Starting fresh in the new year might be a good time to rethink your views of customer service. For businesses of all sizes, the first question is simply “Who is my customer?”
The word customer usually applies to the end-user; the person paying for the goods or services. However, in larger corporate settings, your team’s customer may not be external at all. You may be serving an internal ‘customer.’
Either way, the notion that there is someone out there to consume or receive what you do should be important to review on a regular basis.
First, let’s do a little myth-busting about customers. Leading the list is the age-old favorite “The customer is always right.”
This myth was busted for me many years ago by Herb Kelleher, the infamous founding CEO of Southwest Airlines. Herb told a story one day.
There was this disgruntled and somewhat drunk customer waiting to board a flight at the Southwest hub in Dallas (their home). The weather had caused delays throughout the system. As one delay after another was announced, this one customer got more and more belligerent. He yelled at and belittled the gate agents. Then he event took to spewing abusive rants at fellow customers.
Finally, the flight was ready to board. He pushed his way to the front of the line, only to be greeted by two Dallas cops. They cuffed him and escorted him behind the line. The crowd in the terminal cheered.
Herb said while they (his crew at Southwest) made one customer really mad, they made 300 others very happy.
This stuck with me.
Myth #2 – ‘So long as customer needs are met, we’ve done our job well’
Supplying the customer with what they asked for is one thing, but in reality, it’s only half of the service. To build a real customer experience, it is all about how you make the customer feel — from the moment they become acquainted with your company, to the last interaction you have with them.
This includes everything from their surroundings and environment, your employees’ tone of voice, extra facilities, availability, the speed of service, and so on. Everything about the customer’s experience must be as close to perfect as possible (and yes, if something goes wrong, you can indeed still achieve this).
It is not enough to simply satisfy a customer’s primary request. The customer experience is made up of tons of micro-interactions that all influence how that person will see your brand. In short … it really is the little things that matter.
Myth #3 – ‘Our customer service should be built and governed by policies and procedures.’
Policies and procedures are indeed necessary for a business to run safely and smoothly, but following them rigidly to the letter can often be the reason a customer leaves dissatisfied. This might involve the hours that you’re open, your policy on returns, or a simple customer mistake based on human oversight. Rather than play rigidly by the rules, your employees should be empowered to make independent, on-the-spot decisions in favor of the customer, without consulting a more authoritative member of staff first.
Employee empowerment is not about breaking or ignoring the rules, but about bending the rules to keep customers happy. If employees are afraid of negative consequences such as losing salary, losing their job or simply being belittled, then your customer service will quickly become stagnant and unresponsive to customer needs. Instead, it must be creative, free-flowing, reactive, and dynamic as new solutions are sought every day.
Going out of the box to make customers happy lets them know you value their custom. It is naive to worry about what side-stepping rules and policies might cost you. These same customers are likely to return more frequently and spread the word of their experience to others, making this practice a worthy investment.
Myth #4 – ‘Low customer complaint numbers mean we are doing well.’
There are several flaws in this one. First, your complaint count might be low because your customers are too frustrated to care about reporting it.
Or, your customer service process may be so bad that the real complaints are not getting through. Either way, don’t get complacent about low complaint counts. Be sure you’re getting the right picture.
Ask questions. routinely, get in touch with your customers. Ask why they like working with you. Find out what they expect. Be sure you fully understand what they want, why they picked you, and what it will take for them to stay.
Myth #5 – ‘I can’t fire any customers. They’re too hard to find.’
This is a lie straight from Hell. A bad customer should be fired quickly. What is bad? Well, any customer who makes unrealistic demands on your time and the time of your team members. Any customer who expects to be first in line regardless of the other business you have in progress.
If you are delivering on your word and providing good service, a customer who constantly gripes and complains about the service should be fired. Plain and simple.
The time you take trying to coddle these clowns can best be used to land and support good customers.
New Year: Same Results?
Are you expecting better results but planning to do the same things? Now is the time to renew your thinking about your business. Review what worked well and what didn’t work.
Set a fresh course for where you want your business going in 2022. If you’d like to schedule a no-obligation discovery call to learn what business coaching can do for you, then click the button below.