We can all think of a time when we have received horrible customer service, right? Unfortunately, the bad customer service is often easier recalled than the good. I once had a waiter spill water on me...4 times...during the same meal. (kinda hard to forget) My mom, a teacher, had to retake an entire series of end-of-year student pictures because the photo printing company refused to send her prints. The reason given? She had not yet paid for her free slide-show disk. That’s right, the invoice said free, and my mom had not yet paid it.
A surprisingly bad customer service moment can do more damage than a history of mediocrity. Those terrible moments stand out in people’s minds; those stories are told and retold.
Thankfully, though, there are other stories that are told and retold; the ones about surprisingly GOOD customer service. Truly going above and beyond can make the difference between a satisfied customer and an intensely loyal customer who gives you repeat business and sends other people your way.
Everybody has bad days (including service providers and customers), and you can’t please everyone. Here are a few tips to avoid delivering outrageously bad customer service situations – you know, the kind that get Tweeted about:
- Let things get unprofessional, ever. This should go without saying, but there should be a zero-tolerance policy against any kind of foul language or insults toward a customer -- no matter how rude or insulting the customer is being. Remember that guy is speaking for himself, but you (or your customer service employee) represent your entire company.
- Make the process of obtaining service more painful than the problem. Nobody likes long hold times, tons of complicated rules, multiple phone transfers and/or untrained service people. If customers deal with this enough (and once might be “enough” for some), they’ll think twice about doing business with that company in the future.
- Go back on your word. When companies use loopholes to avoid honoring return policies/guarantees, or just flat-out choose not to honor them, they may keep that one sale, but they damage their reputation and can lose future sales.
- Throw co-workers under the bus. The customer doesn’t care if “Mike” made the mistake and not you; he only cares who is going to fix it. Skip the blame game. If a mistake was made, apologize, fix it and move on.
To provide the kind of great customer service that gets people talking (and Tweeting in a GOOD WAY), DO:
- Build a culture of the "Customer Service Experience": Now, more than ever, customers want to feel special, pampered and valued. Make sure everyone from reception to IT to sales knows how to get your customers the help they need.
- Always follow through: Deliver on all promises and be unerringly reliable. If you say you are going to do it, do it.
- Learn about your customers and how best to serve them: If you cater to busy business people, help them without wasting their time. If you provide technical products to people who are not technically savvy, focus on patience and attentive training. The same information you used to win the prospect can be used to keep the customer.
- Think of ways to “convenience” people: Can you get them the product sooner than expected? Can you solve a problem they didn’t know they had? Train your service people to head issues off at the pass.
- Startle them: Make it your goal to shock people with amazing service. Give them more than they expect, surprise them with contests or prizes, send thank you cards, follow-up, and endear them with personal touches.
- Be more than a voice on the phone: Anytime there is a chance to build a one-on-one relationship with a customer, take it. If someone tells you their situation, take notes. Being remembered is a big deal to people (and having to repeat the same info over and over is annoying).
What if the customer isn’t right.
Not everyone is so nice, and not every customer who complains has a valid gripe, so always have a plan in place to deal with the one who wants something for nothing and who will be unhappy (or a jerk) no matter what you do.
If your business is growing faster than you expected and you have to put people on hold, at least offer fascinating hold music...think the theme to Final Jeopardy or the Star Wars soundtrack.