Craigslist Founder Says Service Is How Companies ‘Get It Right’

July 23, 2012 / 0 Comments

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If you’re building a new online business, be it an iPhone game or the latest catchphrase t-shirt site, exceptional customer service must be delivered in every customer engagement.

“Each and every one,” says Craigslist Founder Craig Newmark “is a unique opportunity to get it right or to fail.”

Newmark told Happy Customer there’s no one specific touchpoint where a business can focus its customer service efforts, rather every piece must receive particular care as part of a broad initiative.

Newmark founded Craigslist in 1995, first distributing the list to friends via email. Today the site generates more than 20 billion page views per month, placing it among the most highly trafficked websites in the U.S. Since the business’s beginning, Newmark has always championed the importance of great customer service. And, to this day his business card still carries the title “customer service rep & founder.”

One of the areas Newmark says has changed in customer service since Craigslist was founded is that it is often conducted in a public forum. Every customer interaction can potentially be exposed on sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Newmark says that even though public, companies must take full advantage of social media to service customers. Ignoring those channels means ignoring valuable customers.

The 2012 American Express Global Customer Service Barometer found that consumers who have used social media for service wield the greatest amount of influence. They tell significantly more people about their service experiences, and say they’d spend 21% more with companies who deliver great service – compared to 13% on average. All the more reason for companies to be transparent with their service efforts, particularly across social media.

As for the best incentives to get people to offer genuinely great service, Newmark again points to social media.

“Publicly recognize people who provide good customer service,” he said.

Ranjith Kumaran, co-founder of venture-backed start-ups YouSendIt and PunchTab, shared similar sentiments about making customer service a priority in a recent Forbes column.

He recounted a decision at YouSendIt to provide 24 hour customer support and some of the challenges encountered when its Mumbai-based service team was away for a national holiday in India.

Kumaran asked for volunteers to join a “support party” that could cover any service calls happening during the day. He found the exercise not only served customers well, but employees also gained valuable insights.

“After things got back to normal I’d regularly hear requests for more opportunities to help out with customer support,” Kumaran wrote. “What’s more the feedback that was heard during the exercise was taken to heart and brought up during product, marketing, and sales discussions. The ability to apply market learnings to company building is perhaps the only thing that matters for the organization and for the individual.”

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