Talking is one thing, and doing is another. It’s easy to talk about what you believe in, but delivering on your promises takes work and dedication. On a company level, this delivery is more important than ever. 

No matter what your industry is, you have to put others first. While you may see short-term gain by putting your company's interests above all else, that gain will never turn into long-term, reliable growth. 

So if happy customers, steady growth, and a clean conscience sound good to you, you might like HubSpot’s Customer Code. It consists of 10 tenets around how companies should treat their customers.

Knowing where to start when implementing these tenets, however, can be tricky. First, take a step back and think about how you communicate with your customers. Are you using language and outreach practices that prioritize the customer? If you are, great! If not, or if you're unsure, then keep reading. 

 

Honor the Customer Code in Every Communication

Check out the 10 tenets of the Customer Code below. Learn how you can honor these tenets in your company’s communications with customers.

Tenet #1: Earn my attention, don’t steal it.

We’ve all received emails with a time-sensitive, stressful subject line in all caps, complete with exclamation points: “Buy NOW before you MISS YOUR CHANCE!!!!” Or maybe you’ve received some cold calls that always tend to happen during a meeting or first thing in the morning.

No one likes that.

In fact, subject lines with urgency words (e.g., "Buy now!") can easily get trapped in your recipient’s SPAM filter. And cold calling is ineffective and expensive.

So how can you create content that earns attention? Talk to people—not at them.

Personalize your emails by addressing your recipient using their name and company name, if appropriate. Write subject lines that inform your recipient why they should open your email. Don’t trick them, don’t scare them, and don’t annoy them. They’re people you’re connecting with. Treat them with respect.

And sales calls and emails don’t have to be slimey or cold. Remember: You’re there to help a prospect solve a problem. You’re not there to disrupt their day or pressure them into a purchase. Use your HubSpot CRM to connect with prospects who want to hear from you, and personalize those communications as well. Do your research about your recipient, craft a good email, and start fostering a relationship instead of chasing down a prospect — they’ll only run away faster.

Pro tip: Check out HubSpot Academy’s Email Marketing Certification course to learn more about using email to build lasting relationships.

 

Tenet #2: Treat me like a person, not a persona.

Customers are people, but companies forget that sometimes. And those people usually need a little help along the way with your product or service. Instead of thinking about convenient support hours for your company, think of convenient support hours for your customers — the people who make your company possible.

Having 24/7 human support may not be possible, however. Good news is, that isn’t always necessary. Our AI friends can lend customers a helping hand when we humans can’t.

Forget the paranoia around bots taking over the world. They’re not here to take over, but they are here to stay. Estimates show that by 2020, 85% of customer support inquiries will be handled without a human support rep.

And the best part is, bots are a win-win for customers and companies. First off, 40% of customers just want their question answered, regardless if that help comes from a human or a bot. Secondly, companies can save up to 30% on customer support costs with chatbots given their speedy response time and ability to efficiently answer common questions.

But how can you make a bot sound human?

Keep in mind that chatbots are built by humans, for humans. So make your chatbot actually chat; don’t make it sound like it’s reading off a script or delivering complex information.

Try this: Picture having a casual conversation with a friend or co-worker. Would you use jargon or complex terminology? Of course not — that would sound weird, and the conversation would end pretty quickly.

Use words that are easily understood and commonly used in everyday speech. Have your chatbot give your customers a quick Hello there, my name’s Bot. How can I help?, instead of Thank you for contacting us, customer—please submit your query, and I will process the data we have available in regards to your technical inquiry to present you with a solution promptly.

Yikes!

 

Tenet #3: Solve for my success, not your systems.

Has this ever happened to you? You’re at a shopping center and need a little help finding what you’re looking for, let’s say paper towels. You finally come across a store employee, and you ask what aisle the paper towels are in. They give you a blank stare and immediately make you aware of your mistake: They don’t work in that department, they don’t know, and you asked the wrong person. Shame on you. They walk off, and you’re still left in the dark.

Don’t be like that to your customers. It’s not nice, and it’s certainly not helpful. Customer service is everyone’s job, not just your services team’s. But this isn’t the common mindset. Out of 7,000 consumers surveyed in a Zendesk report about customer service attitudes, a whopping 87% think brands need to do more to create a seamless customer experience.

The solution? Alignment.

Align all your teams — marketing, sales, and service — around the customer experience. Create a consistent, well-written mission for your company to follow, and make sure all customer interactions support that mission. Whether you answer an email, speak to a customer in person, or even comment on a customer’s social media inquiry — be helpful and be kind. If you don’t know the answer to a customer’s question, at least point them in the right direction so they get the help they need.

 

Tenet #4: Use my data, but don’t abuse it.

Sharing data is kind of scary for your customers, and rightfully so. They’ve probably been part of purchased lists and received annoying emails, phone calls, and even mail.

But if your customers trust you enough to share their personal details, don’t betray that trust. Respect their information, and use it to provide them helpful, contextual interactions with your company.

But how does this fit in with your communications?

Look at a contact’s data as a learning tool. Use their information to understand their business situation better and to provide them more relevant content.

For example: HubSpot Video is redefining how sales people connect with prospects. Instead of sending the same “Dear Sir/Madam” email to all your prospects, learn more about them, store that data in your HubSpot CRM, and use that information in a video email to the prospect. They’ll see you as a person they’re conversing with, not an anonymous rep they’re giving money to.

Marcus Andrews, Marketing Manager at HubSpot, says it best in his HubSpot Video blog post: “Do you trust a faceless block of text, or do you put more trust into a real-life smiling person giving you advice?”

I have a feeling you’d trust the smiling face over the canned email.

 

Tenet #5: Ask for feedback, and act on it.

We’re all familiar with some form of a canned response from a company after submitting a customer satisfaction survey. Those responses are typically sent from the famous “noreply,” greet you with with a welcoming “Dear valued customer,” contain a few fluffy sentences about how much the company loves feedback and loves customers, then close with “We appreciate your business.” You never hear anything again, and your feedback is not implemented.

If you’re not going to act on feedback from your customers, then don’t waste their time by asking for it. It’s never a good feeling to spend time filling out a survey only to have it go down a black hole. This makes your customers feel unappreciated, and also hurts your company; you miss out on valuable insight and advice from the very people you’re supposed to be helping.

“It’s not about the metric you are using to acquire and measure feedback. The NPS measurement means nothing unless you do something with it.”

— Shep Hyken, Customer Service/CX Expert

After a customer submits a survey, it’s okay to send an autoresponder, but make sure to create a human, customer-friendly response:

  • Sound like a person: Let your company’s brand and personality shine through. Canned responses aren’t charming.
  • Inform them of next steps: Tell your customer that you’re grateful for their feedback, and give them information about what you’re planning to do with their response. Does a certain team review it? Who will be following up with the customer? How is feedback typically implemented?
  • Provide resources: Provide your customer with some resources like blog posts, a link to your company’s FAQ page or knowledge base, or instructions for accessing your support team if they need additional assistance.

 

Tenet #6: Own your screw-ups.

“We regret to inform you…”

“There was a misunderstanding…”

“This was not our intention…”

Sound familiar?

Those are common examples of language companies may use to dodge an apology. When you mess up, apologize to your customers; don’t try to point fingers or make yourself sound innocent. Companies are run by humans, and humans are far from perfect. Mistakes happen, and your customers deserve sincere apologies.

As stated in the HubSpot Customer Code, 96% of consumers would continue buying from a company even if that company made a mistake — as long as they apologized and made things right again.

Swallowing your pride and apologizing isn’t easy, but it’s the right thing to do. You want your company to grow better and to grow with a conscious. That's the kind of growth that lasts.

There’s no secret formula behind this one, either. If a customer isn't treated right, whether the mistake be big or small, start by saying sorry. And then tell your customer how you’re going to do things right moving forward so they never experience the consequences of your mistake twice. 

 

Tenet #7: Help me help you, by helping myself.

Be there for your customers, but give them the option to be self sufficient. Sometimes your customers just don’t feel like asking for help and would rather solve an issue on their own. Of the 5,000 individuals surveyed for Microsoft’s 2018 State of Global Customer Service Report, two-thirds of all customers would rather try solving their roadblocks on their own before asking for help.

So give your customers the resources they need to help themselves. The best way to do this is with a knowledge base, and you can build one of your own with HubSpot’s Service Hub knowledge base software.

Store well-written, clear information to frequently asked questions about your product or service in a central location so your customers will always have resources there to help themselves. By self-serving, customers don’t have to take time out of their day to contact your customer support team, and you’ll save money in support costs with each support case deflected with documentation.

 

Tenet #8: I don’t mind paying, but I do mind being played.

Signing up for a new product or service can be exciting for your customers, but don’t ruin all that excitement with confusing contracts and pricing information. That stuff shouldn’t be a mystery. Instead, listen to Genevieve Conti — a User Experience Design Strategist at Zapier — and write plainly:

“Writing plainly erases ambiguity. You save your readers' brainpower, which means your customer support team spends less time clarifying confusing content. And time is money.”

While your pricing structures and service plans may be second nature to you, that information is foreign to your customers. Don’t make them struggle to understand their service relationship with you. Instead, be transparent and honest. It’s easier for both parties to be on the same page before jumping into any kind of contract.

 

Tenet #9: Don’t block the exit.

While you shouldn’t make pricing and service information difficult, you shouldn’t make cancelling difficult, either. Losing customers can be disappointing, but trapping them doesn’t help the situation.

In the HubSpot Customer Code, you’ll see that 89% of customers will buy if cancelling is easy. So make cancelling easy! A great place to start is publishing an article on your knowledge base walking customers through cancelling their account themselves. If they can’t cancel themselves in their online account, then make sure they have easy access to the phone number or email address they need to get the process started.

Confusing cancellations make your customers’ lives harder and make your company look bad. After all, giving a paying customer no choice to leave is a bad thing to do.

 

Tenet #10: Do the right thing, even when it’s hard.

All the above tenets center around this tenth one: Do the right thing. Even when you think it’s not best for your company’s reputation or if you think that it will add more work — it’s always worth it to do right by others. 

 

How You Can Move Forward With the Customer Code

Don’t ignore a problem; it will only grow (and it won’t grow better, that’s for sure). Address problems, take ownership, and solve for your customers. In every communication you have with them, be mindful of their needs, feelings, expectations, and success. Putting in extra work to do right by your customers will pay off for everyone now and in the future.

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Originally published Sep 20, 2018 8:00:00 AM, updated December 19 2018