Improve Customer Service With Great Recommendations

December 9, 2008

A great way to improve customer service and encourage customers to come back to you, is to make useful recommendations.

Now I know some of you don’t like recommending additional products or services to your customers, as you worry it might seem like you’re trying to sell to them all the time. But that simply isn’t true.

Recommending good products, services, or articles, either in person, on your website, or by letter, phone or email, is one of the best ways to improve customer service. And if you don’t do it, you’re actually giving bad customer service, because your customers may have to rely on guesswork to get what they need and they could wind up making a bad choice.

Good Recommendations Not Only Improve Customer Service - They Can Be Profitable Too

Making good recommendations improves customer service and it can also be profitable. Until a few months ago, I rarely made any product recommendations on this blog. Then I would get emails from folk saying, they’d read an article of mine and went out and bought a particular product or book to find out more.

The trouble was, sometimes, those products sucked. So to avoid letting my readers buy worthless crap, I knew I had to make my own recommendations. Sometimes I receive a commission for those recommendations and sometimes I don’t. But people don’t mind you getting a commission if you recommend something that’s useful to them.

For example, I’ve mentioned the Amazon Associates Program before and pointed out that the commission they pay is low. And it is - you only get a few cents for each book you sell. But I added Amazon stores to my blog yesterday.

If you’ve read widely in your niche, it’s worth adding an Amazon store. They’re easy to put together and you may not make a fortune in commissions but you’ll be doing your customers a huge favour.

Folk who want to learn more about your particular niche will be able to make good book choices, if you make personal recommendations. For example, all the books in my writer’s book store. They’re all ones I’ve read and would recommend.

* The two Jesse Livermore books in the business section are for entertainment purposes only. They’re fascinating to read but you should not try to copy his investment methods.

You Can Improve Customer Service By Saving Your Customer Money

Would you rather improve customer service by saving your customer money, or avoid making recommendations altogether and risk your customers losing a whole heap of dough?

A few months ago, a reader emailed me to say they were having a business blog built, by some Joe Bloggs guy and it was costing them over £2000. Well it was too late for me to say anything, as it was almost complete. But Men with Pens could have customized an existing blog theme for less money and made a much better job. So, now, when I’m discussing a topic, I make sure I make good recommendations where I can, to stop my readers from getting ripped off.

Not Telling Customers About All The Products And Services You Offer Is Bad Customer Service

You should always keep in touch with your customers and make them aware of products and services you offer. It’s bad customer service if you don’t, as your customer may wind up using a mediocre competitor.

This happened to me a few years ago. I was telling a loyal customer about a service we offered. And she was disappointed, as she hadn’t been aware that we offered that service. So she used a competitor and she was disappointed with the results. So it’s definitely worthwhile making sure your customers know about every single service and product you offer.

Providing Links To Excellent Resources Will Keep Customers Coming Back To You

As well as recommending good products and services, you can instantly improve your customer service by providing links to excellent resources from your website. Your customer will love you if you link to helpful articles. And don’t forget, as well as linking out to other websites, it’s useful to provide a related reading list at the end of each post, with links to related articles on your own website too.

Improve Customer Service By Telling Folk When They Don’t Need Something

Don’t give recommendations just for the sake of it. You can also improve customer service by telling customers that they don’t need something. For example, a reader recently mentioned that she was considering buying a product to help her blog.

To me, the best product for setting up a blog and learning how to promote it is the 8 Week Power Blog Launch. But it soon became apparent that the customer was already working through one guide on how to blog. So I told her that she really didn’t need another one.

If your customer is considering buying something from you, or someone else and you don’t think it’s something they need, you’ll be providing good customer service if you point out that it won’t be useful to them.

Do you provide your customers with recommendations for products and services that you like? Do you use the recommendations of businesses that you know and trust? Please share in the comments section.

Related Reading

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10 Weird Or Annoying Types Of Customer
Sky TV - Bad Customer Service Or Theft
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20 Responses to “Improve Customer Service With Great Recommendations”

  1. Stevieboy66 on December 9th, 2008 8:01 am

    In a similar way, there is nothing more potent than walking into a high street shop to find that they don’t have exactly what you are looking for - to then happily tell you of a competitor that has. In the real world there is no chance of an affilaite link so this is an act of great maturity and one that leaves you keen to go back.

    Stevieboy66’s last blog post..The Importance Of Innovation - What’s The Fuss All About?

  2. Stella on December 9th, 2008 8:36 am

    Sometimes the upsell is exactly what you need. For example, when I bought my computer, the sales assistant explained that it needed to be plugged into a surge protector or the warranty would be invalidated. Sold!

    I went back to the same place to get a printer and was delighted when the sales assistant said, ‘That doesn’t come with a USB cable. Do you need one?’ It saved me an extra trip back to the store. I was delighted.

    Stella’s last blog post..Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up

  3. James Chartrand - Men with Pens on December 9th, 2008 11:45 am

    Giving good referrals for products or services you believe in helps your business for sure. When the person buys that product or service and likes it, they’ll remember you for having suggested it.

    And isn’t 2,000 pounds some small fortune? Wow.

    James Chartrand - Men with Pens’s last blog post..13.2 Ways Forums Can Make Your Life Better

  4. Lancashire SEO guy on December 9th, 2008 12:22 pm

    So many of the people I deal with who sell things ont he web have the attitude that they’re niche so people will come running to them and they can get away with what they want. It’s so good to read this - all it comes down to is that simple good customer service is fundamental to every customer engagement.

    Lancashire SEO guy’s last blog post..Why older people don’t get Meta tags

  5. Alex Fayle | Someday SyndromeI on December 9th, 2008 1:02 pm

    When I used to do a newsletter, I always included 3 online resources, including other Professional Organizers’ sites. I’m all about co-opetition, not competition and have always had good results because of it.

    Alex Fayle | Someday SyndromeI’s last blog post..Dedicate Yourself to Life, Not Work

  6. Brad Shorr on December 9th, 2008 1:42 pm

    Cath, You are so, so right. Some of the best customer relationships I ever developed grew out of just such an attitude. A long time ago somebody told me, spend your client’s money as if it were your money. So I always ask myself, what would I do if I were in the client’s shoes? It’s really pretty simple, but it leads to the kind of solid guidance you describe so well in your post.

    Brad Shorr’s last blog post..Troublesome Words Explained by Bill Bryson

  7. Kim Woodbridge on December 9th, 2008 2:52 pm

    I always think it’s a good idea to make recommendations and be honest. People will appreciate and come back to you. I’ve had a couple of people tell me about past experiences with their websites; developer disappears, they are told there website has to be completely rebuilt for a lot of money, are told have to use certain hosting, etc. It really amazes me.

    I’ve referred a couple of people to a colleague of mine who I thought was better suited for the job. I’ve also had people ask me to do upgrades and I told them it would be better to wait because a new version was about to come out. I’m sure others would have upgraded them and them charged them again in a couple of weeks.

    Your recommendations are great, Cath.

    Kim Woodbridge’s last blog post..By: Kim Woodbridge

  8. wilhb81 on December 9th, 2008 4:21 pm

    I agreed with your opinion here, Cath. The customers are not stupid and they’ll find out, whether you’ve given the best or only the average deals…

    wilhb81’s last blog post..The Useful Business Tips 10: 5 Ultimate Tips for Improving Your Business!

  9. Jannie on December 9th, 2008 4:41 pm

    My hubby is in car sales and service so he’s immediately suspect for offering additional services, right? : ) But he hasn’t won “The Best Of Austin” Chronicle readers poll for service 5 times for nothing - he’s a rare find, my Honest Jim. (And guys, please, check to see if your timing belts need replacing, could avoid seizing up your motors!)

    I don’t mind being offered additional products in a store, in person. But on the phone I am almost always inclined to say no and I wonder if that’s just weird of me or if others feel more suspicious of phone sales too?

    Jannie’s last blog post..Ten Honest Things

  10. Craig on December 9th, 2008 4:45 pm

    I agree and think it’s a great way for a company to show value and care for their customers. Even aside from a business aspect I think it can be helpful. For example, on Twitter I appreciate it when someone suggests a good article. If I read and agree I will tell others about it and spread their name along. It’s all about good karma in the end.

  11. Tom Volkar / Delightful Work on December 9th, 2008 6:23 pm

    Yep. It’s good business and part of what makes the world go round. I do like to thoroughly check out everything I recommend so that can slow the process down some. But I also think it’s important to consider where someone is and what they most need right now.

    Tom Volkar / Delightful Work’s last blog post..Double Your Income Next Year

  12. cathlawson on December 9th, 2008 9:33 pm

    Hi Stevie - exactly. And if they don’t have what you want, you usually do go back, if they refer someone who does.

    Hi Stella- That’s a really good point. When we’re buying something new, we often don’t know what we need to go with it, so that guidance is really useful. I would hate not to have a surge protector if the electricity went off.

    Hi James - that’s what I thought. There’s some real rip off merchants in the UK and the sad thing is, a lot of them don’t even know what they’re doing.

    You should see the hideous site belonging to the woman who someone referred me to do my blog. It was purple - and just ugly. Even I couldn’t have made it look that bad.

    Hi Lancashire SEO Guy - it’s nice to talk to someone who’s having just as bad weather as me.

    I know what you mean - it’s appalling. Instead of trying to rip people off - they could actually do a good job and make a little extra cash from referring customers to folk who can help.

    Hi Alex - I remember you saying about that. Because your industry wasn’t well known to the community - it worked better if you worked with your competitors. I was telling Akemi about that - I think she needs to do that with her Akashic Record Readings to get the word out.

    Hi Brad - that’s so true - pretend you’re in their shoes, except with your knowledge and work out what’s best for them.

    Hi Kim - That is terrible. It sounds like they’re pushing them towards particular hosting companies to make better commissions. I guess it’s easy for them to make an extra $100 that way. But it’s not worth it if the company sucks.

    Hi Wihlb - that’s a good point. If you give them bad advice, it will catch up with you sooner or later and it kills your reputation.

    Hi Jannie - car salesmen get a bad rap over here too - and they don’t all deserve it. At least your husband is a trustworthy one.

    Like you, I’m not keen to buy anything on the phone. Someone calls you and wants your bank details and you could be handing them over to anyone. I always say no. Mind you, I’m tough to sell to, unless I really want something - then I’m just impatient to get the sale done and go. I hate shopping.

    Hi Craig - exactly - it’s nice when folk pass on some help without expecting anything in return. And as you say, if that’s good help, then you’re more likely to tell others about them. Am I following you on Twitter yet? I don’t recognise your avatar from there. What is your username? I’ll add you.

    Hi Tom - exactly - what is good for one person isn’t always good for another. I know you checked about my viral book before recommending it.

    I still think it is an awesome example of how to make something viral and I bet it’s sold thousands of copies. I’m going to try to set it up with the free stuff you get and make one of my own - only different.

  13. Tom Volkar / Delightful Work on December 9th, 2008 9:44 pm

    Great idea Cath. You certainly are in creation mode these days. keep at it. You’re on a roll.

    Tom Volkar / Delightful Work’s last blog post..Double Your Income Next Year

  14. cathlawson on December 9th, 2008 9:52 pm

    Thank you Tom. Hope you’re getting on well with your product. I’m flat out cos I’m working on one main product and two free ones. And now I’m going to check out that interesting post in your signature.

  15. Craig on December 9th, 2008 10:04 pm

    Thanks Cath, here’s my Twitter ID:

    I believe you are following me as a recommendation from Ari Herzog he posted one day.

    It’s an older pic, prob should update it with one that makes me look better, ha.

  16. cathlawson on December 9th, 2008 10:10 pm
    Hi Craig - I remember that recommendation from Ari now that you’ve posted your last name. So, I’m definitely following you. But you’re right - your pic looks different.
  17. Craig on December 9th, 2008 10:18 pm

    Maybe I just look weird cause it’s a larger picture than in Twitter. took Ari’s advice on using the same pic in all outlets. Maybe it’s time for a change.

    Ari is extremely informative, everyone should check out his blog.

  18. Ricardo Bueno on December 9th, 2008 11:18 pm

    I recommend products and services that I know and think might be useful to a customer. (I’ve either used the product personally, or am very familiar with it. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t be making a recommendation).

    When someone comes to be asking about a service, I let them know what I can deliver. If it doesn’t fit what they’re looking for, I gladly recommend that person to someone else.

    I basically do what I can to make people happy.

    Ricardo Bueno’s last blog post..Yup…I’m Addicted to Social Media! You?

  19. Davina on December 10th, 2008 6:25 am

    Hi Cath. I am happy to help other people out with who and what I know. It builds a certain level of trust because I think that on some level, people can sense you are trying to help them, not sell them.

    Davina’s last blog post..Step Out Of Crisis And Into Power

  20. cathlawson on December 10th, 2008 9:01 am

    Hi Craig - I don’t think you look weird. It’s probably just that we haven’t been logged on to Twitter at the same time very often.

    Ari gives great advice. He knows a lot about social media. I read his blog but I found some of the political stuff a bit confusing, as I’m not from the US.

    Hi Ricardo - that’s sounds advice. Recommending a service you weren’t familiar with, could really backfire.

    Hi Davina - that’s a good point. I guess most people will be able to recognise genuine help when you give it.

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