customer service tips
Whether you sell clothing or burritos, stellar customer service will help your business grow.

As part of last fall's Dreamforce, John Rote, VP of Customer Experience for men's online fashion retailer Bonobos, and John Pepper, Founder & CEO of Burrito restaurant chain Boloco led a session discussing how their small businesses beat the competition and grew their bottom line through top-notch customer service.


Here are 10 takeaways from these small business success stories for delivering a world class customer experience.

1. Every customer deserves a response

"We decided to be one of those companies that when a customer says something, we actually listen and respond no matter what it is, even if they're telling us "You're the worst!" Our philosophy really became “every customer deserves a response,” and so that began our culture of just over-listening and overreacting to just about everything.” -- John Pepper, Founder & CEO, Boloco

2. You will learn a lot about your business from feedback on social media

"Social media has been an unbelievable gift for us, because now, the listening is just incredibly frequent, and as long as you have thick skin about it and you’re willing to learn from it, when you get out there and respond, and respond authentically, it’s not just going to one person anymore.” -- John Pepper, Founder & CEO, Boloco

3. Pay attention to social media - it's driving customers to your website

"We realized that we were really shortsighted for not paying attention to it earlier and for kind of ignoring it. We looked at the stats about four, five months in after we really started playing around, and we saw that it was about 20-25% of our incoming volume, which is the equivalent of about how many phone calls we'd get a day." -- John Rote, VP of Customer Experience, Bonobos

4. Respond in real time

“We have the guy who’s on our golf production team who designs our golf polos and golf brands. When he sees a question about those products on social media, maybe a Ninja (their customer service reps) will beat him to it, but then he’ll also add in his own viewpoint, which is pretty great if you’re a customer reaching out with a generic question about a product and you get a response back from the guy that actually designed it. That’s a unique thing that we’re able to do through social media that we normally wouldn’t be able to do.” -- John Rote, VP of Customer Experience, Bonobos

5. More than one employee can take part in a customer conversation

"It just wows our customers when multiple people can be working--tag teaming--on an issue for one customer. The customer gets that. They feel it immediately. You might have me chiming in, and then you have the executive chef saying something, but we all see it, and so it’s a flowing discussion, but multiple people can take part, which is great." -- John Pepper, Founder & CEO, Boloco

6. Good customer service means teamwork right across the board

"We had our site crash for over a full day last year on Cyber Monday, which is pretty much the worst thing that can happen if you’re an ecommerce company. It took about 45 minutes, maybe an hour, for any kind of word to get around to the rest of the people in the company about what was happening. People paused meetings immediately. People got to the front lines. Everyone that had done their service training logged in to help. People only needed about a 20-minute tutorial to know how to get back to someone just to ensure them, 'It’s okay. We’ll be back up. We’ll extend the sale. We’re honor all discounts.' For anyone at our company now that was there then, it ended up being a really great, unifying moment where it really did demonstrate to people that, ultimately, we’re here for customers, whether you’re on the accounting team, the marketing team, or the production team." -- John Rote, VP of Customer Experience, Bonobos

7. Empower your employees for peak performance from day one

"We had employees, early in their tenure, write out their definition for what it meant to deliver good service, and that just mentally engaged people to think creatively and strategically about what they needed to do for service excellence. This also helped us identify who the people were that had real potential to be brand evangelists to the rest of the company and lead our "White belt" training sessions." -- John Rote, VP of Customer Experience, Bonobos

8. Give your team the freedom to do great customer service

"What we found over the years is that people usually gravitate toward the company that they previously worked for with the most stringent rules. Even when they come on board with us, they don’t believe that they actually are being given the freedom to really serve. It’s almost like you have to erase their prior experiences. So as part of our orientation, we have them talk about great customer experiences, and then we have them share with each other their negative experiences. Even that still isn’t enough. You can never stop talking about the idea that you’re giving people the freedom to deliver great service." -- John Pepper, Founder & CEO, Boloco

9. Listen to conversations in forums but hold back from reactive behavior

"I think the first lesson we learned about that was that it’s not the job of me or our agents to out-debate a customer in a public forum." -- John Rote, VP of Customer Experience, Bonobos

10. Embrace the negative feedback

"Consumers say anything nowadays on social. They’ll say, 'F$%& Boloco!' We might just retweet that, and add 'Whoa!' to the front. What that says is we’re not afraid to put that out there, because it takes the whole weight off of it. You immediately disabled the bomb." -- John Pepper, Founder & CEO, Boloco