Unfortunately, really great customer service is hard to find. Yet as North American consumers we say we want a wonderful customer service experience but have come to expect something much less than wonderful. Sometimes we get exceedingly bad customer service; we rant and we rage. We believe that when we are doing business with a company, that company should have our interests in mind not the bottom line. Keeping our customers thrilled so that they want to do business with us again and even more than that they want to tell their friends about how great the experience was is an elusive goal.
Customer service is that awkward thing that few companies really do right. Next week I will be on the road giving a seminar on customer service. Its true as businesses, we train our staff on customers service... about once a year. We tell our employees that the customers are always right... but we act as if they are never right. We say that we want to focus on the customer but we are always glaring at the numbers.
One day we have great customer service because Happy, one of our employees, is really good. But the next time our customer comes back they get our other staff member, Grumpy, who really doesn't like people.
Business has been pretty good in general for most industries over the last decade or so. Stock prices are at an all-time high and many companies are making good profit.
It seems that in many markets its hard to fill jobs with qualified people. However, with changes in technology, competition, and expectations, many businesses are having to re-look at their customers service in order to ensure that they are viable in the future. Let's face it, if we aren't creating value for our customers, if we are treating them badly, or if our competition is giving them something over and above what we are doing, they are going to walk. So much for profits then. So what are the keys to customer service that many businesses have forgotten while the good times were rolling?
1. Customers want to be served by people that like people and do their job. Author Scott McKain says that 68 per cent of customers leave a business because they were put off by an employee's bad attitude. Only four per cent of customers will ever report it, the rest just leave. We need to hire people with the right attitude and train them appropriately. Our employees need to be consistent and congruent. They need to keep their word and give the same great level of service to our customers, each and every time. This cannot be done without systemizing the steps to ensure that our customers or clients go away raving not raging about the service they received.
2. Grow a backbone and keep your employees accountable. Unfortunately, many of our businesses overlook the crappy attitude of some employees. We say things like "oh that's just Mrs. Jones complaining... she always complains, James isn't really as bad as she says." We get tired of hearing the complaints from customers about James and we block them out. We don't want to do anything about James and how he is treating the customers because we don't want to rock the boat. We are scared of having a conflict with James which is, according to Patrick Lencioni, one of the 5 Dysfunctions of a Team.
Unfortunately, because we don't keep our employees accountable Mrs. Jones, and her friends and their friends, will just have to take their business elsewhere. About James, well, it's really hard to find employees so we just leave James doing what he is doing: running our business into the ground.
3. Figure out how to exceed your customers' expectations. You and your team know your business better than anybody else. You know what your customers expect from past experience, or at least you should. So, go and figure out how you can exceed your customers' expectations. Do they want simplicity, speed, value, experience or something else? If you don't know, just ask them. What can you do that your competition doesn't, that will really make your customers say "Wow! That was really great customers service. I think I will tell my friends."
Customer service is not rocket science, but it takes the same commitment it took to put a man on the moon. It needs a serious consistent approach that is firm in its resolve to give our customers reasons to keep doing business with us. When we forget the key reasons why we are in business... which is to serve our customers and create value for them, all will be lost in a short period of time, and we will be looking for something else to do.
Dave Fuller, MBA, is an award-winning business coach and the author of the book Profit Yourself Healthy. If you would like a complementary experience of business coaching that you are unlikely to forget, email firstname.lastname@example.org.