8 golden rules of customer service

The mastermind of LoveFilm’s success shares his secrets of acquiring customers – and keeping them happy


As CEO of VideoIsland from 2004 to 2006, and Lovefilm from 2006 to 2012, Simon Calver has built one of the most impressive CVs in the online entertainment space, which was why Mothercare hired him to spearhead a major turnaround at one of the nation’s best-known retailers.

With two million subscribers and over four million titles under management, Lovefilm remains the UK’s most popular video rental site, and was the subject of a lucrative takeover by Amazon last year.

Customer satisfaction is key to Lovefilm’s success; in fact 20% of all new sign-ups result from word-of-mouth recommendations, and 94% of subscribers have recommended the service to friends. Lovefilm has won several awards for its customer service, and is widely regarded as one of the most proactive and supportive companies in the UK.

Here, the Mothercare CEO looks back on his career with Lovefilm and offers his tips for creating a genuinely great customer experience…

Keep the customer first

At Lovefilm we’ve always made it abundantly clear that the customer is paramount to our business. Right from the start, we established that we love our customers, we’re passionate about film, and we want to be famous for the right things. These have always been our core values, and we’ve stuck to them.

Every month, when we had our company meetings, I awarded prizes to any member of staff, in any region, who performed well against these core values.

Keep everyone involved

Effective customer service requires everyone in the company to be on the same page; the people manning the phones and message boards have to have the same attitude as the CEO.

So, with Lovefilm, we established a policy whereby the 10 most common complaints or issues we received each week were circulated to everybody in the organisation so that everyone could understand what the customers demanded.

Get it right first time

At Lovefilm we’ve long had an initiative called ‘right first time’, focusing on getting things right at the first point of contact, or not actually having a first point of contact in the first place. This aren’t just empty words; they are the cornerstone of a company-wide policy.

As CEO, I established a policy of looking at all incoming customer issues, and asking ourselves what we needed to do to get it right first time in future. Once we’d established that, we could work back through the organisation, hone in on the source of the problem – be it distribution, marketing etc – and identify what we need to put in place to ensure first-time resolution.

Utilise social media

With customers, you have to find a way to have a conversation with the customer yourself. The primary means of contact will vary from company to company; for us, social media was crucial.

In Lovefilm’s customer service team, there’s someone who blogs and tweets all the time, and monitors what people are saying about the company on the social media channels. That way the team can understand what it needs to do differently, and how it needs to change things.

Always respond

When Lovefilm gets a message on our website, forum or social media pages, someone always responds. And they’re always absolutely clear they’re from Lovefilm.

Some companies say that, when you respond, you should pretend you’re another customer, but I think you’re setting yourself up for a big fall if you do that. You should always let people know what you’re doing.

Take the customer’s side

When you’re shipping a million DVDs a week, sometimes stuff happens. But if you always take the customer’s side, given them the benefit of the doubt and give them extra rentals, you can actually turn problems into positive experiences.

In September 2005, with VideoIsland, we had a fire at our distribution centre in Park Royal. We lost 25% of our stock, which could have been hugely damaging, but we made some quick, clear assumptions as a management team, and were dispatching discs again within 48 hours.

We gave our customers full compensation for any issues, and I think we built so much customer loyalty because of how we treated them and what we did there, that it was a turning point for us as a business.

Create a single base

If you want to create consistency across your customer service channels, a single voice, and single source, is crucial.

Lovefilm has one customer service centre in London, managing all the company’s customer service for the whole of Europe. So we’ve always had one central point of learning, training, management – this can then be shared across different channels, and translated into different languages.

Turn customers into ambassadors

Once you’ve established good customer service, it’s important to keep the ball rolling. With this in mind, Lovefilm often sends vouchers out to people – not for them, but for their friends. If they’re having a good experience, this allows them to spread it.

At Lovefilm we’ve long used our own customers to help us, and we’ve introduced rewards for our customers in this respect. For example we established a ‘share the love’ scheme, where, if a customer gets a set number of referrals, they can get Playstations, or TVs, or money. This allows customers to become ambassadors for the brand, and feel a real part of the company.

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