As you can probably tell by the tone of some of my recent columns, I’m on a journey to discover the best customer service ideas I can find. I have read a number of books and talked to numerous people on my search to find the best examples of not just good, but great customer service.
Great customer service is the key to successful sales growth. Customer acquisition is so expensive and time-consuming that we need to do all that we can to retain those dear customers once we have gone through the blood, sweat, and tears of attaining them. The better your customer service and customer retention, the more successful your company will be.
The fascinating thing about great customer service—or poor customer service, for that matter—is that it crosses all markets, products, and technologies. If you are building PCBs, your customer service is not only being measured against your fabricator competitors, but you are also being measured against Disney, Nordstrom, and the Ritz Carlton; there is some pretty stiff competition out there. Customer service is universal and should be treated as such.
One fact that I can never get out of my head is that when a customer is treated right, they will tell at least 50 people about it. But when a customer is treated poorly, they will tell 250 people about it. Wow! Those are some odds: 5 to 1 in favor of poor customer service. That alone should make us all realize how critical great customer service is to your company’s success.
This week, I have been reading a book by Shep Hyken called Amaze Every Customer Every Time: 52 Tools for Delivering the Most Amazing Customer Service on the Planet. This is an excellent resource when it comes to finding inspirational ways to amaze your customers.
In one of the most striking chapters in the book, Hyken talks about internal and external customers. The internal customer is your own company’s team. He also references Herb Kelleher, the founder of Southwest Airlines, whose strongest philosophy was to put his associates first, even before his customers. Kelleher felt that if he could make his associates happy and delighted with the company, then they would delight their customers as well; he also uses this philosophy to show how, by amazing your employees, you will empower them to amaze your customers as well.
Further, Hyken talks about moments—different times when your employees have the option to shine by delivering amazing customer service. Quoted from the book, these moments are as follows:
- Moment of Magic: When a customer receives above average service
- Moment of Truth: Anytime a customer has an opportunity to form an impression
- Moment of Misery: When the moment of truth is mishandled
Hyken also explained how moments of misery could be turned into moments of magic with good recovery, so let’s talk about that. Great customer service companies take advantage of problems by handling them well. As the saying goes, “Great relationships are forged in adversity.” We are all human, and we all make mistakes. The way a company deals with a customer problem and remedies the situation is the most telling indicator of the company’s customer service.
If you want to be a truly amazing customer service company, here are five actions you must take when a customer problem occurs:
- Don’t look for blame when there is a problem to be fixed. Solving that problem is the top priority. Don’t waste time (or kill the relationship) by declaring that it’s not your problem but the customer’s problem. Even if the customer is at fault, you could win the battle, but, in the end, lose the war.
- Take responsibility. Solve the problem as quickly and efficiently as possible. Fix it, and fix it fast!
- Fix the problem to the benefit of the customer, even if it costs you money. One of the things a great customer service company does is make sure it knows the lifetime value of each of its customers. Once armed with that information, the company will have the proper perspective on how a small investment on their part will ensure a longer lifetime with that customer.
- Once the problem is fixed, analyze what happened. What caused the problem, and what you can do to make sure it does not happen again?
- Be gracious. If the problem was caused by something your company did, accept responsibility, apologize, and convince the customer that you have put the proper precautions in place so that it will not happen again. And if it proves that your customer caused the problem, that is a great opportunity to shine; that is your moment of magic and truth. The more gracious you are, the more you will make them a customer for life, and making a customer for life is the ultimate goal of any great customer service business.
It’s only common sense.
Dan Beaulieu is president of D.B. Management Group.