7 Deadly Claims: #1 – “Superior Customer Service”

by Jim Berkowitz on December 12, 2007

Here is the first of a series of articles by Jeff Sexton for Grokdotcom, 7 Deadly Claims: #1 – “Superior Customer Service:”

The idea for this series, in case you’re wondering, came when I found this list of the most-popular gobbledygook claims used in Press Releases. So, I thought it would be fun to use that as a basis for this slightly different list of common, persuasion-killing claims found in Web copy:

  1. Superior/World-Class Customer Service
  2. Easy to Use
  3. Experienced Recruiters, Sales Reps, Consultants, Technicians, etc.
  4. Number 1 in Our Industry
  5. 100% Risk Free
  6. Next Generation / Cutting Edge
  7. Best Value, Highest Quality, Gourmet, Professional Grade, etc.

I can’t think of any company on the planet that’s ever publicly claimed lousy customer service, or marketed their product as difficult-to-use and frustrating. But if done right, acknowledging the flip-side to some of these has the potential for marketing genius, a la Avis (a testament to the power of accentuating the negative).

Of course, none of these claims tells the reader what costs the claim-maker is willing to bear in order to fulfill them. And that, of course, means we’ve got a solid gold list of unsubstantiated blather — and a pretty clear roadmap on how to transform each claim into credible, persuasive copy.

For the next few weeks, I’ll work through each of these 7 claims. (This first one might be the most popular of all.)

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Here’s the problem: Experiencing great customer service opens peoples’ mouths to spread the good word about a company. Hearing or reading unsubstantiated claims of great customer service, meanwhile, opens their mouths wide for a good yawn. (And I’m hardly unique in this way. As my colleague, Tim Miles, likes to say, “Don’t tell her you’re courteous. Open her door!”)

My first advice is to consider NOT re-working this claim, but simply dropping it altogether. Let your great customer service surprise and “wow” new customers, lest your solid service fail to live up to the “wow” hype.

But if you must claim “superior customer service,” the first step in making it believable is to make your online visitors’ experience as intuitive and pleasant as possible. Anticipate and meet visitors’ needs online, and they’ll more likely believe your intentions to do so offline.

The second step is to have a few Nordstram-type stories up your sleeve in order to capture the emotional essence of great customer service, allowing your website visitors to experience some of your “door opening” vicariously. Prospects who can picture your over-the-top service in their minds become customers who pay for that service in your stores.

The third step is to make the actual claim as tangible and specific as possible by…

Making a verifiable promise.

  • “You’re phone call will be answered by a human being within 7 rings. We never use automated answering services.”
  • “We’ll arrive within the hour you’ve scheduled or the repair is free.” (Notice the use of the “or ____” formula. Tell the reader what she’s entitled to if you don’t come through.)

Measuring the effect of your fabulous customer service.

  • “Our customer turnover is less than 5% per year — that’s 7 times lower than the industry average, and 5 times lower than our nearest competitor!”
  • “Our repeat customer rate is 80% — 4/5ths of the people who do business with us re-hire us!”
  • “We resolve 9 out of 10 insurance claims within 48 hours.”

Establishing (or implying) the cost of your customer service.

  • “Last year we spent $800,000 training our 70 service technicians. That’s more than $10k per technician in order to keep them at the cutting edge.”
  • “We staff our own help desk – no answering services, no off-shore technical support. For your convenience, the desk is staffed 24/7 with technical service reps who have no less than 2 years experience .” (Notice how I verified the quality of the service. Always close the loopholes.)

Isn’t it amazing how real information sounds completely different than generic claims? While customers are rapidly becoming deaf to the blather, their ears remain tuned to the sounds of substance; tones worth using in your copy.

Here are the second and third articles in this series: The 7 Deadly Claims: Part 2 — “Easy to Use” and The 7 Deadly Claims: #3 — “Most Experienced”

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