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Making Customer Service Great Again

Its a new year.

Time to dust off that Customer service love and move forward into 2017 with passion.

Many have taken the time to tick off the best of Customer service from 2016.  Others will tell you what is up and coming for this new year.

I want to talk about what can be done right now.  Today.  This minute.

To make Customer service great again.

Let’s face it – Customer service is broken out there.  There are so many vying to be your low cost alternative and others that want to be the high end choice – but that leaves the middle ground totally unoccupied.  And I’ll let you in on a secret – neither end of the spectrum is locked up very tight.

Here are 5 things you can do right now to improve your Customer Service:

DON’T NEGLECT COMMON COURTESY: Those social skills our moms tried to drill into us – saying please, thanking people who help us, wearing clean underwear – they matter!  There is no substitute for looking your Customers in the eye and being nice to them.  Have you been to your local mega mart or quick service restaurant lately?  The service is lousy.  Well, not in all cases, but more often than not.  The one redeeming quality here is that it gives those who care to be bothered a real chance to stand apart.  Common courtesy, as they say, is shockingly not so common, and those who can consistently meet Customer expectations will find that they become loyal to their brands.  Make sure your teams understand why their jobs are important and connect that to providing great service.  Often those who give lackluster service might be unclear about what good service looks like and just need a little nudge to up their game.

DON’T BE PROUD OF BEING THE CHEAPEST: That is, unless you can also stand and deliver when it comes to fantastic service.  I flew a bargain airline for a quick New Year’s trip to Las Vegas.  I have to tell you that bar none, it was the worst travel experience of my life.  And when I attempted to complain, the airline was amazingly proud of the fact that it didn’t spend any money on online or live customer support to “save you money.”  Notice how I didn’t capitalize “customer” like I normally do – trust me, they don’t either.  So the moral here is that many will try services that offer a cut rate – but they may only do so once if the services doesn’t stack up.

UNDERSTAND THAT TIME IS CURRENCY: Most folks run around acting as though they don’t have a minute to breath.  Suspending disbelief long enough to buy into this premise will allow us to consider how to make the most of this self-fulfilling opportunity.  We have to respect the time of our Guests and further seek to improve our efficiency to offer them the maximum use of their time.  This could mean speedier lines.  It might mean improved organization of our stores or websites.  It could also mean employees trained to produce items like deli sandwiches and custom paints at a quicker rate.  Just remember that the average consumer feels a crushing burden of things to do, so the less you can feel like a suck on their valuable time, the more likely they are to reward you with loyalty.

MAKE SELF SERVICE AWESOME: Your Customers want to serve themselves whenever they can.  This is both a great way to save on labor and to help them avoid the human factor.  Many would rather skip a live interaction with a person whenever possible.  Make sure that whether your Customers are filling out enrollment forms, looking up the answer to a question, or checking out at the supermarket, that the experience is well considered.  For example, if you allow folks to check out large orders, you can’t skimp on the runway for groceries to land.  If you are asking folks to search for answers online, the trail must end at a way to live service if they don’t find their answer.  Customers are more likely to return to businesses that offer a satisfying self service experience.

LISTEN MORE TO YOU TEAM: As a leader in your organization, you may believe that you must have all the answers.  To make Customer service great, you have to embrace all kinds of great ideas – and yes, many will NOT be yours.  That’s okay.  The mark of great leadership is to be inclusive.  You have the power to hear every idea – and then to nurture and prune as makes the most business sense.  In most organizations, the ideas needed to delight Guests and deliver results are already in the room.  The best leaders take the time to understand that the front line teams – those most connected to our Customers – are the ones who often know exactly what needs to be done to win.

So we have a lot of work to do out there if we are going to embrace true hospitality.

It takes a commitment to excellence as well as a return to fundamentals.  In an ever more complicated world, sometimes the simplest solutions lead to the greatest return on investment.

Until next time, remember to treat every Guest like a cherished friend. Tony

Tony Johnson Customer Service Leader

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