We all have them. Those customer service horror stories that we repeat over and over again to pretty much anyone that will listen.
- The repair person who never returned our calls and simply didn’t show up for their scheduled appointment.
- The endless wait for the cable guy.
- The product that we bought online that turned out to be pretty shoddy and then the even more shoddy return policies.
- The rude receptionist that offered little or no assistance when you called an office. (They obviously don’t have Champion answering their calls)
The list goes on and on doesn’t it?
We have all walked in the shoes of a wronged customer and know firsthand just how stressful it can be.
And poor customer service doesn’t exist only in the realm of big companies. Heck, you can get bad customer service in small companies too. But here’s the thing. An enterprise sized company can probably absorb customer attrition a lot easier than a small to mid sized company especially when the acquisition cost of new customers is so high and retention is really the name of the game.
So since we KNOW that customer service can mean the difference between retaining and losing customers and ultimately the long-term success of a company, what does it mean to provide customer service excellence and HOW do we do it.
1. Invest in soft-skills training.
It’s unfortunate – and often destructive – that the term soft-skills even exists; because that very word “soft” can imply that these are non-essential, nice-to-have skills. Yet 95% of businesses failing within their first five years compels us – if nothing else – to reevaluate our assumptions; because obviously, there’s a flaw somewhere, and it starts here with the concept of soft skills.
For starters, they aren’t soft at all; they’re foundational. And just like the foundation of a house or the chassis of a car must be built to withstand an enormous amount of stress and pressure, soft skills provide your staff with the capacity to do what you need them to do: to solve customer problems, to spot and exploit additional sales opportunities, and to build loyalty.
2. Get in touch with your customers’ reality.
Bad customer service is almost ALWAYS a result of being out of touch with customer reality. It’s really quite simple; and perhaps even too simple to grasp, since we’re often in search of complicated answers to complicated problems. Here’s the insight to memorize: customers like to be treated like they matter to you.
But wait-you do treat them this way already, right?
Do you have a checklist of all of the things that you personally loathe about customer service, and ensure that your business reflects none of these?
If not, then while you may be quite brilliant when it comes to the front-end of business – making sales, increasing market and mindshare – you’re really undermining your success on the back-end.
3. Enlarge your concept of service.
The definition of service must be enlarged to embrace all interface channels. Everyone and everything that interacts with a customer – current and prospective – must be trained in customer service. The website. The accounts receivable staff. The delivery person. The on-site technician. The receptionist. Remember: from a customer’s perspective, these role distinctions are quite meaningless. They view the concept of customer service as a continuum that can quite easily change shape: today it’s the delivery guy, tomorrow it’s the website, next week it’s the sales staff. And if any of these interface areas are untrained or ineffective, customers will make rather harsh and often immediate evaluations that are hard to shake.
4. You can’t fool all of your staff all of the time.
Employees carry around within them a little algebraic equation. It goes like this: if you treat me badly, and expect me to treat customers well, then this equation will not reconcile. There will be a discrepancy.
That discrepancy, in human customer service terms, is hypocrisy.
Employees will easily see the hypocrisy – if one exists — between how they’re treated, and how they’re expected to treat customers. If they’re treated poorly, disrespectfully, or worse, then they will have trouble changing standards when they deal with customers. In fact, they’ll likely treat customers the same way. Why? Simple: the algebraic formula will reconcile. You treat them bad, they treat customers bad, and equilibrium is restored to the universe.
Businesses lose a tremendous amount of internal credibility when they tolerate double-standards of service: one for their employees, and one for their customers.
A Final Thought…
And though it’s probably clear already, it won’t hurt to add a final step: get SERIOUS about Customer Service.
Great customer service isn’t some feel-good, sing-a-long presentation session that ends with a smattering of applause and people racing for their cars in the parking lot. It’s a serious, strategic investment that requires focus and follow-through.
Indeed, this may still seem a bit unfamiliar. We’re used to seeing sales as something that requires this kind of seriousness.
But remember…we’re also used to seeing 95% of businesses fail within five years.
Be the exception to this statistic by becoming exceptional in customer service.+