At Summit Evergreen, we know all about giving customers first-class service. It’s what we do every day — making sure your experience using our membership site platform is fast, easy, and profitable.

We’ve learned a lot about customer service from years of consulting with a wide range of companies and entrepreneurs. We’ve also learned a lot from watching what big businesses do in the face of customer problems. Do they rise to the occasion? Sometimes! Do they crumble and fall? You better believe it.

Here are five customer service techniques to implement right now to knock the socks off your online course students…brought to you by some of the most (and least) customer-friendly businesses around.

1. Prioritize the customer experience

Zappos is the no-brainer pick at the top of every “great customer service” list. Why? Because they care about their customers above everything else in their business. Their #1 core value is “Deliver WOW through customer service” and they shout the tagline “Powered By Service” right in their logo. Zappos’ public commitment shows in everything they do.

There are so many stories of great Zappos service that have become legend:

…The time they sent flowers to a customer who wasn’t able to return her shoes in time due to her mother’s unexpected death.

…The time they located last-minute replacement shoes for a traveler, buying them at the local mall and delivering them to her hotel.

…The time they replaced someone’s UGG boots — twice — including a hand-drawn card from the service rep to thank them for being loyal customers.

These are over-the-top examples of amazing service, but at the heart of each story is something very basic: putting the customer’s needs first.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

Put your students’ needs first.

Think about what they require to have a great experience with your course, and make sure you deliver. Make your website easy to navigate. Provide high quality content. Tier your prices. Make your customer service experience fast and easy. All of this adds up to making your customer happy. And happy customers = repeat business = increased profits for you.

2. Make it clear you care

Have you ever been thrilled to visit the DMV? Of course not. That’s because you understand – from past experience, from friends’ horror stories, and from pop culture – that the DMV does not care about you. The DMV has been reduced to a stereotype, full of apathetic workers, long lines, and frustrating paperwork.

We view most customer service interactions the same way we view the DMV. It’s a horrible punishment to have to call a hotline for help. We wait until we have thirty minutes to kill before we pick up the phone, because we don’t know how long it will take.

One way to help your customers get around their “Customer Service Sucks” mindset? Tell them how much you value them, and show them you’re serious about it. The DMV might never be a paragon of quality service, but if they at least told their customers that they care, it would be a step in the right direction.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

Tell your students you welcome the opportunity to help fix their problems.

Put your customer service information in a prominent position on your website, in your emails, and within your course itself. Offer a variety of ways for people to get in touch with you: live chat, email, online forms, phone. (Remember that not all of your students will be tech-savvy or comfortable with digital communication.)

3. Train your support staff

Wegmans is the best grocery store chain in America, according to a 2014 Consumer Reports survey. What sets Wegmans apart from other supermarkets? Its well-trained, customer-focused employees. Cashiers aren’t even allowed to interact with customers until they’ve completed 40+ hours of specialized training.

The Wegmans model is simple and effective: “A happy, knowledgeable and superbly trained employee creates a better experience for customers. Extraordinary service builds tremendous loyalty.”

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

Give your customer service agents the information they need to succeed.

Don’t throw your support staff into the deep end of the pool without teaching them how to swim first. Provide documentation and training so they know exactly what to do. There’s no detail too small when it comes to customer service: your employees should understand your process, your students’ problems, and how to fix things right the first time.

Well-trained employees help you grow loyal students, and they also save you time. Invest in solid training beforehand, and you’ll be able to delegate issues knowing that everything will be taken care of.

4. Organize the chaos

Here’s a question: which line would you rather stand in?

    • The line outside a Walmart on Black Friday
    • The line outside a Disney World ride

Both lines will end in something you want. At Walmart, you’ll get a special sale item, and at Disney, you’ll get to go on a ride. But there’s a huge difference between the quality of each line.

Outside any store on Black Friday, chaos reigns.

There are hundreds of cold, cranky people clumped in front of you. Some people are pushing to the front of the clump, and nobody is there to tell you when the doors are going to open. When the store finally opens, masses of people are fighting against each other to make sure they get that limited-time offer they want. The whole thing is an ordeal.

Not the kind of experience you want your students to have when waiting in a customer service queue, is it?

Now, think about the line outside a Disney ride.

The line follows a clearly marked path. There are signs every so often that tell you how long the wait will be. If you’re using a FastPass+, you’re assigned a specific time to come back and ride the ride, which means bypassing the long line altogether. The atmosphere is much more peaceful because everyone feels that they are going to end up getting what they want by the end.

If you manage your customer service queue like a Disney ride, your students are guaranteed to have a better experience.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

Invest in a support system that features ticketing and status updates.

We recommend software like HelpScout, FreshDesk, or ZenDesk to manage your customer service issues. If you’re handling problems through email alone, it’s like Walmart on Black Friday. You and your team can’t keep track of what’s happening. Your students don’t know where they are in the resolution process. It can quickly turn into a big, angry mess.

If you’re using reputable customer support software, welcome to Disney World! You can easily track tickets, see who has been assigned to which problem, and see what problems are still outstanding. You can expedite certain issues and let your students know what their status is in the line.

You can rest easy knowing your students are being helped in an orderly fashion.

5. Help your customer, not just yourself

Did you hear that recent customer service call between Comcast and a poor guy trying to disconnect his service? You can listen to the whole horrifying ordeal here. (The recording itself is eight minutes long, but the entire call was almost 20 minutes.)

The basic story is: guy tries to cancel service, customer rep refuses to do it, guy politely asks to cancel service again and again, rep becomes increasingly irate trying to stop him.

Besides the customer service rep’s obvious rudeness and obstinance, the real problem stems from deep within the heart of Comcast itself. It’s likely their staff is given thorough training on how to stop customers from cancelling. There’s probably an incentive structure in place that motivates this kind of “No, you CAN’T cancel!” craziness.

Comcast’s mistake is focusing on what’s best for the company first instead of what’s best for the consumer first. After all, what’s more likely to prevent customers from leaving: a labyrinthine cancellation process, or an incredible customer experience?

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

Rethink your approach to customer care.

Your priorities shouldn’t be focused on YOUR bottom line — preventing refunds, avoiding customer service costs, and saving time. Instead, think of these things as a natural result of providing great service.

When you focus on your STUDENTS’ bottom line — having a great experience, loving the product, feeling taken care of — you’ll see an organic decrease in refunds, customer service costs, and time spent handling issues.

If you’re serious about giving your students exemplary service, it’s time to sign up for Summit Evergreen. See how easy it is to keep your students happy and grow their loyalty with your free 30-day trial. Click here to try it out.

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