Everyone has experienced customer service nightmares at least once. Those might have included:

  • You call the 800 number that’s listed. You find a customer care agent thanking you for the call and promising that you will be helped, then there is hold music, several transfers, you repeat yourself on every transfer, and then end up not getting your issue resolved.
  • If you send an email or fill in a lengthy online complaint form, you receive an automated message telling you that your question is important and that you will receive a response within 48 hours and then … silence.
  • You tweet your issue with a big @Company name hoping that the company will take a note that you are on a public forum where you would think negative feedback will cause a stir … it falls into a void, nobody responds, and you are still mad.

Have you ever experienced customer care so good that you couldn’t help but share it? That’s what every retailer strives for, but few actually achieve. Apple does, as shown in this testimonial by Dan Palotta:

“I have problems with Apple’s new Pages program. I wrote a letter to Tim Cook a couple of weeks ago. I got a reply in two days from a senior product engineer who is now soliciting feedback and advice from me about the program. And Apple’s telephone tech support is the gold standard. Apple Voice Pass recognizes your phone number and says, “Hello Dan,” the moment it picks up. It knows your serial numbers so you don’t have to repeat them to the tech person. It tells you how many minutes you’ll be waiting, and I’ve never had it be more than three. It allows you to have Apple call you, so you don’t have to wait. The technicians are friendly and know what they’re doing. My mom calls them all the time. And then, of course, there are the Apple Genius bars where you can speak face-to-face with someone, product and problem in hand.”

How can you achieve this standard for customer care? Here are a few tips:

The right question to the right person: Get a system in place to identify exactly who is the best person to handle each and every inbound issue. Direct your customers to the right person and save them from a transferring over-and-over nightmare.

Respond ASAP: Studies show that 42 percent of customers expect a response to a complaint in less than an hour. A recent report found that Twitter users expect a response within two hours of tweeting a complaint. That means you better be managing your social media channels and cooperating with your marketing team to get questions addressed immediately!

Know your customers: Record interactions. Nobody likes to repeat themselves a zillion times! When a customer buys from you, store their info; when they have a complaint, record it; when they call again, use it. If you are transferring their call to someone else, get a system in place to ensure that the next agent knows what they are calling about. Keep a record of their purchase history, right down to the model number and serial number (if applicable).

Choose your prioritization rules carefully: You will have thousands of tweets, calls, and emails to sort through. Now, automated prioritization becomes a necessity. Programming rules that consider keyword identifiers and customer purchase history are helpful.