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Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at, follow her on and visit her website,, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.

Tuesday Tips: Lead by Example: 5 Ways to Motivate Your Team to Provide Better Customer Service

By October 18, 2016 No Comments

Today’s customers expect standout customer service in every interaction with a business. As customers grow increasingly demanding, good customer service is now a key differentiating factor in whether a prospect returns to your business — or heads over to your competitors. How can you motivate your customer service representatives to continually improve their level of service? Here are five tactics to try.


Tuesday Tips: The 7 Secrets of Personalized Customer Service

By September 27, 2016 No Comments

In a world where we seem to constantly interact with faceless corporations and cold, glaring screens, your customers are hungry for the personal touch. Personalized customer service is key to differentiating your business from the crowd, attracting customers and turning them into loyal buyers. But providing personal service in today's busy world isn’t easy. A new book by Peter Psichogios, The Seven Personalization Principles: Learn the Principles to Thrive in These Disruptive Times, can help.


Tuesday Tip: 5 Ways to Improve Your Customer Experience

By August 23, 2016 No Comments

Today, customer service is one part of an overall package called the customer experience (CX for short). CX includes every “touchpoint” at which customers interact with your business, from browsing your website to purchasing your product or service, from post-purchase follow-up to customer service interactions. But what matters most in creating a standout customer experience for your target market?


Tuesday Tips: Smartphones Are Driving More Calls to Businesses — Are You Ready?

By July 19, 2016 No Comments

If you thought the rise of digital technology would make good old phone calls to businesses obsolete, think again. Mobile devices and mobile search are actually inspiring more, not fewer, calls to businesses. According to the 2016 Call Intelligence Index, in 2015 digital marketing drove 92 percent of calls to businesses — an increase from 84 percent in 2014.


Tuesday Tip: Social Media Customer Service Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be

By June 14, 2016 No Comments

Does your business provide customer service via social media—or are you stressed out about the fact that you don’t? For a while, social media was rumored to be the “next big thing” in customer service. Industry experts predicting the death of traditional phone-based customer service were full of advice about how to handle customer service via Twitter.

It seems they spoke too soon: A recent survey reports that the use of social-media based customer service is actually declining. While from 2011 to 2013 the number of consumers using social media for customer service doubled, from 2013 to 2015 that number shrank. In fact, in 2015 more than four out of 10 attempts to get customer service through social channels were abandoned—a higher abandonment rate than for any other customer service method.

Apparently, customers are realizing that social media, at least as it currently exists, isn’t really suited for customer service. Thirty-two percent of those who stopped using social media for customer service say its functionality is too limited; 30 percent say it doesn’t work for complex issues; and 33 percent say it simply takes too long.

If social media isn’t offering what customers expect from customer service, what exactly do they expect? Here’s what customers desire most, and how you can deliver:

  • Desire: Getting their issue resolved immediately. This is by far the number-one factor in good customer service. Deliver by: Having a quality phone system that speedily queues, transfers and routes customer calls. Make sure your customer service department is well staffed with adequate backup staffers, especially during busy times or seasons; a call center can help with this. Monitor reps’ response times and results. If a customer reaches out via social media, be sure to respond as quickly as you can and get them in touch with your support department. 
  • Desire: Not having to repeat information or steps. Customers say information they provide on the first call or first step of the phone tree should be passed on to the customer service representatives they speak to later. Deliver by: Collecting customer data. A cloud-based customer service database enables reps to gather information about customers and document steps taken. That way, other reps can retrieve the information later and customers don’t have to repeat themselves. 
  • Desire: Educated customer service reps. Customers want reps to be knowledgeable about solutions and show an understanding of what the customer wants. Deliver by: Training your reps not only about customer service issues and procedures, but about your business as a whole—including products, services and philosophy—so they can deliver the right solution with the right attitude.

The reality is for most small businesses social media isn’t the best channel for handling customer service. If you don’t want to deal with it, discourage customers from raising these issues on social media by providing detailed information about how they should contact you with customer service questions. Prominently post your phone number, customer service email and customer service chat tool on your website home page.

Of course, you’ll still need to monitor social media (which you should be doing anyway) just to spot any complaints that might arise. When you do find these issues, reach out to the customer immediately and ask for their contact details so you can resolve their issue offline, and in a timely manner.


Tuesday Tips: Can Your Business Recover From a Customer Service Fail?

By May 10, 2016 No Comments

When a customer experiences poor customer service, what happens next can make or break your relationship with that customer. Can you win back a customer after a negative experience? If so, how?

Survey Says

First, the bad news: According to a study by SDL, when customers have a really bad customer experience, nearly two-thirds (64 percent) either stop recommending the company, start looking for an alternative solution, or actively start to disparage the company via word-of-mouth, social media, or other online means.

Poor customer service occurs at all stages of the customer relationship. In fact, 20 percent of poor customer experiences happen before a customer even buys the product or service, and 16 percent occur at the point of purchase.

Younger customers are less forgiving than most when it comes to customer experience failures — which is bad news, since this generation is the future of your business. More than one-fourth (27 percent) of young Millennials won't try to resolve the problem — instead, they'll just move on to your competition. By comparison, just 13 percent of Baby Boomers will give up on resolving a customer service issue.

Win Them Back

One-third of customers who have a terrible customer experience say they will never return to that company. However, that means two-thirds of customers are still open to continuing to do business with your company — but it requires some effort on your part.

According to the study, there are three things you can do that are highly effective in winning back customers. Put them all together, and these three actions serve as a roadmap:

1. Take ownership of the failure and admit your mistakes. Don't try to put the blame on the customer, even if that's where it really belongs! Taking responsibility for the failure will do a great deal to calm customers down, and 29 percent say this would win them back.

2. Give the customer a genuine, personalized apology. It's important to make sure this apology does not come off as canned, as so often happens with customer service representatives. Following up a phone discussion with an email or even a personal note can do a lot to reaffirm your sincerity. Twenty-two percent of survey respondents say that an apology would win them back.

3. Give the customer discounts, credits, or rebates on products or services where the failure occurred. Interestingly, this is actually the least important step of the three—21 percent of survey respondents say this will rebuild their relationship. However, it's also where the rubber meets the road in showing that you stand behind your product or service.

It’s All About Your People

The study found that customers tend to blame people when they have a poor customer experience, whether that's warranted or not. By the same token, however, people are the deciding factor in winning customers back. Pleasant and helpful customer service employees (35 percent) and well-trained and knowledgeable customer service reps (27 percent) are the top factors in successful customer service, according to the survey.

The takeaway: Hiring good people and training them right is your best weapon against the inevitable customer service failures. Focus on finding employees with the right attitude and then provide your customer service reps with the training, tools, and knowledge they need to do their jobs. You'll be well equipped to prevent customer service failures whenever possible and overcome them when you have to.


Tuesday Tips: Is Your Customer Service Taking Technology Too Far?

By April 19, 2016 No Comments

Most small businesses these days are using technology to run better businesses — and to provide better customer service. But are you relying too much on technology for customer service solutions? When companies lose sight of the human factor in customer service, they risk losing the very customers they're trying to serve, warns a new survey by Accenture.

The Accenture Strategy report, Digital Disconnect in Customer Engagement, says more than half (52 percent) of U.S. consumers have changed providers in the past year as a result of poor customer service. Frequently, the lack of a human touch is at the root of this dissatisfaction. An overwhelming 83 percent of consumers prefer dealing with humans rather than with digital channels for their customer service problems, while 77 percent prefer getting advice from people instead of from digital channels. The human touch is so important that almost half  (45 percent) of consumers say they’re willing to pay more to ensure a better level of service.

What else bothers consumers about customer service these days? About three-fourths (73 percent) expect customer service to be easier and more convenient, and 61 percent want it to be faster.

Many businesses, however, have over-invested in online technology and under-invested in the human element of customer service. As a result, they’re making it too hard for customers to get help with problems, and risk losing their most profitable customers: multichannel customers who want both digital and traditional customer service options.

The good news: 80 percent of consumers who have switched providers based on poor customer service say the company could have done something to retain them; among those, 83 percent say if the company had provided better live/in-person customer service, it would have affected their decisions to switch providers.

What can you do retain your customers? Accenture offers this advice to companies seeking to solve the “digital disconnect:”

  • Put the human element back into your customer service. Think of technology as a tool to achieve a satisfying customer experience, not as an end in itself. Invest in the human side of customer service — hiring good customer service representatives, training them well and providing the tools they need to deliver that human touch.
  • Provide multichannel customer service options. Whether customers prefer to interact with your customer service reps by phone, by email or by chat, it should be easy for them to switch back and forth between these different options. Make sure you’re gathering the right information for each customer interaction, and use cloud storage for customer data so all your customer service reps can easily access up-to-date information about customer interactions.
  • Uncover your biggest problems. Regularly review your customer service results and meet with your customer service representatives to find out what issues are causing the biggest problems across all of your customer service channels. Accenture calls these "toxic customer experiences," and warns that they can directly affect your profitability. Take steps to resolve these problems immediately.