Why small businesses are better at customer service

- Translation of an article by Anthony K. Tjan that appeared in the Harvard Business Review -.

| October 2022 |.

Anthony Tjan: "Many of my posts have focused on lessons from big companies for smaller, high-growth, entrepreneurial companies. But two recent experiences reminded me that sometimes big companies need to take a closer look at what the little guy is doing. I believe that a small company is likely to provide better customer service than a large company because of its innate common sense and understanding of the power of empathy.

Here are two personal examples of excellent customer service: one exceptionally good and the other exceptionally bad.

Automated customer service often leads to customer frustration

I'll start with the bad. Last year, on the day we hosted a dinner party planned months in advance, I received an urgent call at the office that two men with a police officer had entered our house (by illegally forcing the door lock) and then went to our basement to cut off our gas supply. No warrant, no explanation. After calling our energy supplier (one of the largest suppliers on the market) and waiting for a live representative via the familiar number game with an automated voice, I was finally told that we had not paid our bills. After another hour on the phone, I learned that the new parent company servicing our gas line after the merger had sent our bills to a street with the same name in another city. We were responsible for the bills, even though we didn't get them.

I asked what the amount owed was, and then it went from bad to worse. It was too late to pay the bill online because my bill was considered past due. Annoyed, I arranged a money order and went to the service location only to be told that they could not accept a money order for that large amount. I would have to come back with cash. When I returned, it was late afternoon and no one was available to turn the gas back on. When I pleaded that we were hosting a dinner party and needed the gas for cooking, I was told that I should have paid my bills on time then.

The flexibility of a local SME

Compare that to the local party company that provided our dishes and glass for another event. An hour before the guests arrived, I realized that plates and glasses were broken in several crates. When I called the company, they did not question that they were broken, but apologized and offered to send replacements immediately. When I said the timing was too tight so we would do it, one of the owners came on the phone to apologize again. About 30 minutes later, I received a call on my cell phone. It was an employee of the rental company who said he was arriving with replacements, but did not want to ring the bell and provide a distraction. The next business day I received another message from the owner apologizing for the stress and inconvenience and letting me know that there would be no charge for the rental.

The key difference in these experiences is the common sense and empathy of the small local business. Too much customer service - especially in large companies - has shifted to standard operating procedures and scripted responses delivered with artificial composure. To a dissatisfied customer, these automated responses often seem inappropriate or absurd. When I once interviewed my friend Mehmet Oz, he said that the opposite of anger is not calmness, but empathy. While I appreciate the challenges of cost-effectively scaling customer service, empathy training can help service employees more effectively calm angry customers, increase their long-term loyalty and perhaps even turn them into referral fans.

Of course, there are examples of large companies with high-quality customer service, such as the well-documented case of Nordstrom. However, I suspect that Nordstrom and other large companies known for excellent customer service have studied more best practices from small companies than from large ones.

In my opinion, the two best customer service practices are genuine empathy (over indifferent calm) and common sense (over standard procedure). These two simple guiding principles remind us how easy it can be to transform the customer experience, and how unfortunate it is that more companies have not done so."

All-Connects: 20 years of focus on authenticity in customer service

All-Connects works according to these two basic principles of common sense and genuine (authentic) empathy to ensure that the customer is always at the center, and 100% supported. The customer service mentality does not only translate into a well-functioning helpdesk with employees who do their utmost to help their customers quickly, correctly and with a smile; it is an aspiration of everyone who works for us! A direct line of communication, without noise. And that this has an effect is proven by the high quality score of 92% we get from our customers and the 4.8 out of 5 from Google Reviews!

Customer score users LIVE.connects | update June 2022

Google Review score of 4.8 out of 5 | update October 2022

Want to know more about our approach?

Do you have any questions after reading this blog or want to learn more about what works for your specific business situation? Then contact us directly by phone 03 289 55 35 or click here for more information.

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