How To Provide Excellent Customer Service: An Expert’s Guide
Example of What Good Customer Service Is
In 2009, an elderly man in Wayne, PA was snowed-in during a winter storm around the holidays. Worried about his food supply, his granddaughter called the town’s local Trader Joe’s grocery store to inquire about having food delivered to his home. The employee at Trader Joe’s told the granddaughter that the store didn’t typically provide delivery services, but considering the conditions, they’d be happy to send someone to his home with groceries to get him through the storm.
After reading off the long list of dietary-restricted items, the woman asked how she should pay for the order. The employee told her there was no need to pay, and ended the transaction with a friendly “Merry Christmas!” Thirty minutes after placing the call, Trader Joe’s employees delivered the requested items to the man’s home, along with other low-sodium items that paired well with several of the foods on the list.
In refusing to let common, red-tape restrictions get in the way of catering to the customer’s individual needs, Trader Joe’s highlights one of the foundational building blocks for providing quality customer service: doing the right thing.
“Each customer service employee should put the customers above the company’s internal things,” said Gene Caballero, co-founder of one of Tennessee’s premier lawn-care companies, The Green Pal. “Often people are scared of higher-ups, want to do things very cautiously, engage in too many formalities, etc., due to company culture. The best service is when the customer is the only thing that has top priority, all else be damned.”
The employee at Trader Joe’s, a perfect example of providing good customer service, demonstrated Caballero’s expert customer service advice. By doing the right thing, she was able to directly reflect company values by putting the customer’s needs first – regardless of procedural standards or regulations. Furthermore, by sharing her story on the Internet, the granddaughter sparked a wildfire of conversation between fellow Trader Joe’s customers who had similar experiences and also opened a dialog about the company’s superior customer service.
As a business owner and management professional, you likely have a deep understanding of the importance of customer service and can see how this kind, customer-first act reflected Trader Joe’s in a positive light. However, in today’s cut-throat business industry, dialing in on how exactly to provide the best possible care can be difficult. But with advice from successful customer service professionals like Gene Caballero, you can gain the tools and resources you need to execute superior care for your clients.
Expert’s Guide: How To Provide Excellent Customer Service
1. Be Easy to Reach
It’s not uncommon to overlook small details when looking at the big picture of providing excellent customer service. However, the small details make all the difference between businesses who provide merely good customer service and those who go above and beyond to cater to the wants and needs of clients. Making it easy for customers to contact you is one such aspect that gets frequently overlooked.
Provide excellent service by giving your customers multiple avenues to reach out and connect with someone. By providing numerous options, you’re already improving the customers’ experience with your customer service system when their journey is just getting started.
“Make it easy for your customers to make contact. As well as phone, by offering multiple channels such as online chat, email, SMS or social media you effectively open the doors for those who might not have time to spend untold minutes waiting in your call center queue,” said Anna Johnson, the customer service manager at CardioTech, an international fitness company. “In this advancing mobile day and age people want help at their fingertips and they want it fast. The quicker they get the help they want the more likely you will end up with a happy customer.”
The more lines of communication you can open with your clients, the more you’ll increase customer satisfaction levels and improve the overall customer experience. Monica Eaton-Cardone of Chargebacks911, a business that helps companies effectively manage chargebacks, says that providing quality customer service across all platforms isn’t just a change you should make for your client’s sake, but it also allows your company to capitalize on any and every opportunity to provide better care.
“You never know the angle from which a customer will try and raise questions or concerns,” Eaton-Cardone said. “Also, it’s a good idea to try and have live personnel available to help customers as many hours a day as possible. Because they don’t have to sift through a web of painfully redundant menus, customers respond much more positively to live representatives than automated systems.”
Chloë Thomas elaborates further on the topic. Thomas is the creator of eCommerce MasterPlan, a three-part strategy that helps eCommerce companies plan, develop, and grow. The author, speaker, podcast host and customer service expert uses her success and experience to offer beneficial advice.
“Great customer service now requires you to service multiple contact channels. You need different customer service reps for different channels – the rep who’s awesome on the phone, keep them on the phone! Then find the rep who loves juggling multiple social media conversations at once,” Thomas said.
2. Make Proactivity a Priority
As a business owner, you’ve had plenty of experience fine-tuning reactive customer service initiatives like money-back guarantees, cost-free replacements, etc. And while being able to effectively react to customer’s wants and needs is still necessary, experts advise that it’s now more important than ever to be proactive.
Being proactive means addressing problems before they arise. For customer service, this can mean anticipating what the customer might need and providing solutions before they ask for them. It helps customers feel more valued by your company.
“Customer Support is ‘reactive’ whereas customer service is ‘proactive’. Organizations offering support to customers with the problem is just fulfilling its promise and nothing more,” said Amit Sharma, CEO of Dishah Strategic Solutions. “An organization that is proactive towards customer communication related to product issues, updates, upgrades, business events, help, and support is always offering a great customer service that is highly regarded and recommended by its customers.”
In today’s hyper-connected economy, consumers now expect companies to deliver proactive services based on real-time data. In fact, Enkata Technologies found that companies who offer pre-emptive services reduced their call volumes by more than 30% and increased customer retention rates by three to five percent.
As the President of SJS Solutions, LLC., a consulting group that provides contact and call centers with effective solutions for improving customer service, Scott Sachs knows just what it means for companies to take a proactive approach to customer service.
“If a customer is coming off of a promotion and will be receiving a bill with a higher rate, the organization should reach out to the customer in advance or provide collateral with the bill that provides clear information on why the bill may be higher than previous bills,” Sachs said. “ Another example is when an organization may be running a special on a product or service and knows a customer has an inclination to purchase that type of product, providing advance information with regard to the upcoming promotion in a non-intrusive manner.”
One of the most reliable ways your company can make the seamless shift into providing superior proactive customer service is to request feedback from your customers. Give them countless opportunities to offer advice on ways to improve your products or services.
“If companies ask, customers will tell,” said Ray McKenzie, the Founder, and Principal of Red Beach Advisors, a consulting group that provides businesses and organizations with successful growth strategies. “Customers will tell you what they would like to see, how to improve your product, service, or business, and will sometimes be willing to try or “beta” your solutions. When customers feel that their feedback is heard, they will share their experience with friends, family, associates, and others.”
By thinking one step ahead of your clients and frequently requesting their feedback, your company can do more than boost trust and loyalty in your brand. You can monitor trends in customer wants and needs, get inside the minds of your most valued resource, and provide superior customer service in an effective and proactive manner.
3. Get Personal
Jim Shukys, the proprietor of Jimyz Automotive in Streetsboro, OH, has locked into what is possibly the ultimate key to providing excellent customer service: a personal touch. This local mechanic sends hand-written letters to all of his customers – new and old- personally thanking them for their service. One such letter reads:
Thank you for giving us the chance to work on your car. I truly appreciate your business and I hope you were satisfied with the level of service we provided. Please don’t hesitate to call on us again.
The story was posted on Reddit and triggered a conversation of nearly 800 comments, most of which highlighted the gratitude customers feel when they are personally contacted by a business.
“Make it personal,” said Garrett Brown, the CRO of the next-generation identity and access management company, Bitium. “How many times have you emailed or called a company’s customer service team, only to get a response that was obviously canned or scripted? It’s a big turn-off, and making sure that customer service interactions are personal lets customers know their issues are being heard and handled by someone who understands.”
More often than not, it’s easy for companies and management leaders to get caught up in the transactional nature of most modern sales models. However, by shifting your focus to customers as real-time relationships rather than standard transactions, you can stand out to customers as a brand that honestly cares about them as people and not just a number.
“It is imperative that your customers know they are dealing with a real person, not an automated answer machine or an auto-response email; use your name when you pick up the phone, address the customer by their name during phone conversations and via email,” said Jenny O’Brian of Poles Direct.
While Jimyz Automotive elected hand-written letters as a means of personal communication, there are simple changes your company can make to ensure your customers are being treated with the respect they desire and the individualized care that will keep them loyal to your brand. Whether you’re a startup company working through growing pains or a nation-wide organization aiming to boost customer retention, using simple tactics to remind clients that their business is important to you will cultivate a customer-centric culture that sets you apart.
Andrew Hart, Head of Content at FM Outsource says that even if your company currently strives to provide personalized customer service, you should always be looking for ways to improve and adjust to the shifting business landscape.
“Customer service is best when you consider the experience from the customer’s side of things,” Hart said. “Consider taking an outside approach to your current efforts to see what other people think, and then use this to improve your offerings there may be steps that you’ve included that aren’t needed or detract from the customer experience.”
Don’t shy away from taking your own advice. Frequently ask yourself “what would make me feel personally valued by my company?” If you’ve already implemented using friendly, personal phone greetings, consider sending hand-written letters. If you currently have success writing letters, develop creative, intimate ways you can reach out to individual clients via social media.
Cultivating relationships with your customers not only makes them feel valued, but builds their loyalty to your brand as well. They’re not likely to go elsewhere or speak poorly of your business if they know that you made an effort to help.
In today’s competitive business industry, superior customer service is what makes successful companies stand out. Bad customer service can completely kill a company. A recent study by the American Express Global Customer Service Barometer found that nearly 61% of American consumers think good customer service is more important amid economic instability and are willing to spend an average of 9% more at a company that provides it. Similarly, 81% of consumers say they are more likely to become loyal customers to a company who provides superior customer service, and 75% say providing quality care motivates them to share their experience with family and friends.
So how do you execute flawless customer service according to the experts? By making it super easy for customers to communicate with you. By being proactive and anticipating your clients’ wants and needs. And by going out of your way to make sure your customers feel individually valued. Implementing these good customer service skills will help your company grow and thrive. These are the three keys to positive customer interactions at all levels of your company.