complaints came within 24 hours and, I knew I had made an error of judgement in listing this particular business. I immediately inspected the venue, looked at it from the perspective of a mum and, quickly saw that they were right. I took the extraordinary steps of terminating the agreement with the merchant. I then wrote to every person who purchased the offer and informed them that we did not feel the venue was suitable. All customers were refunded within 48 hours.
It was an extraordinary response which was unexpected by my customers. We received a huge volume of positive feedback. We had built trust. Our customers now feel very confident purchasing on our site as they know that if something does go wrong, they know that our business will address it. These customers continue to purchase from our site and refer other friends.
#4: Respect your customers
I think it is incredibly important to put yourself in the shoes of your customers. Respect their time. Respect how and when you communicate with them.
As my target is busy mums with young families, I do not attempt to engage them at dinnertime. Instead, I do so after the kids have gone to bed. This ensures I get a better response from my efforts and, I am more likely to have the customer engage with us.
One key thing we knew was that people were experiencing what I call ‘deal fatigue’. They were unsubscribing from sites or had stopped buying because the offers were irrelevant or, their inbox was bombarded with three emails each day for the one deal. Customers felt spammed.
At Bubbler, we issue only one email for each new deal launched. By respecting our customer’s inbox, we have an email open rate much higher than the industry standard.
In fact, I have often heard from people that they actually enjoy opening their Bubbler email and seeing what our latest deal is.
What are the challenges in offering great customer service?
Okay, so I hear you say, “That all sounds well and good Katrina, but who has the time to do all this? Surely this adds cost to my business! There is already not enough time in the day as it is!”
Being a mumpreneur, my work days are never set in the traditional sense. I work whilst my kids are at school and, then again late into the evening. It is part of the appeal of starting a business. I am able to attend assembly to watch one of my kids receive an award or, go to the sports carnival knowing I can pick up the hours later.
However, one of the difficulties in delivering against these objectives, is the isolation. More often than not, we work alone and there is not the person to bounce off ideas. We often have to just back ourselves and work from our gut feeling. I find great benefits in attending conferences such as the AusMumpreneur network to establish networks of other mums in business that I can bounce off ideas and learn from.
I recently attended the AusMumpreneur Conference where Kim Morrison, an inspiring speaker who runs Twenty 8, spoke about the importance of rituals in both life and business. Being responsive, engaged and accessible to Bubbler customers is something I am committed to delivering each day. I am currently adopting Kim Morrison’s view to make turn it into a ritual.
Every evening, I am reviewing and responding to customer contact received through the day. I do this after my kids have gone to bed. Soon, I hope it will become just a regular part of my day and I will not even think about it.
Trust me. The rewards of excellent customer service are always heart warming, especially when your customers appreciate your efforts. So, even though time is a challenge, the rewards and pay back make the effort a sound investment in your business.
Katrina McCarter is a Perth-based mumpreneur. She is carving out a successful niche in the competitive industry of online group buying sites with her family focused deals website, Bubbler.com.au. Launched in January 2012 after six months of development, Katrina was one of the first to recognise the gap in the market for deals relevant to families. After only seven months in the market, Bubbler Deals has already won the Best Customer Service award in the 2012 AusMumpreneur Awards.
Image by seanbjack