Customer service isn’t rocket science. The difference, though, between winning and losing customer service is tucked away in the details, though.
Here are 12 truths of customer service that apply to any customer situation.
- There is a customer service chain. Looking at customer service from a systemic perspective at the start identifies the fact that customer service begins well before the interaction between a customer and a representative of the organization. The quality of Leadership affects customer service. The organizational culture affects it as well. Customer service is the product of an entire system. Do people enjoy their jobs within the organization? Does the organization allow for people to gain a sense of satisfaction in doing their jobs? The answers to these and many other questions can go a long way to predicting, on a big-picture basis, the degree to which the customer interactions are successful or not.
- Customers want to feel like a VIP. One expectation of most customers is that their situation, good or bad, is important to those who represent the organization. The feeling that the organization wants the biggest spending, most important customers to feel are the same feelings that regular customers want as well. Customer loyalty reflects the degree to which regular customers experience those feelings when dealing with the organization.
- Customers become acutely attentive when problems arise. A smooth experience is valued by most. People, however, understand that not every situation will go smooth. Sometimes things don’t go according to plan. Customers start to pay attention to how they are handled under these circumstances. Are representatives empowered to fix these situations? Does it appear there is reluctance to fix the problems, or, worse yet, incompetence? Do the people handling the situation care?
- Customers hate being “nickel and dimed.” Perfect customer service can be undermined by policy or presentation. Even though this is a systemic issue that cannot necessarily be “controlled” by the specific representative, it affects how the customer views that person and the organization as a whole. If the representative is unable or unwilling to share all of the costs or fees up front, customers will find a sour taste in their mouths when the additional costs or fees begin to be revealed.
- Customers love personality. If most customers dislike automation on the phone when they call somewhere, they love people who can mix individuality and professionalism into their customer interaction. The old axiom, “people do business with people” is true in this sense. Requiring representatives to act as automatons with canned responses and prescribed actions works against organizations in this light.
- One of the worst things, to a customer, is experiencing the same issue multiple times. Customers that choose to give organizations a second chance abhor it when that choice comes back to bite them. If someone experiences an issue with the organization, it should do everything possible to make sure the customer doesn’t have an encore performance.
- Dirty laundry doesn’t do it for customers. It’s uncomfortable to overhear an employee complaining about their company. The employee could be right, but the discomfort remains. Hearing these complaints is like visiting a friend’s house and walking into the middle of an argument. Awkward.
- Customers have their own problems, they don’t want yours too. Looking for sympathy from customers regarding personal problems doesn’t work. When at work, representatives need to be in the moment and focus on the customer experience. It’s a great break from those problems.
- Customers hate to wait. Waiting in line sucks. Waiting in line twice sucks exactly twice as much. Ordering items on backorder isn’t much better and being put on hold is the worst. Each second spent in these types of activities is another opportunity for the customer to bring to mind all of the other things they’d rather be doing.
- There is something far worse than a complaining customer. The complaining customer can range from polite to irate and from reasonable to unreasonable. They bring tension with them. And they have expectations that they will be taken seriously. Many customer service representatives believe they represent the worst part of the job, and, maybe to them this is true. For the organization, though, the disgruntled customer that doesn’t complain is far worse. This customer walks out the door and never returns or gives the organization a chance to fix the problem. The complaining customer is at least looking for a fix.
- Customers show up expecting to give up some funds. Even window shoppers know there’s a chance they might spend some money. The problem comes when people, or the system, make it hard for a customer to spend their money. Why do so many people loathe the process of buying a new car? Because it requires not only an investment of thousands of dollars, but somewhere in the neighborhood of four hours worth of time—most of that time is spent waiting. The same feelings, perhaps on a lesser scale, come up for people when they go to one of the super-duper stores and purchase just a handful of items, but there aren’t enough cashiers to make paying for those items quick and easy. I’ve watched more than one person in this situation simply put their items down and walk out in frustration.
- Customers love freebies. Want to give a customer a reason to overlook a small dose of some of the things they do not like? Give them a free cup of coffee, a free donut, free wi-fi, or some other item. Of course this only works for the customers that like coffee or donuts or wi-fi.
Customer service is the relationship the organization has with the people who pay for the products or services. It is where trust and reliability is established, and, ultimately turned into brand loyalty, if all goes right. Customer service plays a vital role in securing money that would otherwise be withheld, and, therefore, is an important part of the system of survival for organizations. Managing the system as well as the people is where organizations create distance between themselves and their competition.