I came across a post on LinkedIn by Lippert today, and it is a survey simply asking, “What one thing, when done really well, has the most impact on making it easy to do business with a company?” The choices were:

1. Quality customer service;
2. Self-serve online resources;
3. Timely and clear communication; and
4. Listens to customer feedback.

I voted for Number 1: quality customer service.

Being in sales all these years, I can say one thing about all of the products and companies that I have represented: None of them are perfect! Coming from an engineering background, I prefer to sell products that are considered high-performance, which add value to my customers and their customers alike. However, no matter how good the product is, it’s never better than the company that stands behind it. Having a quality customer service team is a big part of that. So there are three major things you can do to ensure your customer service team is of the highest quality.

Number one: Make customer service easy to contact.

When a customer calls the customer service department, he or she wants to talk to a real person on the other end of the line, while waiting the least amount of time possible. Wading through a series of telephone prompts and pre-recorded messages becomes extremely frustrating. The sooner one gets to talk to a real customer service agent the better. The smartest companies split up the customer service team based upon geography, so if you call from a certain area code then you will get the same customer service team member every time the need arises. This way, you actually get to know your customer service person, and this makes it possible to develop a relationship with that person. Then, in the future, the CSR already knows you, your company and your individual needs. This really enhances the customer service experience. Having to deal with someone different every time you call can be exhausting because you must effectively start from scratch every time.

Number two: Empower your customer service team.

There is nothing more frustrating than when a customer spends his or her time explaining an issue to the customer service person only to find that the CSR (customer service rep) is powerless to help. “I will have to run this up the ladder,” or “I will have to get my boss’s approval and get back to you” are words that can leave the customer feeling flat.

So, within reason, it is a great practice to pick CSRs who have business smarts and then to empower them with a high level of authority to make decisions which will immediately solve the customers’ problems, while still protecting the bottom line. Think of it this way—a football player may be executing a canned play, but on the field, he reacts to the play as it unfolds and takes immediate action to help the team score. What if he had to first look over at the coach and ask for permission to improvise? Can you imagine how this would turn out? So, the answer here is to pick very smart people to interact with your customers and then trust them to do their job!

Number three: Choose customer service reps who are gracious.

Notice I say “choose those who are gracious” as opposed to teach them to be so. Graciousness is a trait that cannot be taught. A person either has it in them to be gracious or they do not. So, what exactly is graciousness? I like this definition by Arthur Dobrin in Psychology Today: “Gracious people are kind, and their behavior is characterized by tact. A gracious person is a graceful person, someone who at least attempts to not hurt others’ feelings with clumsy words or thoughtless deeds. To live in grace is to walk lightly and leave the world blessed by your presence.”

Let me tell you, a customer service person can totally solve a customer’s problem, but if done so in a manner that lacks graciousness, the solution can still fall far short in the eyes of the customer. Have you ever had an issue with a company and when you call the customer service department you are told that it was your fault that led to the issue but that the company will make a one -time exception and refund your money anyway? How did that make you feel? Did you feel good about this customer service experience or did the CSR make you feel like they were doing an idiot a favor? Did he or she even thank you for your business or for understanding? A CSR who is gracious, on the other hand, would make you feel like they are so happy to have you as a customer and they want you to feel delighted with the product that you receive and elated with the overall customer experience. It may sound corny but it’s true—graciousness makes you feel truly appreciated as a customer and keeps you coming back for more. It creates loyalty!

So, upon responding to the Lippert survey, I was rewarded with the survey results which showed that after 203 votes, 49% of respondents voted for number one, quality customer service, with timely and clear communication coming in second, with 32% of the survey vote. Well, I’m pretty sure that most of the high-quality customer service teams are taking care of that as well.

1 Comment

  1. Jim, I like your writings especially about adding value because they add value in themselves. Great Read!

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