Live from the MeritDirect Co-Op: Putting Faith in Customer Service

White Plains, NY–When it comes to customer service, Mike Faith, founder/CEO of San Francisco-based, is a zealot. He has to be: Faith’s name, e-mail, and direct telephone line are included with each customer order so that customers can contact him with any problems or questions. Not that he waits for customers to call him: As he told attendees of the Sixth Annual MeritDirect Business Mailer’s Co-op and Interactive Marketing Conference here on July 14, he personally phones and e-mails 30 customers a day.

During his session, “How to Sell More Through Exceptional Service,” Faith said sales at rose from $40,000 in 1998 to more than $17 million last year, primarily because of the company’s exceptional customer service.

Prospective customer service reps are put through a series of nine interviews with management and have to take an IQ test as well as have an interview with the CEO–by phone naturally. “I want to see if I would feel comfortable buying from that person,” Faith said. “We’re not just going to put people on the phone. We want experts which means we must hire the right people.”

Faith admitted that the painstaking process of hiring the right CSRs may have slowed the company’s growth some, but if that¹s what it takes to deliver the proper customer care, he said, so be it.

And though Faith mostly subscribes to that well-worn maxim of business, “The customer is always right,” he gives it a slight twist: “The customer deserves our respect. Sometimes they could be wrong. But they always deserve our respect. They are giving us their money. Anyone who is disrespectful to a customer will lose their job with us.”

Among his advice to attendees:

*Ask the customer how your company is doing. “It’s worth it,” Faith said. “We share customer comments with the entire company–the good ones and the bad ones.”

* Overpromise—then overdeliver. As an example, Faith said that about 90% of the calls to are answered within four rings. In cases, where that doesn’t happen, the customer gets a call back from the company within two hours.

* Don’t let technology call the shots. “We all love technology that makes our life easier,” Faith said, such as interactive voice response in the call center “But is it the right technology for the customer?”