Customer Service – Taking What You’re Doing From “Good” to “Great”

Or maybe even Exceptional! We recognize bad customer service right away, it's like a flashing beacon. We tell all our friends and colleagues about bad customer service, and the story spreads like wildfire. Let me share a recent experience with you, I'll keep it short, but it's utterly hilarious. I just bought a new BBQ…

Or maybe even Exceptional!
We recognize bad customer service right away, it's like a flashing beacon. We tell all our friends and colleagues about bad customer service, and the story spreads like wildfire. Let me share a recent experience with you, I'll keep it short, but it's utterly hilarious.

I just bought a new BBQ pit, this thing is beautiful! I knew that assembling it was beyond my abilities, so I hired someone to do it for me (I'm the queen at knowing what I do REALLY well, and what should be done by a pro!).

Now, I'm not saying that this professional assembled the pit wrong, it may have been that an incorrect part was shipped, but either way, the darn thing would not light. I called the company I bought it from, and kept getting passed around until I ended up at the manufacturer (it actually took 22 individual calls to get there). After a very long conversation about the color of the wires on the ignition switch (that were yellow, even though they INSISTED that yellow was the one color they can not be!) I convinced them to send me a new ignition switch. Ten days later I received a shipment from them, opened the box, and found a set of BBQ tongs. Not an ignition switch, but tongs.

So, there's bad customer service, in fact I'll go as far as to say bad customer “experience”.

Someone along the line dropped the ball here, and trying to figure out “who” is an exercise in futility. What this proves is that customer service is a part of every role within your company, from the moment you answer the phone, until the experience is completed (which includes putting the right part in the box that ships out the door). Where did this training go wrong?

Here are out tips for taking your customer service from good to great (and not shipping BBQ tongs!):

  1. Create a company culture that is clear to your staff. Do they know the experience that you want to create for your customers / clients? Does their mindset align with your desired outcomes? Remember, hiring someone is not just about skills, it's about goodness of fit.
  2. Set clear objections and measurable outputs. How long should an email sit in an inbox? How long should a caller be left on hold? Are all emails acknowledged, even if they can not be resolved right away? Do you have a clear training process that outlines how long an acknowledgment would take? If you do, are you measuring it?
  3. Does your staff understand the difference between escalation and collaboration? Many times, your customer service support is hesitant to “escalate” a case that they're unable to handle because they feel it's resolvable, but are missing information that they would like to learn. So, it's not escalation they're looking for, but an avenue for collaboration within the team. Do you have a shared workspace where team members can communicate, ask questions, and learn from each other? Is there a shared knowledge base where collaboration can freely occur? Does your team know where to go for extra guidance?
  4. Does your staff really know the product / service you provide? Frequently bad customer service is due to a lack of information. If you offer consulting services, train your staff on what the experience is like for your clients. Walk them through what your client feels, so they can understand the mindset of your clients, and respond appropriately. Great training, and continued training, is essential for your team to become involved and passionate about the experience they are helping to create.
  5. Customer service does not end when the experience ends. Great customer service includes follow up emails or personal notes to say thank you. Always keep communication open with former clients, you could learn a lot about what additional services you could provide to continue supporting them, but they are also your best source of referrals. Stay at the top of their mind with ungoing customer care.

And of course, remind your team to listen and to respond with respect.

Customer service does not end when an issue is seemingly resolved (I'm still waiting for my new ignition switch). It ends when a positive outcome is achieved, and your client walks away feeling acknowledged.

I'm still trying to figure out how to fix my BBQ pit with my new tongs! Wish me luck!