Monthly Archives: December 2014

My Seven Pillars of Stunning Customer Service by Liz Toogood

Delivering stunning customer service 24/7 is a stretch for any organisation. However, your customer service must be stunning in order to differentiate you from your competitors.

Ultimately your service is what binds customers and clients to you; good is simply not good enough. Printing your commitment to customer service on a bumper sticker or carrier bag is not sufficient – plastic bag platitudes are all very well but have no value unless acted upon.

In this blog I’m going back to basics;  “Why bother with customer service?”

No product or service is unique, people buy from us because they choose us and once we are on the ‘sacred’ list of preferred suppliers, we need to stay there even though there might be a better deal elsewhere.

In order to be successful we need to build strong, interesting relationships between our customers (people) and ourselves (also people and not faceless organisations with no personality at the end of complicated telephone systems with automated computerised voices that cut off at the final hurdle………). I don’t mean sending out newsletters to our customer base telling them how wonderful we are, and what we’ve achieved that month, I mean creating a personal relationship that gives individuals far more than they seek when they trade with us. I mean developing friendships.

We also have to be aware of what people are saying about us both good and bad. Unsolicited but important reviews of our performance and products are readily available in cyberspace. OK, we know some might not be entirely accurate but people read them and bona fide or not, bad news travels particularly fast. Be vigilant, be responsive, be stunning.

So what are my Seven Pillars of Stunning Customer Service?

1. Know what stunning customer service looks like

Think about it. What is stunning customer service? It’s not the regular service we enjoy from most of our network. It’s the stand out from the crowd service; it’s the people who go the extra mile for us; the ones that surprise us; the ones who delight us; the ones we want to shout from the rooftop about.

This is not rocket science – think who impresses you; who impresses your family and friends (ask them); who impresses your employees (ask them too). It might not be in your own business sector, it probably won’t be. So go and visit these people in their organisations. Talk to them. Take some of your employees with you. People love to hear how good they are and they will be pleased to let you observe what they do and how they do it. Analyse what makes them special; watch and learn. Now how can you have the same effect in your business? Model perfect customer service so that everyone in the organisation knows how to behave; and if things are going pear-shaped make sure your team has the tools available to them in order to recover the position.

2. Be human and be true

Make sure your customer speaks to a real person at the beginning of their customer service journey. Ensure that person is the person your customer is seeking. Put your own baggage on the shelf, play the part; you are here to give great service.

Tell the customer your name, slowly and clearly, don’t gabble. Smile – however you might feel – and focus on the customer. Remember smiling is even more important on the phone and they will know if you are distracted.  Listen hard to the clues they give you. Use their name if they give it to you, and make friends.

What is the customer seeking from this interaction? Focus on their needs and why they are talking to you; is it a simple query or a complex complaint? Put yourself in their shoes and give them the answers they are looking for. Are you giving them an answer that would satisfy you?

Always be truthful and always be true to yourself and your values. Use your initiative to ensure your customer goes away happy, and more importantly, tells everyone else how happy they are.

3. Keep your promises

We are taught “to under promise and over deliver” mainly to flag up that “over promising and under delivering” is unacceptable. However I am not sure about this. If ABC Co. Ltd. tells me they will be there on Wednesday then I plan for that; if they suddenly show up on Tuesday that could present as many problems for me as would their not showing up til Thursday. I say keep your promises. If you can’t, for reasons outside your control, LET ME KNOW. Ring me immediately, speak to me, leave me a message, send me a text, drop me an email, send me a tweet – apologise then explain what will happen next to get things back on track.

4. Know your products/service

Know your products. It sounds simple but often isn’t. Know what you sell; how it works; where it works well; where it would not be appropriate; how long it takes; how much it costs.

Be prepared for every question. Make sure you know the answers. If you don’t – admit it. Never waffle, never lie. Make a commitment to the customer to find out the answer then go away, get the answer and get back to the customer as soon as you can.

5. Communicate

Don’t you just hate phoning and being put “on hold” because “we are experiencing a high volume of calls at the moment but your call is important to us….”? Or being invited to go to the website when you know perfectly well that the FAQs on the website won’t help you; or worse still calling your broadband provider to find out why it is down and being referred to the website! None of this is proper two-way communication.

Nor is communication a questionnaire or a survey. How often do you ignore them when one of these falls into your Inbox? If you want to know what a customer thought then why not ring them to ask them? (But not at a mealtime or when “Coronation Street” is on TV). And ask if they have a few minutes to spare you. They might say “No” but they might say “Yes” especially if you tell them that you are the business owner and you want to improve your service and you’ve also got some luxury hampers/vouchers/freebies to give away.

Always keep the lines of communication open. Tell me what is going on, especially if nothing is going on. Keep in touch with me. A text telling me that you are on your way is always appreciated – especially if I have put things on hold to wait for you.

6. Closure

Having helped your customer, then complete the interaction and close the conversation. What is wrong with “I am pleased we have managed to sort out your query today” or “Thank you so much for calling and letting us know about this”? Don’t switch into autopilot and ruin all the hard work you have put in. By this I mean don’t use plastic bag platitudes, or clichés – don’t say “Is there anything else I can help you with today” – if they wanted something else they would have said. Close with “Have a nice day” and you’re committing customer service suicide in my book.

7. Treat every complaint as an opportunity

When things go wrong – and they will go wrong – your customers will tell their families, their friends, their colleagues, their associates and anyone else who will listen. So throw everything at it! This stops being an operational matter and starts being damage limitation otherwise known as reputation protection. Nothing is more important in this digital age. You do not want to go viral, unless it is in a good way.

It may be that the whole issue is clear cut, the result of an unfortunate misunderstanding and easy to resolve; whatever the situation, be stunning in your response, don’t argue the toss but do something amazing to acknowledge that you were in the wrong. Start by saying you are sorry – and meaning it; being sorry is often the thing that really matters.

If you need time to investigate what happened then devise an acceptable holding position whilst you do whatever you have to do to check out the facts. If you act quickly and politely then your customer will tell their networks about how brilliant your response has been rather than dwelling on the original problems.

So I have said anything you didn’t know?

I doubt it.

Watch your people too and make sure they are consistently doing the right things. Customer service is for life, not just for Christmas, and if they are letting the side down – deal with it!

Ultimately it is simple. We are all customers and we all know what we want; deliver gold standard to your customers and clients every time and you will fly.

Good luck.

Liz Toogood
December 2014


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