Sophie’s Voice: Scaling the Personal Touch in Customer Service

2/8/11

WePay recently surveyed a handful of active users to find out how likely they are to recommend our service to their friends (WePay makes it easy to collect money online). Although we didn’t ask about it, roughly half of survey respondents surprised us by mentioning WePay’s customer service as one of the things they like. Many of them mentioned Sophie, our community manager, by name.

Customer Service as a Sales and Marketing Channel

Actually, this wasn’t a total surprise. We learned pretty early that WePay users who have interacted at least once with a WePay representative are happier with the service, transact more, and are more likely to refer friends than users who haven’t. This is true regardless of the medium (phone, e-mail, chat, Twitter, etc.) or the reason for the interaction (question, problem, sales call, responding to a newsletter, etc.).

Therefore, we want people to call, e-mail, or chat with us. When you register for WePay, you don’t get an e-mail from “no-reply@WePay.com,” you get an e-mail from “sophie@wepay.com.” If you reply, it goes directly to her, and she responds. We prominently display our phone number on our homepage, and offer live chat all day.

Sophie was originally charged with managing customer support. We recently changed her title to “community manager.” Why? Customer support is an expense (where less is more), and it’s passive. Community is a good thing. It’s active. It means engaging customers and potential customers. A community manager tries to increase his or her reach, connections, and interactions. We want to actively serve customers, rather than passively support them.

There’s this great story in Delivering Happiness by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh. One night, Tony decided to call Zappos to see if he could convince a service representative to order him pizza. It worked.

That’s an irrationally high level of customer service. Every company says that they value great customer service, but only a few actually deliver it. That’s partly because providing good service is more expensive and less scalable than providing bad service. Few companies would value great service more than they would value their bottom line (even in the short term).

Zappos makes sacrifices to provide such exceptional service. If you call Zappos customer service before you buy something, Zappos loses money on that sale. Zappos counts customer service a marketing expense rather than an operational one.

Scaling the “Personal Touch”

If you sign up for WePay, you’ll receive a welcome message from Sophie. If you call, you can ask for her by name, and she’ll probably remember you. This is by design. Our hypothesis is that a “personal touch” will pay off in the long run by generating more, happier, and more highly engaged customers. Our second hypothesis is that … Next Page »

Rich Aberman is the founder of WePay.com. Follow @

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