Quality customer service is your competitive edge. Everyone can have similar products or services, but what they can’t replicate is your people, how your employees treat your customers and how your customers feel when they are doing business with you.
The best way to “wow” your customers is to take care of the people who take care of your customers. Businesses have to care about their people both internally and externally. When the people who work for you feel valued, they will make the customer feel valued. This builds customer loyalty.
If you aren’t treating your internal people right and they don’t feel valued, they might pass that same negative attitude on to your customers. It’s the attitude of, “Why would you want to shop here? Do you even know what goes on behind closed doors?”
1. Creating consistency
Leaders who are serious about creating a culture of exceptional service start by getting everyone on the same page. Their first belief is that service is important. Make sure everyone in your business knows customer service is part of their job, even if they aren’t interacting directly with your external customers. Walk the talk. You have to say it’s important, but also act like it. Consider how you treat others—as a business leader, you have to be a great role model for your employees.
You can lose customers when there’s inconsistency. When some people at your company are great to work with and others are not, customers get frustrated. Don’t allow inconsistency internally, either. Don’t say quality of service is important and only measure your personnel by the number of calls made. You have to have measurement tools, but balance those tools against the level of service your people are providing.
2. Incentivizing employees
What does good customer service look like? What does it feel like? And what does it mean for your business? You need to define it for your people. You also need to have incentives and reward programs. For any behavior you want people to exemplify, you have to reward it.
However, make sure your people aren’t caught up in wanting to win and being right in order to prove the customer wrong. You don’t want people who won’t bend on your policy even if something works better. You have to empower people to think beyond policy.
3. Making sure your employees feel heard
Hire the right people, train them and encourage them to use their brains. You need to make people feel like it’s their business. Ask the people who deal directly with the customers’ questions, listen to them and incorporate their good ideas.
You don’t want people who work for you to think you don’t care about what they have to say. Encourage them to listen, and make the workplace a safe space for them to speak up when they see something that isn’t working. Give your people credit when they fix or improve something. Ownership builds trust. If people on your team have that trust, why would they ever want to jump ship and go someplace else? This is a much better outcome than what I call “quit and stay,” when people show up, but they are dead meat. When your internal people aren’t happy, they will tell everyone about it.
4. Show that you care
What do you want your customers to know? For us, service is about caring about others. When you know someone cares about you, you have that trust and loyalty and you are willing to forgive them if something goes wrong.
5. Evaluating performance
Constantly measure and evaluate how you are doing. You can’t just do a yearly survey and think you will capture it all. Gather data and measure the quality of service internally as well as externally.
6. Provide the option of human interaction
Your customers likely want options. Some people would rather just have an automated system, but you have to give people the option to speak to a live person. People fail to realize that many customers still want the human touch.
This article was published in September 2009 and has been updated. Photo by @DelanahBanana/Twenty20