Customer service is something we all have in common, whether we provide service or receive service. Customer service includes how you relate to and communicate with your external clients, and also incorporates how you use the same skills with your colleagues. Whether your company is large or small, global or domestic, customer service should be a foundational part of your company culture so it’s represented in your mission statement, your vision statement, your values, and your principles.
A healthy customer service culture includes these three components:
● Be an exceptional service provider – You must dedicate yourself to developing the skills, experience, and knowledge around providing really great service as though it were a profession, not just a job.
● Understand your company’s products – In order to provide exceptional service, you must have an intimate knowledge of your company’s products, much like how a salesperson has to believe in a product in order to sell it. Likewise, a customer service person has to really understand the product in order to service the product.
● Know the operations – You have to be an expert in what your company does, how do they do it, and the commitments they offer.
Why do we care about customer service? Because it’s synonymous with reputation. Your reputation is the one thing you own. It’s up to you to care for it, grow it, nurture it, and stay true to it. Your reputation, and customer service, begins with a brilliant first and lasting impression. (Yes, we’re interested in lasting impressions because we strive to formulate enduring relationships.) Positive impressions include presenting yourself positively, remembering names, being prepared, listening before speaking, and asking intelligent questions.
“The customer is always right” is often presented as the golden rule of customer service. This sort of mindset sets up service professionals for failure and confrontation. Because if you already know you’ve lost before you go into battle, why bother? Instead, believe that the client is always the client. They’re your client for as long as you choose to have them as a client. And while they’re your client, treat them with the utmost professionalism. This doesn’t mean that you can’t dress casually, but it does mean that you will dress with care for your appearance. It doesn’t mean that you can’t be friendly, but it does mean you will always treat them with the utmost respect. You never want to get too casual with your language; your clients deserve consistency. Your client wants to know that when they reach out to you, they’re going to get your undivided attention that’s not dictated by your mood, your feelings, or your environment. Your goal: be predictably dependable, by providing addictively and consistently exceptional service.
In customer service, no one wants to receive a good rating. Rather, you want to deserve an excellent rating. To achieve this, you want to be very clear in your commitments and your communications to set expectations for clients. For example, if a client has a concern about pricing, don’t respond with a simple, “I’ll look into it.” Be specific—tell the client you will check and provide a response by 3 p.m. tomorrow. Otherwise, the client may be expecting a response today, while you were thinking a response tomorrow would be appropriate. By giving them a precise time, you avoid the dissatisfaction that may arise from ambiguity. If for some reason you won’t have an answer by 3 p.m. tomorrow, then call reasonably ahead of three o’clock to let the client know that you’re not going to make the deadline and why, and set a new expectation.
You have to be willing to admit failure. Clients are going to accept that there’s a failure, but you have to be upfront with it immediately. Tell your client you missed your commitment , apologize, and then move through it. If you procrastinate and let a challenge brew, the situation will just get worse and worse. The better you get at just admitting failure and moving through it, the less people will think of you as a failure.
If a client asks you a question, never overstep your capabilities in terms of your knowledge and experience. If you don’t know, tell your client it’s a good question and that you will find out and get back to them by 1 p.m.
A real service professional is always prepared. Not in the sense of clairvoyance—after all, you don’t know what the client is going to ask when they call or meet with you. But you are prepared. If you are running a new campaign for a product or offering, you’re trained on it. So if you’re fielding questions from someone who’s excited or upset, you’re able to answer with intelligence.
If you’re engaging with clients, you need to be 100% present. Are you ready for your day emotionally, physically, and mentally? Get your attitude on because clients see what you hear. So even if you’re not on a Zoom call, don’t roll your eyes because it will come out in your voice. If you’re frowning or doodling, people can sense when others aren’t being attentive.
As a corporation or organization, you need education and training, and a method with which to provide continuous feedback. Feedback from clients and partners is collected formally using NPS (Net Promoter Score) surveys, which are conducted through a third party on a quarterly basis (some firms do it once or twice a year). The NPS survey is usually one or two questions around whether the client/partner would recommend you, some feedback, and they assign a rating. Feedback from the survey and any follow-up communications is reviewed and acted upon by a designated team, which includes contacting the client, informing management, and updating training and education. Feedback from staff employees is also collected quarterly and in real time through daily conversation—the process is similar to the above.
Customer service doesn’t just mean happier customers—it means happier employees and a more profitable company. Customers will pay more for a premier experience, stay a customer longer, and spend up to 67% more. It pays to invest in customer service.