An article about providing good customer service may seem like beating a dead horse. Doesn’t every business already know how important this is and, by extension, already provide good customer service?
WRONG. Whether every company knows this is not the issue. What is the issue is how many companies — knowingly or unknowingly — are providing lousy or only okay customer service. And what these companies should be delivering is “raving fans” customer service — also known as EXCELLENT customer service.
If you feel inclined to disagree with the above statement about lousy customer service, just think about how many times a day you encounter websites that are not intuitive or easy to navigate.
Asked for your telephone number, you enter it in one format only to get an error message that a different format is required. (Many companies have never heard of using microcopy to demonstrate in what format that number should be entered.)
Or someone recommends you read the excellent blog of Company A. You go to the company’s website and have to scroll down the long home page to find the blog link instead of the link being displayed on the top nav.
Now while these “simple” frustrations are on websites that could have used UX (user experience) testing to prevent these annoyances, examples of bad customer service both online and offline abound everywhere.
From repair service reps who don’t listen to your explanation that, yes, your dishwasher does runs but no longer CLEANS the dishes to delivery people (even Amazon) who leave your packages at the same street number several blocks north in a different city, most of us do not experience “raving fans” customer service.
And let’s not get started on call centers.
Watch this brief BuzzFeed video “If Call Center Employees Were Honest” for a humorous look at call center employees:
What is meant by “raving fans” customer service?
The oldie but goodie book Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach To Customer Service by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles with an introduction by Harvey Mackay is still a must-read for any company that truly cares about providing EXCELLENT (as opposed to good) customer service.
As the Amazon description of RAVING FANS says:
Written in the parable style of The One Minute Manager, RAVING FANS uses a brilliantly simple and charming story to teach how to define a vision, learn what a customer really wants, institute effective systems, and make Raving Fan Service a constant feature–not just another program of the month.
For improving customer service — and making your site usable by people with different accessibility concerns — read Steve Krug’s “Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability (3rd Edition) (Voices That Matter) 3rd Edition.”
And especially if you have limited funds for UX testing your website, read Laura Klein’s “UX for Lean Startups: Faster, Smarter User Experience Research and Design.”
Do you have an open mind to improving customer service?
To provide EXCELLENT customer service you first have to honestly evaluate your current customer service. This may be harder to do than it seems.
In order to improve your have to have an open mind to trying new things — discarding the things that don’t work — and reiterating your improvements until your customer service is truly EXCELLENT.
To ensure that you have the right mindset to do this, read Carol S. Dweck’s book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.”
Now, with an open mind, let’s look at customer service advice from various sources:
First, recognize your employees who are providing EXCELLENT customer service:
Matthew Nederlanden says in his August 8, 2017, Huffington Post article “Creating a Culture of Outstanding Customer Service”:
If you want to build a strong customer service culture, the most important task that you will do this week is to recognize excellent service from a least one member of your staff. Recognize them publicly, in front of the entire team, if possible. Set a weekly goal of recognizing at least two different “service olympians” — that’s what we call our people who go above and beyond.
How you recognize customer service is almost important as that you recognize customer service. Don’t throw a party for excellent customer service. Don’t buy gift cards or do contests. Just show that you read the customer reviews about your own company.
Make it easy for your customers to reach you — and for you to reach them:
Emily Stanford says in her Salesforce blog article “20 Customer Service Best Practices to Make 2017 Your Best Service Year Yet”:
When a new customer arrives, find out which channel they prefer for service assistance. As part of your onboarding experience or welcome call, ask how they’d like to be contacted if an issue arises. If your onboarding experience includes a welcome email, include a handy list of all available service channels. Your marketing should also give customers clear instructions on how to reach you when they need you.
Patience is a virtue:
Gregory Ciotti says in his Helpscout.net post “15 Customer Service Skills That Every Employee Needs”:
If you don’t see this near the top of a customer service skills list, you should just stop reading.
Not only is patience important to customers, who often reach out to support when they are confused and frustrated, but it’s also important to the business at large: we’ve shown you before that great service beats fast service every single time.
Does your business need cultural change to provide EXCELLENT customer service?
The April 2016 Harvard Business Review article “Revolutionizing Customer Service” says:
Getting customer interactions right has never been more important, especially since social media has given unhappy customers a louder voice. Many companies want to raise their level of service, but the question is, How?
The typical response is to rewrite frontline employees’ scripts and conduct pilot projects. Those tactics may lead to incremental improvement, which is fine for a company whose customer service operation is functioning reasonably well.
But if the operation is badly broken, or the company’s industry is being disrupted and customers suddenly have a wider array of choices, Jochen Wirtz and Ron Kaufman, Singapore-based researchers and consultants, recommend deeper cultural change.
EXCELLENT customer service is relationship building:
SurveyMonkey reports in its article “Six Ways to Improving Your Team’s Customers Service Skills”:
Look at every touchpoint
A bad customer experience at any point in the customer lifecycle can ruin your relationship. In addition to making sure the right skills are demonstrated, you need to be sure they’re being demonstrated consistently.
Pay the most attention to key touchpoints, but make sure you have a full view of the customer experience, or you risk lapses in service that can really hurt business.
Are you putting obstacles in the way of your customers experiencing EXCELLENT customer service?
Laura Lake says in her Thebalance.com article “Best Practices for Excelling at Customer Service”:
Take a few moments and just consider your own business. Are there obstacles you put in the way of consumers having a good experience with you? Perhaps a few things to consider:
- Do you have a return policy that is outdated?
- Do you make it difficult for customers to talk to you?
- Are there processes within your business that are hard for them to understand?
- Do your hours serve your customers, or do they serve you?
Never try to win an argument with a customer:
Micah Solomon advises company employees in his Forbes article “Nine Customer Service Best Practices That Will Lead Your Company To Extraordinary Success”:
You can never win an argument with a customer. Even if you “win,” our company still loses. In other words, we are paying you to not argue with customers, to not “win,” to not “prove something.” Your paycheck is how you win, not through your debating prowess.
Social media can be a two-edged sword:
Danielle Corcione says in her March 9, 2017, Business News Daily article “How to Use Social Media for Customer Service”:
Focus on creating a customer advocate base. If a customer has a bad experience with a company, one of the first things he or she is likely to do is write about it on social media.
Instead of figuring out how to manage and respond to those negative comments, businesses should focus on providing such excellent service that they create a strong, loyal customer base that will advocate on their behalf if someone has something bad to say.
Create an opportunity for referrals. On Facebook, users have the chance to rate and review your business.
Sometimes, Yelp customers link their Yelp profile to their Facebook account, alerting their followers not only of when they patronize a business, but how positive or negative their experience was.
The added online presence adds to your business’s credibility and quality, but only if they’re mostly good.
And finally, you might enjoy reading (and watching) Amy Clark’s blog post “9 Oscar Worthy Funny Customer Support Videos” on the site I Want It Now.
Bonus customer service tip: If you are looking for a way to showcase in physical business locations your hashtagged positive social media shoutouts, consider using Enplug’s digital signage on your TV screens. Check out our Social Media Wall App and our Instagram App.