The Ten Commandments Of World Class Customer Service
Why World Class Customer Service Is Critical
After spending the last thirty years working with and developing world class customer service organizations, I can say without hesitation that it's not what you sell, but how you service and care for what you sell that is the most important aspect of any business. Think of it this way, if your products are the heart of your business, than service and care are the lifeblood that keeps that heart beating.
Every business, like every person, has a personality. Those attitudes a business displays that demonstrates how they will treat people that do business with them. From the people they employ and the products they offer to the ways they sell and service those products, this personality inevitably comes through. And customers just like each of us, evaluate the likelihood of a long lasting business relationship by how well we connect with that personality. And while there are other important customer connection points like price, product and environment, they all can and probably will be duplicated by your competition. Product, price and environment are all inanimate, static features that can be easily copied if successful. And while they can be changed, they always end up static and inanimate. The only customer connection point that isn't static and impersonal and provides the only chance of being truly unique and differentiated is your service, those aspects that involve humans dealing with other humans and not just objects or signs. Great customer service, that service level that surprises, delights and exceeds your customers' not unreasonable expectations, will not only give your business an own-able, truly unique distinction, but a distinction that is both controllable and necessary to sustain the long term stability and health of your business.
Since service involves people, it's not a thing I bought at a price I was willing to pay at a place I don't remember, it's a personal, deliberate connection between two people, a real "first impression" opportunity. And the perception the customer derives from the first impression will determine whether or not they will allow your business to make a second impression. All things being equal, in today's impersonal, duplicated, outsourced high tech world, exceptional and pleasant human interaction often times is the only reason a customer needs to keep doing business with you. If the customer feels that you are treating them with reasonable, sensible and appropriate consideration and respect, the way we all expect to be treated as people and customers, they will not only become a long term client and continued source of income, but they'll tell other to do the same thing. And conversely, if they feel used, disrespected and unappreciated, they will tell others that as well. That means the most impactful, most direct, most controllable, measurable, longest lasting and least expensive form of marketing is "word of mouth". In short, the quality of service and care your customer gets when they interact with your business stays in your customers memory and mouths long after the product or service you sold them is forgotten.
Commandment One : Do Unto Your Customers As You Would Have Them Do Unto You
As mentioned in the previous article, we are all customers everyday to someone else's business and what we expect from the businesses we frequent is not typically what we give to the customers that frequent our business. For example, as customers we expect the business to bend over backwards to gives us prompt, courteous and reasonable service and attention. We expect them to employ trained, knowledgeable and pleasant personnel who are able and willing to explain the features and benefits of their products to our satisfaction and will listen and completely understand what we want and not try to pressure us to buy something just because they have it in stock or on promotion. We expect that their policies and procedures will be visible and explained before the sale takes place and not hidden under some counter in the back room and only talked about openly after the sale is completed when we're dissatisfied and want to make a return or exchange. And we expect that they'll handle any issues or concerns we have without a lot of hassle and allow us to return the product or cancel the service if the information we received about the product or service turns out not to be true or isn't to our satisfaction.. And lastly, we expect the business to charge us a fair price and offer a reasonable warranty that is either consistent with or better than what other businesses are offering for the same item or at least be able to explain plainly why there's a difference.
But as business owners and operators, in order to keep expenses low, we don't hire the best and most courteous personnel and provide them with in-depth training. We expect that the customer will just buy our products and services quickly, with as little information about it's features and benefits as necessary, and without complaining and making what we decide are unreasonable demands, like follow-up and gratitude, and at any price we've decided is necessary for us to make an adequate profit. And not only do we not post or explain our policies and procedures, but in fact we change them so often to benefit the business that even most of our own employees are not sure from day to day what they are. And we certainly don't provide the same level of gratitude when the customer wants to return or cancel the product or service as we did when they bought it. In fact, we intentionally make the "problem solving" experience so unpleasant and difficult that the customer chooses to just keep the product whether they're satisfied or not.