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Public Speaking, Presentation Skills & Media Training

Customer service. It is critical to maintaining long-term relationships with customers. Organizations like Nordstrom and Disney have shared their secrets to great service over the years. Michael Brown challenged the traditional thinking on customer service in his book, Fresh Notes on Customer Service. His premise is customers should come second and the emphasis should be on employees, who if treated well, will provide outstanding service. Other books and articles offer lots of tips about how to train your employees and create a culture that values service. I think the biggest key to service is one that is often overlooked. It’s the customer you choose to serve.

I know it seems obvious, but I believe you can only achieve great customer service if you are serving the right customers for your business. This means you need to focus on who the customer (client) is long before you serve them. Too often a company tries to be all things to all people. Upfront you should consider how your products, services, and approach to doing business match your customer’s requirements.

If your customer needs you to do a lot of custom work and you are only structured to provide standard product, you will disappoint.

If your lead time is two to three weeks and your consumer is constantly calling at the last minute, you will disappoint.

If your customer likes a lot of personal attention, meetings, and phone calls, and you want the process to be more online and automated, you will disappoint.

If you like to be on the cutting edge and constantly innovating, and your customer wants to do the same thing over and over, you will disappoint, not to mention you will get frustrated and annoyed.

So, before you think about how to service a client, consider whether it is a client you want. Ask yourself: Is the work something that fits well into your existing workflow, processes, and the capabilities of your company? Would it be a stretch to deliver what your customer is asking for, or require a capital investment you are not prepared to make, like adding inventory? What if it just isn’t work you are ramped up to do? If the work is not part of your core capabilities, it takes longer to accomplish. You simply may not be able to provide timely service. You really need to think about whether the client can, and will be, good for your business in the long-term.

Once you get the client, you need to perform, and unfortunately, most don’t. A recent study by SuperOffice that benchmarked customer service stated, “Most companies know what they need and should deliver excellent customer service. But interestingly enough, research shows that while 80% of businesses believe they provide excellent customer service, in fact only 8% of customers believe they are actually receiving excellent service.”

Did you know I conduct workshops for businesses and I am a speaker for hire? Here’s my speaking packet.

Public Speaking, Presentation Skills & Media Training

My thoughts on customer service.

Real customer service begins with serving the right customer for your business. Once you identify that customer it is time to dig deep into how to provide unparalleled service. With all the technology and systems available to business today, you might think it is easy.  It’s not. The problem is not a lack of tools. It is a people issue.

In a recent SuperOffice Customer Service study, the findings were telling.  62% of companies did not respond to a customer service request. 90% of companies did not acknowledge an email, and a whopping 97% of companies did not follow up with customers. Pretty amazing statistics considering everyone I talk to says service is a priority.

Here are a few of the things my company does to better connect with customers.

The “Three Ring” Rule

It may sound simple, but it is everyone’s job to answer the phone. It should never ring more than three times. We have had amazing response to this… and the fact that we actually do answer the phone. If you have ever been caught in the maze of recorded prompts, you know how frustrating it can be when what you need is simply not one of the options. A real person can resolve an issue or answer a question the first time which avoids people having to call back.

Get Everyone in the “Know” 

We believe the more people who understand the customer or a project, the more people who can respond to a question or request. That means holding informational meetings to provide a high-level overview of what is going on company-wide. We also employ a project management system and hold people accountable to make sure e-mails are attached, notes are up-to-date, and schedules are set. This makes it easy to reference the history and communicate exactly what is going on with a project or order. Of course, this is easier to do in a smaller company, but it can be done in larger organizations that are disciplined about documenting information.

Get Proactive

Reach out before a customer expects it. Send a quick update to let a client know you are working on their project and when they can expect delivery. It’s even better if you deliver before the promised date. But be careful…if you consistently over-perform it will become the new standard. Also, customers need some “love” even if they are not currently working with you. A quick e-mail, short newsletter, or video to highlight new products, trends or other customers can help keep you connected.

Automate

These days, most people prefer e-mail communication. There are a number of different customer service software packages that can send automated responses to acknowledge you have received communication and then direct the e-mail to the right person. Of course, automation must be followed up with a real person who reaches out.

Yes. I am right back where I started.

It all comes back to one simple concept. Customer service is not about a department. It is about everyone on your team being willing and disciplined to serve.

 

Looking for someone to lead a workshop at your business on the topic of customer service? I would be excited to help!