Customer Service Should Be At Customer’s Convenience and Company’s Cost, Not the Other Way Around

The challenge when it comes to service and service recovery – internal or external, personal or professional – is in the answer to this question: When you've done, would you rather have people say, “That was nice.” Egypt “That was WOW!”? When service and recovery efforts are delivered at the customer's convenience and the company's…

The challenge when it comes to service and service recovery – internal or external, personal or professional – is in the answer to this question: When you've done, would you rather have people say, “That was nice.” Egypt “That was WOW!”?

When service and recovery efforts are delivered at the customer's convenience and the company's cost (if any), it's often a “WOW!” But when they're not done that way, it may (or may not) be “nice” when you're finished, but it's definitely not “WOW!”

Here's an easy formula for delivering the WOW, whether at time of initial service delivery or during service recovery after something's gone wrong:

W = Your Word. Stand by it. I do not care if someone promised something they should not have. If you can do it anyway, do it! If not, ask the customer what you can do to make it up to them. If you can not do that, at least offer them something of value. Do not blame the customer; do not assume they misunderstood; do not trash the employee; do not make excuses. Just stand by your word and make it right.

I bought flooring and countertops at Home Depot one time. One item was offered on a “No-Interest Financing for 6 months” plan; the other offered a plan that deferred interest for an entire year. When I went to check out, a clerk asked if I'd like both items on the one-year plan. I showed him the flyer that clearly did not offer both on that plan, but he said he'd worked there for a long time and knew that if I bought one on that plan, the other could be included, too. I asked him to put that in writing (I've been burned before, not there, but at other companies). He was surprised, but agreed to write it down and sign it. I went on my way, singing a merry tune about my surprise “gift.”

Flash forward a week or two. Home Depot called to inform me that a mistake had been made and I needed to move some items to the 6-month plan. Surprise, the clerk had been wrong. However, after I told them what the clerk said and they informed me that “I must have misunderstood” (my all-time favorite pet peeve from customer service reps), I told them I had it in writing.

Dead silence … followed by a request to show them the paper on which it was written. To their credit, they stand by their employee's promise and honored it. WOW!

O = Ownership. Take ownership of your knowledge and skills. Keep learning, growing and improving. Never assum! Check it out if even the tiniest scintilla of doubt exists. (By the way, having a flyer that contradicts your understanding of a program should create at least a scintilla of doubt in your mind!) Ask questions anyway, because here's the rub:

When something goes wrong, the customer is already inconvenienced. What they really want is for the company to correct the situation at their convenience and the company's cost. But what often happens is that the situation is always corrected … at the company's convenience and the customer's cost! The customer must invest time and effort, multiple times, trying to correct the situation. They often have to pay real money for restocking fees, cancellation fees, or just put up with the wrong product because company policy says they can not return or cancel the item without a penalty.

Do not get me wrong. Obviously there are times when customers do misunderstand things or simply want to get away with something. That's human nature – we all know it. But at least avoid punishing honest customers who become victims of an employee's lack of knowledge by asking them to pay for the employee's mistake.

W = What-if scenarios. Do them! Proactive thinking can help you create WOWs if you just take a few moments to analyze the system or process, think it all the way through and see if it will play out as you expect it will.

As I was checking out of a store recently, after I'd paid for my items, the clerk stapled a coupon to my receipt. The coupon said, “Get two free greeting cards TODAY with any purchase!” But I had just completed my purchase and was ready to leave. I had no time (or inclining) to go back at that point and pick out two cards, then come back and stand in line again in order to get them free. While the coupon was good until the end of the month, which as only about a week away at that point, that meant I would have to go back in the next week – and buy something else – in order to get my two free cards.

Granted, it's nice that they offered the coupon at all, but here's where the experience could have been better than nice – it could have been a WOW! The clerk could have told me about the coupon before ring up my purchase, to allow me to use the coupons on that trip before checking out. Better yet, a rack with a big sign could have told customers at the front entrance that they could get two free cards with their purchase today, allowing them to do it all in one sweep of the store.

So, the next time you really want to WOW your customers, analyze your proposed actions for the WOW factor: Will I keep my WORD? Am I taking OWNERSHIP for the success of myself, my customer, and my company? And am I doing WHAT-IF scenarios up front to ensure that every nuance is considered?

Start with one process, experience, or action. Analyze it, visualize it, walk through every step to be sure that when you put it into action it will really be the WOW you think it is.

Remember that your service efforts can be nice … but “nice” will not get you hired, re-rented, or referred through incredible word-of-mouth advertising. “WOW” will. Anyone can create easy and NICE actions. The challenge is that it takes more dedication and work to make the difference that creates a WOW.

Are you up to the challenge?