Breakthrough Marketer

Customer Service Smack-Down – 10 Principles Every Business Owner Should Embrace


By SaRita Custis

Chief Business Growth Strategist

One common complaint among internet marketers is the lack of good customer service from the people selling products online. Recently I had an experience that took “bad” customer service to a whole new level.


First I'll say that the experience was partly my fault.


I saw a sales video for a piece of software that implemented a new way to send hordes of traffic to my site. I thought, “hmmm, sounds interesting.” The video didn't say HOW it worked, only showed proof that it DOES work (Customer Service Failure #1).


At this point, I should have walked away. Blind sales letters are never good, so I clicked the little x — and got a better offer. In fact, I got several better offers (Customer Service Failure #2) until I got to the one that said “You can have it for only $1 AND we have a no questions asked money back guarantee”.


That should have been my first warning but instead I thought, “I can see what this is all about for $1.” So I placed the order.


Then I was presented with an upsell. I could get an unlimited site license now or pay a whole lot more later when I saw how well it worked.


I usually ignore upsells until I know how well something is going to work for me, but for some reason I let myself be influenced and decided to give it a shot since I was “safe”, protected as I was under that no questions asked guarantee.


I completed the upgrade, watched the “how to set up” videos and discovered that the way the software works is this: you send traffic to some amazing content, but in order for your visitor to get that amazing content, they have to send 5 of their friends to the page.


It can be a great strategy if you set it up right. I know this because I already use it on some of my offers :).


So that meant…I already had the technology that I had just purchased.


Oh joy.


Naturally, my first step was to make sure it didn't add any features that I didn't already have (since I am a bit of a software junkie).


It did not.


So, I requested a refund.


When I got to the support desk, there was a note that payments to the vendor are held for 4 days so if my refund request was within that 4 day window, they might process a cancellation instead of a refund.


It didn't matter much to me either way as long as they returned my money, but I went ahead and checked my bank account to see if the money had been paid.


Imagine my surprise when I saw that they had passed their merchant fees on to me! Granted, it was only a couple of dollars, but really?




Customer Service failure #3 – BIG TIME.


Below is a pair of screenshots showing the conversation I had with the vendor's support desk. Since I had purchased the $1 offer AND the upgrade, I had to open 2 support tickets (Customer Service failure #4).


I used pretty much the same messages in both tickets, but there were some slight variations so I included both for your enjoyment of Customer Services failures 5, 6, 7, and 8.


As you can see, they “sent” my request to the “department” that handles refunds on 8/20. I received a full refund – including the added fees – sixteen (16) days later on 9/5 (Customer Service Failure #9).


And then starting on 9/9, I start receiving the vendor's promotional e-mails, promo after promo after promo with zero value added (Final nail-in-the-coffin Customer Service Failure #10).


So in addition to reminding me to follow my own rules for making a purchase decision (know what you're getting, avoid the weird tricks, etc.), this experience highlighted 10 customer service principles you should always follow to establish long term relationships with your customers.


1. Customer Service means taking care of your customers before a sale is even made.

Tell your prospect what they're getting so they don't approach a purchase with the “well, if I don't like it, I can always get my money back” mindset.


2. Customer Service means demonstrating integrity in all circumstances.

If you're going to offer a downsell, then offer something that has a lower value than the original offer – either a less expensive version or a different product altogether. Don't just lower the price on the same offering, it makes it seem like either you're trying to take advantage of your buyers or you have no idea how much your product is really worth.


3. Customer Service means being transparent.

If there are fees attached to processing an order, make that VERY clear at the point of sale – in online terms, make the fees a line item on the shopping cart. Never surprise your customers with a higher charge on their credit card than they agreed to pay when they clicked the Pay Now button.


4. Customer Service means making it as easy as possible to work with you.

When someone purchases multiple items during a single purchase “session”, even if the purchases are processed as separate transactions, allow them to send you one message referencing any or all of the items involved in that purchase. If they have a question, it should be 1 ticket. If they want a refund, it should be 1 ticket. If they need tech support , it should be 1 ticket!


5. Customer Service means actually listening to your customers!

If a customer contacts you by phone or in person, listen to the words they say and other cues that tell you how they're really feeling. If the contact is by email or your support desk, actually read what they type in. Do what you need to do to make sure you understand their circumstance so you can provide the service they need.


6. Customer Service means interacting with your customers.

Do not use automatic / automated responses. Pay attention to the issue, and respond to that issue. The only acceptable “canned” response is acknowledgement that the ticket was received and a promise to get back with your customer as soon as possible.


7. Customer Service means paying attention to the details.

Make sure you and members of your support staff address the customer by the right name, talk about the right issue, and understand the entire situation during every contact. Remember that you're dealing with people, and people want to know that the companies they invest their hard-earned money with actually care about meeting their needs.


8. Customer Service means treating customers with respect.

Words have power, so choose the words you use very carefully. It is ridiculously easy to offend someone, and once you do that, expect your reputation to take a beating.

In the example referenced in this article, the word “blacklist” irritated me to no end. According to the dictionary, blacklist means “to put (a person, group, company, etc.) on a list of persons under suspicion, disfavor, censure, etc.” How is asking for a refund on a product that does not meet the customer's needs grounds for placing them under suspicion?

This is just one example, though. Foul language, stereotyping, religious references, and condescending phraseology can all lead to angering your customer. Focus on being respectful and courteous, and you should be just fine.


9. Customer Service means being responsive to your customers.

If you want people to do business with you in the future, answer questions and resolve issues as quickly as possible. There is no reason whatsoever for a refund to take 16 days.

I take that back. If you file bankruptcy or something major like that, and attorneys are involved in satisfying your debts, then it can take a long time. But in normal day-to-day business operations, process refunds immediately and build a solid gold reputation.


10. Customer Service means giving the best you've got all the time.

To build a sustainable business, one in which customers come to you again and again for advice, guidance, and products that meet their needs, your focus must always be on helping them. That means following up with every customer to help them use your product and going above and beyond to help them get results. Sometimes that involves recommending a specific product, but not every time.

If your mailing list follow-up series is promotion after promotion with no added value, take the time right now to go in and add some real content. Give to your customers and show them that you value the relationship.


So there you have it. Ten simple principles that basically boil down to 1 – the golden rule – treat people the way you want to be treated.


Share your favorite customer service nightmare in the comments below. Let's make the internet marketing space one where people are treated right, all the time.