When making a purchase decision between two similar products I ALWAYS choose the product from the company with better customer support. This is especially true when it comes to technology products like computers and cell phones. Great customer service and support can not be overstated – it is that important, and companies which understand that get my business.

Problems Arise – It\’s Happens to Us All

Recently, I had an issue with one of my MacBook Pros – an Apple laptop product. I had installed a new operating system, and while everything appeared to be working correctly I did notice a few things that were out of place. Nothing major, mostly system formatting issues which I did not know how to fix. As it turns out, this was a new issue for the Apple rep I had spoken with, who also did not know how to fix the problem. But that didn\’t bother me, because that person stated upfront that this was a new issue, and they were going to get some help troubleshooting it.

We worked a few different scenarios uninstalling and then reinstalling applications and operating systems. We performed disk repairs and backed up from time capsules and other hard drives. The support rep was not random is his approach. He was identifying key areas of trouble and trying to figure out what caused the trouble in the first place, not just how to cure the symptom. Understanding the root cause with problems in computers is important because without that understanding you could fix your issue and then do something that gets you right back into trouble again. I appreciated that approach, even though it took longer to accomplish my goal.

I am certainly not an Apple operating system expert, but I feel comfortable saying that I know my way around the Mac pretty well – maybe better than most. Still, the Apple support representative was courteous and took time to explain things I did not understand – which, as it turns out, was more than I was initially aware of!

When it came time to reinstall from a time capsule backup, a process which takes an hour or two, the support rep scheduled me for a follow-up call. That\’s when another representative calls me directly to check in on the progress of the backup. I was immediately emailed notice of the impending call and give the ticket number with a summary of what transpired on that last call. It was very efficient, and all the information that I could possibly need in relation to that case was contained in one email.

When the new representative did call me back, that person was just as courteous as the first, and had taken a moment to review my case before getting on the phone. We jumped right back into troubleshooting and had it all sewed up before long.

Overall, the process took a few hours to complete, during which time I had limited access to the computer and its files, but when complete, the laptop was working like brand new – and, more importantly, all my data was maintained. Since all my applications were purchased from the App Store, reinstalling was a snap.

Is Good Customer Support More Important Than Sales?

In the past, when I had called other support lines – even paid support in a few cases – those representatives were either unable to help or unwilling, forcing me to find solutions elsewhere. When it came time to purchase new computers, I obviously took my business elsewhere.

Making the sale is important to your bottom line, but so is support. Some would say customer service is even more important, because it\’s what makes you come back and purchase from that same company time and time again, turning a $200 purchase into a $2,000 account over the life of the account.

How Does This Apply to Your Nonprofit?

If you\’re thinking that customer support in the for-profit product world doesn\’t apply to your service based nonprofit you are dead wrong. A nonprofit succeeds by fulfilling its mission; and a service based nonprofit is in the business of helping people. It doesn\’t matter how much research you have or the amount of money you\’ve raised ¬†– you can\’t help people if you don\’t first understand their problem, issue, or need.

Once armed with that information, you still need to troubleshoot. You might not be searching for an answer to why a hard drive failed or have a list of solutions to try in order. Instead you might be working on solving a more dire issue, like trying to find a bed for a women who left home with no money and few resources after her husband started to abuse her. Or trying to fulfill the wish of a child who just found out he\’s going to die of cancer in three months.

Whatever the case may be, you need to be patient with your customer, never judgmental. We live in a 24-7 high tech world, and between Twitter, Facebook, and all the other online network building exercises we do it can be easy to forget the basics.¬†Never promise something you can\’t deliver, and if you don\’t know the answer to a question – don\’t speculate. Simply let that person know you don\’t have the answer but you will work to find it and get back to them as quickly as you can.

These are the traits exemplified in good customer support, and they are the things that help grow support for your organization, and turn people into life long advocates for your cause.

Maintain Your Financial Relationships

You\’ve worked hard to obtain funding for your organization, and while many foundation executives have come to expect just a yearly call when it\’s application time, you don\’t have to follow the same schedule. Take a moment each week or month and write a letter to your funders to let them know what you\’ve been doing and how their gifts help you fulfill your mission.

Foundations have a need too, beyond simply giving away money and resources. Every foundation was created with a specific purpose, possibly one not far off from your own mission. Believe it or not, they are your customers too! By accepting their gifts, you are providing a service for them. You are promising that foundation that you will use their money to help them achieve your mission, and in doing so, you are actually helping them achieve their own mission.

The organizations that nurture those relationships with great customer service are the ones which get funded time and time again, and with larger and larger gifts.


Tell Us Your Story

Do you have an example of great (or poor) nonprofit customer service? Leave a comment and tell us about it. If the experience was poor, please elaborate, but be respectful.

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