“The goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best, but legendary.”
Sam Walton, Founder of Wal-Mart
It’s a tough world out there … especially so if you’re connected to business in ANY way. Competition is closing in from every part of your industry and every part of the world.
The good news is … success in business is still dependent on the same three basic elements: the people, the product, and the organizational systems. And you can be successful in business by mastering any ONE of those three elements, but the people and organizations that are wildly successful master ALL three elements.
Of course, all of my work is focused on “transforming the people side of business.” All too often, people are promoted to leadership positions because they are technically excellent. However, the skills needed for successful leadership are ENTIRELY different than those needed to be a technical expert.
And all too often, organizations advertise their superb customer service, but they never train their people to deliver exceptional customer service. I think they are hoping that their people watch the commercials and “get the idea that is what they are supposed to do.” What a pity. I suspect the “leaders” may never know that their front-line people are driving away the very customers they are trying to attract.
Well, one of my customers, one of the largest insurance companies in America, decided to do something about that. They purchased a large quantity of my books on “The Service Payoff: How Customer Service Champions Outserve and Outlast The Competition” and put their team members into study groups. As the leader Bill Pence said, “Our goal was to take the material in the book and apply it to us as individuals and team members in order to improve the service we provide to our customers.”
Here are a few lessons they learned that you can apply to your internal customers (such as coworkers and family members) and your external customers (such as those who buy your products and pay your bills). I would suggest it would be well worth your time to apply their lessons to your life and work.
1. Ask and listen. (It builds team spirit.)
You may be the exception, but I have to admit that I’m often guilty of asking someone how they’re doing and then barely listening to their answer. In fact, I’m hoping they’ll lie and say “I’m fine,” because then I don’t have to do anything but walk on.
Of course that’s wrong. You and I shouldn’t ask the question if we don’t want to know the answer. It’s disrespectful.
But it’s also a bit stupid of us to ask how someone is doing and not listen carefully. As Jesse Magenheimer wrote after completing “The Service Payoff” study group, “When you ask ‘how it’s going,’ you’ll find customers all around you. You’ll find people you never thought of helping, and you’ll often see how easy it is to offer exceptional service in unexpected situations.”
As Jesse was walking to a co-worker’s office, he passed her assistant and asked how her day had been. Visibly frustrated and worn out, the assistant shared that she’d been working on a critical spreadsheet that listed about 1000 job change transactions for their Human Resources Department when the file became corrupted. As a result, she lost all of the information she had spent the entire day manually entering into the spreadsheet for their departmental re-organization. The information was needed by the end of the day, and unfortunately, their technology support area had been unable to recover her work.
When Jesse asked her what type of information she had been entering into the spreadsheet and how she had been gathering it, Jesse knew immediately that it was going to be impossible to rebuild the information in such a short timeframe using her approach. Jesse mentioned that he had lots of experience in this kind of process and could pull the information together in a short amount of time. He offered to help, but she insisted that she didn’t want to bother him because she knew he was busy.
Jesse read between the lines … knowing the assistant was stuck but also felt guilty about asking anyone else for help. He told her if she changed her mind, he’d be more than happy to assist. Jesse’s meeting with his co-worker went quickly, and, as he left her office, he could see her assistant was still struggling to rebuild the spreadsheet. So Jesse walked to his office, got his laptop, went back to the assistant, and emphasized that he really wanted to help her. This time she appreciatively accepted his offer and she was able to send the information to Human Resources before she left the office for the day.
As Jesse summarized his experience, he said, “I didn’t really think I was doing much at the time other than helping out a co-worker. I know I’ve been in similar situations, having to meet tight deadlines and feeling stuck because something unexpectedly went wrong. I didn’t want someone else to have to go through that if I had the ability to help them.”
Good point. Jesse didn’t think he was doing all that much because it was fairly easy for him to do. But that didn’t lessen the value of the customer service he offered. So you must ask, listen, and be willing to go the extra mile … IF you are ever going to be known as a Customer Service Champion.
2. Go the extra unexpected mile. (It pays off in word-of-mouth advertising.)
Dustin Carter was also in a study group for “The Service Payoff.” When he was looking for how exceptional service pays off, he happened to be at a full-service car wash that not only washes the car but also vacuums and dries it. As he watched his car go through the wash, he noticed his front license plate was missing. He immediately wondered how long he had been driving his car that way, especially considering the fact it was illegal in his state.
As he went to pay for the car wash, he made the comment that his front license plate must have fallen off somewhere. It didn’t occur to him that it could have come off in the car wash. The attendant said. “Follow me and let me see if our manager will look in the car wash for you.” She led Dustin out the door and explained to one of the managers what his concern was. The manager came up to Dustin and said, “No problem, sir, let me see if I can find it.”
Sure enough, the license plate had fallen off and was lodged under one of the tracks where the car goes through the wash. He temporarily shut down the car wash and retrieved the license plate. But that wasn’t the part that “Wow ‘d” Dustin the most. The manager proceeded to inspect his car and make sure it had been dried to his standard and then he inspected the front of his car. The manager said, “I see the problem. You have some rusty screws which have come loose.” He went back inside and got two brand new screws and a screwdriver. He removed the old screws and put in the new screws along with his front license plate. As Dustin went to thank him for his outstanding customer service, he said, “No problem! That’s what we do here.” In a sense, he was saying that great customer service was a normal part of his routine and he didn’t think anything of it. That’s how Customer Service Champions operate.
But Dustin thought a great deal about it. As he said, “I can’t tell you how many people I’ve told about this and strongly encouraged them to do business with this car wash. In fact, I put it on Face book and Twitter that same day and had over 20 people either like or comment on the post.”
I couldn’t say it any better myself, Dustin. Thanks. Great customer service pays off … because your customers will always, always, always talk about you. Just make sure that talk is POSITIVE.
3. Personally connect with your customers. (You may make a customer for life.)
In another one of the study groups working through my book on “The Service Payoff: How Customer Service Champions Outserve And Outlast The Competition,” Jim Build came back with an incredible insight. He learned the power of not only serving your customer but also connecting with your customer.
As Jim explained, “Buying shoes ranks right up there with the top ten things I loathe to do. There’s something about going into a busy store, fighting with all the rest of the people trying to purchase new shoes, and getting discouraged by not finding the one pair that is comfortable to walk out with. That is … until I met Glynnis.”
Jim walked into this very nice store … a store that he would normally not even consider because he figured the shoes would be way too expensive for him. But … get this … he had heard from someone else that they had a great experience at this store, so he decided to give it a shot. There’s the power of word-of-mouth advertising working once again.
As soon as Jim started looking at some shoes, Glynnis approached him and asked how his day was going. Jim replied, “Okay, I guess, but I’d rather be somewhere else instead of buying shoes.” Like a real pro, Glynnis responded, “Let me see if I can make it less stressful for you. I don’t think I’ve met you before.” She reached out her hand and shook Jim’s. Glynnis continued, “Let’s start by measuring your foot. That will tell me where we need to start.”
She quickly measured Jim’s foot and before he knew it, she had five pairs of shoes at his feet as he sat in a nice comfy chair. “I could get used to this,” Jim thought to himself. Glynnis proceeded to remove the shoes from the box, laced them up, and assisted him in trying them on. After the first two pairs didn’t work out, she quickly realized what the problem was and what she needed to do to adjust her selection. “I’ll be right back”, she said. She came back with four new boxes.
Jim continued, “The first pair I tried on felt like I was walking on pillows. It was not only stylish, but very comfortable. She was able to find two pairs of shoes that were comfortable and looked great. She then offered to have them buffed and shined for me before I left. I walked out of there a very happy customer. She never left my side the entire time. She made me feel like I was the most important person in her world at that time. The other thing that impressed me was that several weeks later, she called me on my cell phone and asked me how the shoes were holding up. She even let me know a new shipment of those same shoes had come in, and if I was interested, she would hold my size back.”
Jim was so impressed, he visited the store later. It was then that he learned that not only is Glynnis NOT paid on a commission basis, the manager also told him that she keeps track of every customer she interacts with and makes those courtesy calls herself when it is slower in the store. Now that’s impressive … someone who takes pride in what they do, and goes above and beyond to deliver excellent customer service.
As Jim told the manager, “I’ll be a customer for life based on that experience… regardless of how much those shoes cost me.”
Action: Figure out three things you can and will do to make customers for life.