Best-in-Class Customer Service:
What It Really Means And How It Happens
By: Ken Gary, Vice President of Corporate Strategy & Development
Customers are so much more than people who buy goods or services from an organization. In the service industry, they are your principal stakeholders. Their satisfaction is the most important measure of your organization’s success.
That satisfaction doesn’t come easy.
Today’s customers enjoy an abundance of choice, which means stiffer com- petition for you … and, ultimately, higher expectations from them. However, while customer expectations may be growing and diversifying, certain con- ventions of customer experience management hold constant.
For example, oftentimes, service trumps price. Most consumers – two-thirds according to some studies – are willing to spend more if the investment includes a better customer experience. Demonstrate a little urgency, prioritize their convenience and, suddenly, cost doesn’t matter quite as much. Customers are drawn less to a product or utility than they are to how they’re made to feel before, during and after making a purchase.
At its core, customer service is a complex but intuitive matrix of guiding principles centered on needs identification, problem solving, experience management and value adding. To keep it simple, standout service – service that beats price, wins customer loyalty and powers your business – happens when you LEARN with your customers. Share this list with your Customer Service Representatives (CSR) to ensure they are providing blue-ribbon service to your principal stakeholders:
Listen To Concerns
Whether it’s fielding an inbound phone call or receiving feedback on a prior interaction, allow customers to fully express their concerns, without interruption, distraction or assumption. Listen actively and attentively to better understand their needs, not simply to respond, and repeat back key details to ensure you are on the same page. The better you understand your audience, the easier it is to adapt your approach accordingly.
One of the most demanding roles of CSR is to triage dissatisfied, angry and sometimes downright mean customers. Empathy rules, especially after a disappointing experience. Showing you care is crucial. Apologize immediately, sincerely and however frequently the situation demands. Be sure to keep your tone upbeat and composed, and always speak through a smile.
Anticipate Future Needs
The ability to identify and address customers’ unexpressed needs – now that’s a differentiator. Empower customers to be more-informed shoppers and self-sufficient consumers by sharing relevant information, helpful tips and tricks, and a full explanation of their options. Educating customers – that is, prioritizing their success – enriches them beyond the call.
Remedy Immediate Needs
CSRs wear multiple hats, often during the same interaction. Depending on the customer and his/ her precipitating experience, the CSR may serve as sounding board, subject matter expert, tech support, crisis manager or any combination thereof. Whatever the role, the goal should always be to satisfy the customer – that’s the win. Demonstrate ego-free ownership when addressing their concerns. Assess the problem dispassionately to identify the best resolution, and be prepared to explain why something may not be an option. Your resolution should be convenient, comprehensive and customized to the individual.
Never take your customers for granted. Lost customer lifetime value and the cost of replacing a dissatisfied customer – versus retaining him/her in the first place – can be enormous. By properly responding to concerns, “wowing” each one, sharing a laugh and celebrating life events, you create not only satisfied customers, but also loyal brand ambassadors.
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Satisfied customers are the lifeblood of our industry. When yours are treated not as problems to solve but as success stories waiting to happen, everybody wins.