Leadership

Web master challenges: Nine tips for providing better customer service

Ryan Boudreaux follows up last week's discussion about customer service challenges with these nine tips on building an exceptional approach to customer service.

Last week, I discussed the customer service challenges that face web developers and listed a few of the most important areas that you need to take into account when planning an approach to providing good service - the tool kit needed, attitude, and establishing a rapport with clients . Having opened that discussion, this week I want to offer several tips for customer service in web development.

Building an exceptional customer service approach

#1 Care and compassion

Show the customer that you care about their goals and objectives, but also show them that you care about them as individuals trying to create a successful organization. The customer wants to know that you are meeting their needs. Let them know by listening intently, even when they may sound unreasonable, and by letting them know that you understand their wants and desires. This is a good first step to gaining the customer's trust.

#2 Service recovery

Have you ever known a customer to complain to you about another member of your development team? Or did they complain to you about a website that went down, or a link that did not work? Did you let the team or the affected team member know about it? It is important that customer complaints be treated as opportunities to shine. I call this the service recovery! Anytime a customer complains to you, they are communicating, and that is always a good thing. If you can meet the customer's immediate concerns and needs, then turn around the bad situation, you will create a better impression than if the issue never existed. Moments like this are ideal opportunities for making your customer service count. Service recovery is like fumbling the ball in a football game and getting the ball back with 10 extra yards on the play. Resolving a customer complaint and fixing any missteps along the way can be an opportunity to shine!

#3 The customer always knows best

The customer knows their product and service better than anyone, so you should know all about it too. This also applies if you are part of the IT or web development team within your larger organization; the goals and objectives of the company should be yours as well. Just because your team works for the same organization does not mean you are exempt from this rule. As a development and design team or department ,you are providing a service to the rest of the company. And your customer might be better at designing your new website than your elite team of web developers. In other words, user experience means developing with the customer in mind, building the site as if you were the customer. You have to ask yourself these questions, when building the site. What would the customer want to see? What would the customer want to feel?

#4 Exceptional knowledge

Make sure you know your job, the system, applications, tools, language, lingo, and the company products and services. The more you know about what you have to offer, and also what the customer is all about, the better prepared you will be in providing exceptional results.

Have you ever gone to an electronics store and asked the salesman about the flat panel screens on display? LCD, plasma, rear projections, and now 3D, so many choices today! How did you feel when the salesman was knowledgeable about the products he was selling? More importantly, did the salesman show an interest in your needs and situation? I bet it felt good when the salesman answered your questions, and even better when he let you know about features and options that helped you make a better decision. Believe it or not, you too are a salesman everyday you face your customer.

#5 Get feedback on customer satisfaction

You want to constantly monitor the pulse of the customer. For example, give the customer opportunities to review website development updates in a staging environment, allowing them to look at, review, and feel the site during its development. This gives them the chance to give immediate feedback during each step of the project. Giving them the ability to provide instant feedback gives the customer a sense of ownership and a higher level of participation while the site is being developed.

#6 Customer appreciation

Let them know that you appreciate them. Sometimes all it takes is sending a simple thank you card, or offering to provide refreshments at the next meeting, conference, or event.

#7 Deliver on time

We all know how a project can develop scope creep and changes multiply like a virus -- and many times this is due to the customer changing and updating the requirements. However, when it is entirely within your control as a web developer or development team, it is crucial to stay on target with projected timelines and milestones. Nothing irks a customer more than when the website is not up and running at the expected moment.

#8 Consistency

Make sure that everyone on your development team is on the same page; you want the "face" of your organization to touch every customer with the same attention to detail and quality.

#9 Give them a little something extra

In my home state of Louisiana, we call this Lagniappe, better known as the baker's dozen. Make sure you go above and beyond the customer expectations, and you will win their hearts and minds every time. You don't have to go overboard and spend a lot of money on this; making an extra effort sometimes means just being proactive. This could mean getting them that milestone a few days or weeks before the expected due date, or just responding to issues before they become major problems.

Do you have the "right" stuff? How do you script your successes? Do you have examples of superior customer service finesse at your organization? Please be sure to share your comments here; we would all like to read more examples of first-class customer service in your web development experience.

About

Ryan has performed in a broad range of technology support roles for electric-generation utilities, including nuclear power plants, and for the telecommunications industry. He has worked in web development for the restaurant industry and the Federal g...

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