As a business owner or someone responsible for ensuring customer satisfaction and creating a memorable customer experience, your goal is to explore and identify the most practical ways that you not only satisfy but exceed customers’ expectations.
When creating a strategy or a plan, there are five basic key components of superior customer service that you do well to keep in mind.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ~ Maya Angelou
Make your hiring process one that emphasizes the value of people having the right mindset from the start.
Customer service is like a team sport. Each employee must clearly understand that he or she is a part of the team, yet each person is responsible for his own actions. He must take individual responsibility, especially when challenges arise.
Employees or teams need to embrace the belief that the customer always comes first. It’s always about the customer. It’s a willingness to go the extra mile to make sure that the customer’s problem is resolved and she’s satisfied with the results.
A business’s reputation can be ruined by just one rude, arrogant or uncaring individual. On the other hand, a customer who walks away from an interaction in person or on the phone feeling it was a satisfying experience can become an advocate for your business.
“I believe in the power of recognition and empowerment leading to great employee engagement. And employee engagement is critical to guest engagement. Employee empowerment and recognition is the core of our culture and how we achieve outstanding customer service.” Herve Humler
Make sure your people have the skills and knowledge they need. Being competent in their job is very important to everyone in the organization, and especially for those who come in direct contact with customers. At the same time, for employees to be competent, they must be empowered with skills and knowledge. This knowledge must include understanding the culture of the company and the standard of customer care that all customers are expected to receive so that, if necessary, they can make decisions in a pinch that are in alignment with the core values of the business.
This is essential because, in addition to company policies and protocols, they also need to be able to think outside of the box, troubleshoot, and deal with the unexpected.
If they’re not ready to handle customers at the level you’d like, keep them in training until they are. The ability to help angry customers is one of the skills all your people need to acquire. Though costs are attached to training time, it’s better to have your employees or contractors well-trained than to risk your reputation or the reputation of your business.
3. Systems and Protocols
Service, in short, is not what you do, but who you are. It’s a way of living
that you need to bring to everything you do if you’re to bring it to your
customer interactions.” Betsy Sanders
Everyone in your company needs to be on the same page. There should be specific guidelines and systems in place for handling as many customer service situations as possible. It should never be ad hoc.
This is why I recommend that each business should have a Customer Service Manifesto or Customer Service Blueprint.
I help businesses create this document, or they can do it themselves following my guidelines (if necessary). The purpose is to ensure that everyone in the business understands what is required of them in creating a memorable experience for customers, from the CEO to the lowest level on your organizational chart.
This document includes a complete and clear customer service policy and should cover as many situations as you can imagine that could occur with a customer and have a protocol for dealing with each. At the same time, you need to lay out the principles to follow in the event that a situation comes up that isn’t covered in your policy. By providing both guidelines and principles to follow, your customer service staff will be able to manage the majority of situations. In this way, you can ensure that every customer is dealt with fairly.
“How you think about your customer influences how you
respond to them.” – Marilyn Suttle
Communication is the most important tool between customer service staff and the customer. Effective communication, which involves listening carefully, clarifying clearly and concisely, and resolving amicably, is a learned skill.
You must establish a reliable method and communication process, not just between your staff and customers, but internally as well. This should be included in your blueprint.
Focus on making communication as quick and efficient as possible. An internal communication breakdown can turn a small customer service hitch into a total disaster.
“Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it. It is what
the customer gets out of it.” – Peter Drucker
In an article for Forbes Magazine, Customer Service and Experience Expert, Shep Hyken wrote that “Customer Service is the New Brand.” He noted that ‘Companies are recognizing the importance of delivering an experience that makes them stand out from their competition.’
He further noted that whether it’s customer service, product quality or just the way the customers feel about the companies they do business with, customer experience rises to the top of whether or not the customer will decide to keep doing business with a brand.
Of course, your product has to be of high quality and must meet and exceed the expectations of the customer. Getting feedback from your customers who are actively using your product is another way to ensure that you’re satisfying your customers. Generally, we’re too close to the business to see what others can see.
Thus, when creating these five key components of customer service for your company, start with the customer. Put yourself in their place and imagine how you’d like to be treated.
When hiring staff, be discerning and try to determine if they will fit into the culture, embrace the core values of your organization, and deliver superior customer service. Create training materials and service protocols that clearly outline how your customers can expect to be treated.
Provide guidelines, as well as rules, that empower your employees or contractors to make independent, well-thought-out decisions, based on the core values of the business.
Once everything is established, always continue striving to improve your customer service and provide a memorable experience. This is how you will make your brand stand out while creating loyal advocates.