Are customer service glitches, mishaps, customer complaints getting you down lately? It’s not hard to be brought low by even a single nasty letter from a single frustrated customer, let alone by a more general feeling that your company’s overall level of customer service is trending lower.
If such misadventures are prompting you to improve your customer service, here’s my first advice: Don’t panic, and don’t beat up on yourself too badly! My guess is that if you’re taking the initiative to read this article, you’re probably already doing better than many companies at providing good customer service and a solid customer experience.
Of course, I don’t know you, but I make this blanket statement because, in my experience, companies with horrific customer service don’t even realize how badly they’re doing, or they completely underestimate how important customer service is in the first place. By contrast, if you’re already aware of the value of great customer service, you’re probably already doing a pretty good job of serving your customers.
Having said that, doing a “pretty good” job of customer service, or giving great customer service but only some of the time, simply isn’t enough. Customer service needs to be an “all the time” sort of proposition that your customers are able to count on, if they’re going to be able to trust your company and grow loyal to it.
Which means that it’s always valuable to invest in activities that can help you maintain and sharpen your customer service edge.
Here are seven ways to regain or further hone your customer service edge.
1. Start having a daily huddle, or what The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company calls a “daily lineup.” Do this every single day (every single shift if you run multiple shifts) for just a few minutes; 10 minutes is ideal. Don’t discuss operational aspects of your company; only discuss your philosophy of customer service and ways to improve at executing on this philosophy. [Here’s an article on how the daily lineup approach plays out in practice for The Ritz-Carlton.]
2. Mystery-shop your operation. You can hire a pro to do this, or you can ask some trusted friends to help you do it yourself. If you take this latter, DIY approach, here are two tips for doing it right. [Disclosure: I offer mystery shopping as an element of customer service consulting assignments.]
• Make sure your secret shopping effort isn’t just measuring conformity. Hyatt CEO Mark Hoplamazian has spoken to me eloquently about learning that Hyatt’s existing secret shopping methodology was only “grading [ourselves] on conformity” and thus penalizing employees who provided creative, authentic customer service. Upon discovering the problem, Hyatt revamped its entire mystery shopping approach.
• It’s important that the insights and data gathered not be used punitively (unless you find something health-threatening, illegal, or similarly egregious), but instead be used with an eye toward improvement.
3. Commit to collecting, and making use of, a single additional personal detail about each of your customers. Now, I know that computer-assisted personalization of the customer service process can become creepy if it’s overdone–if the omniscient abilities of digital tools come to dominate the customer experience. However, this isn’t a reason to back off from developing the kind of personal relationship with your customers that, say, a small-town grocery would have had with his, the kind of service intimacy that can only be grown by paying attention to detail and customizing your service based on those details.
For example: What kind of music does your customer like? Are they into food? Are they kid-oriented or not so much? Simple details like this allow you to have more than a rote conversation with your customers. This needs to be executed with tact and thoughtfulness. But if you don’t make this effort, you’ll always be engaging in one-size-fits-all service. So, for now, add one additional field to your database, learn that one additional detail from your customers, and try to use it in an unforced manner in future conversations. And expand this effort from there.
4. Maybe it’s time for a new customer service training program. There’s always more to learn about customer service, especially because the service desires of customers these days are far from static, so it’s always good to invest in education that pushes your employees toward delivering higher level of service. (Disclosure: I offer customer service training and training design.)
5. Review your scripts and information blocks. Although I’ve written a lot about how customers today prefer a less-scripted style of service, the odds are good that your company still makes use of scripts or blocks of text that you’ve provided to your employees to use. If this is the case: Are these up to date? Do they sound natural? Are they kindly, and helpful? If not, rewrite them—or get rid of them.
6. Review the speed of your responses to customers. Your guidelines for how quickly you respond to customer emailsare likely too lenient for customer expectations in the year 2016. Ditto for how quickly you return phone calls, and, most likely, how fast you ship customer orders. The speed that customers expect from organizations today is determined in large part by their excellent experiences with Amazon.com and the other great B2C companies that have transformed the retail environment with real-time inventory, quick responses, and almost instantaneous shipping. Even though Amazon.com may not be a direct competitor of yours (if not, lucky you!), it affects what customers expect in all industries. Remember: a perfect product or perfect service delivered late (i.e., later than the customer expects it) is a defect.
7. For that matter, why “get back in touch” at all? Try focusing on real time customer response (phone, video chat) or near-real-time (chat). These can provide a dramatic improvement over the send an email/wait for a response/reply with another email/wait again for a response
Micah Solomon, recently named the “new guru of customer service excellence” by the Financial Post, is a customer service consultant, customer trainer, keynote speaker, thought leader, and bestselling author. Click for a free chapter from Micah’s latest book or watch Micah’s new customer service keynote speaker video.
This article was written by Micah Solomon from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.