, , , , , , , ,

This is my second post for Customer Service Week, in hopes of spreading the best practices of successful service companies with happy team members.

vintage customer service poster

I talk often about the concept that customers today look for more than satisfaction; they want to be impressed, WOW’ed, given an experience – not just sold a product or service. Those of us on the service side of the counter need to remember that customers have rights. They deserve to expect a positive experience. For that reason there is a Customer Bill of Rights. No, really – the folks at Salesforce.com have offered up some great suggestions and I re-post them here. These are great reminders any time of year.

Before I list the points, I want to stress one key point: great service is about giving customers what they want, not what we think they want or need. It also means keeping our integrity intact. So, for example, if we don’t have what the customer wants then we don’t sell them on what we have, we help them succeed. If we sell shoes but not shoelaces, sending the customer to the shop down the street that does will help them and they will remember that we made that effort.

Bring up these concepts with your team, discuss them. Make sure everyone understands the value of using these concepts.

  1. Understand Their Expectations

Customers want a high level of perceived service quality—the difference between what they expect and what they actually get. So figure out what they expect and then strive to exceed it. The Strategic Planning Institute in Cambridge, MA, determined that perceived quality is the single most important factor in a company’s long-term profitability. In other words, kindness, responsiveness, and a pleasant attitude beats the heck out of low price. Your competition will always be raising the bar, so kick the service level up a notch. Periodically assess your clients to gauge your customer satisfaction scores and determine where you can improve. Always give something they aren’t expecting.

  1. Maintain Enthusiasm

Attitude is contagious, so make yours worth catching. No one appreciates obviously bored or unhappy employees. If your employees are unhappy, should they expect to be happy doing business with you? There’s a reason why Disney World encourages their employees to never drop out of character: they want to help the customers enjoy themselves as much as possible, which also results in higher profits. So even when you’ve turned in a high level of personal service, look for ways to go farther. Be like the minions at the end of the first Despicable Me movie, who dared each other to go just a little farther every time.

  1. Build Relationships

Your customers will respond positively when you treat them as nicely as you would a friend. Support them as individuals and make them feel important; they want to feel like they’re more than wallets with legs. Never forget they are the source of your income, but they are still people.

It’s not that hard—just show you care. Be polite, engage in small talk, pay them lots of attention, create special deals just for them, and remember their names and important dates. Constantly ask yourself how you can do an even better job of making them feel special, because you’ll find more answers the more you ask. It’s been said that profit is the applause of happy customers! So the more special you make them feel, the happier they will be, and the more applause you’ll receive.

  1. Choose Your Words Carefully

Even when customers aren’t right, treat them with the utmost respect and kindness. Be careful with what you say, especially if there was a miscommunication or you failed to meet their expectations in some way. Be invariably polite. Don’t make excuses, but show sympathy and explain your reasoning—and then try to find ways to help them anyway.

No matter what, treat them with kid gloves and avoid language that may seem to deflect blame onto them. For example, instead of saying, “Your problem is…” say “The challenge we can work through is…” Those phrases give off very different vibes. Work to leave every customer with a positive impression, showing them that your team is there to help in any way they can.

bill of rights

Using the Customer Bill of Rights will focus your team on a respectful atmosphere and encourage them to think positively towards solutions. It makes the job of serving people more enjoyable if the work is about making people happy – inevitably some of that happiness rubs off on the employees too.