Sales and Marketing Advice for Florida Business
Ron's rules for amazing customer service
I don’t get it. We all run companies, and are consumers too. So, you’d think the basic definition of "customer service" is well understood. But, as you know, this concept seems to escape the leaders of many businesses.
Warning: this is a bit of a rant in the name of better customer service. Yet, you see it, and sadly experience the opposite all too often. Don’t let this happen to you!
A powerful relationship exists between customer experience and revenue. After all, if a business wants to thrive and make money, the success of the customer has to be at the top of the list.
Okay, you’re wondering what set me off this time.
Let’s start by pointing out that amazing customer service happens all the time. I think it’s a company culture that goes beyond the leadership saying, “be nice to our customers.” People are fundamentally kind and want to help others, unless something gets in the way.
But, maybe that’s the point. Even when an individual team member hits a roadblock when helping their customer, if the company supports the attitude of just figure it out to make it right and ask for forgiveness later, a customer for life is created.
There was the time I was with a colleague having lunch at a national chain of bakery-café restaurants. I was excited about my new program offering, and being an expressive guy, used my hand to make a point and knocked my bottle of water off the table.
After the restaurant’s team member came over to assess the situation, she quickly returned with a mop and new bottle of water for me. No charge and no big deal made. My guess is that this person never asked her boss for permission and instinctively grabbed the bottle of water.
Wow! A simple act, yet very effective.
Do you think I tell people this story and go back often; even when I’m on the road and just need to catch a Wi-Fi connection and a cup of coffee?
So here’s what set me off. Recently I had an out patient procedure at a local hospital. It was for nothing serious. Then three months later I get a notice from their third-party billing company saying that my insurance company hasn’t paid $217.34 of the total and could I please call my insurance carrier and ask them to pay.
Ask them to pay what? No details were included.
I called the 800 number and after 1 hour and 43 minutes on hold, decided to leave a voice mail. Unfortunately, the two voice mailboxes I managed to work my way to were full. Ugh! Then I tried again a few days later and received a fast busy during three attempts. Ouch!
So, I went to the hospital’s website and filled out their contact form, giving the above details, and asked for someone from the billing department to get back to me with the details. Of course, no one ever did.
Then this week, two months later, I received another notice saying I have 5 days to pay $217.34. Still no details on what this is for. Yikes!
Do you think I will tell people this story and never give that hospital my business?
There are some very sophisticated actions companies will take to provide great customer service. However, it’s the smart simple things that will make customers happy, get them to tell their friends, and keep them coming back for more.
Here are Ron’s Rules for amazing customer service.
Respond as quickly as possible. Speed is critical. Most of the time the customer doesn’t view the event that initiated the inquiry as serious -- initially. Or it may seem life-threatening. You don’t know until there is communications. But, one thing is certain; as the time between the call or email grows before a response happens, the more irritated the customer becomes. Just human nature.
First contact resolution. Do you hate having to speak with multiple people and start over every time? Your customer does too. The first point of contact needs to own the incident. Sure, there’s a good chance that this person can’t resolve the issues on the spot, but they are now in charge of promising to get to the bottom of it with the right person in the organization and communicating progress to the customer. Enough said!
Own up to mistakes then go the extra mile. We know that the customer isn’t always right. Yet, some companies act like customers are never right. Upon first contact, assume your company did not deliver a positive experience. Don’t be defensive or rude, you’ll just make a bad situation worse. Even show some empathy. More than likely your company messed up, but if it turns out the customer is in fact wrong, who cares. Just fix the problem quickly and pleasantly.
View excellent customer service as a competitive advantage. Here’s the rub with this rule, you can never tout “better customer service” as a benefit over your competition. Why? Because it too easy for any company to claim this. Instead deliver results and tell stories that promote your customer service advantages. On your website, in social media, and your presentations share testimonials specific to how you solved issues and went above and beyond, in your customer’s words. This is hugely differentiating and fuels your company desire to continuously provide the next level of customer service.
Make amazing customer service a part of your culture. You hired great people who want to do the right thing for others. Let them know it’s oaky to provide great customer experiences and in fact, it’s expected. Layout five to seven core principles for “customer success” and hang these on the wall -- talk about them constantly. Don’t make it a thick document with procedures and instructions, and don’t call them rules! Instead, stress that these are guiding principles and it’s up to each team member to do whatever is necessary to make a customer a buyer for life.
Good customer service is really selfish, and that’s a good thing. If your company’s goals include making money (read this as a profit) and getting repeat business, having happy customers is a good thing.
It’s that simple! And you’ll have a customer for life.
How much is poor customer service costing your business?
Ron Stein is founder of More Customers Academy, helping business leaders build strategic messaging and positioning that cuts through the competitive noise to grow revenue. Ron has developed his own highly successful 5-step Stand Out & Sell More approach to winning new customers as a result of his twenty-five years of business development, marketing, and selling experiences. He works with a range of businesses, from startups to large corporations across industries including technology and healthcare, manufacturing, and financial services and banking. Ron conducts workshops, leads company meetings, offers keynote talks, and consults. He can be reached at 727-398-1855 or by email.