We all need customers and we need our customers to love us. When it comes to actually delivering customer service that gets our customers to love us, that’s an entirely different discussion. We all think we provide good customer service, but that’s not quite accurate.
The truth is, most of us don’t necessarily offer bad customer service. Our customers don’t dislike us, they don’t feel mistreated and in many cases they feel treated well, but that’s not good customer service, it’s just service. When were talking good customer service, I mean extraordinary customer service. We’re talking service that gets customers talking.
Extraordinary customer service is unexpected and it’s keenly focused on the customer. It’s also creative, genuine, and deliberate. Becoming known for extraordinary customer service means you commit to the customer’s experience, not yours, and that you don’t “flinch” when it gets hard. Extraordinary customer service is a marathon, not a sprint, and it requires guts.
If you think you have what it takes to deliver truly extraordinary customer service, these four steps will help you get there:
1. Trade profits today for profits tomorrow
Extraordinary customer service can and will increase revenue and potentially profits, but not necessarily right away. Extraordinary customer service isn’t about today, it’s about tomorrow. Extraordinary customer service trades today’s small profits for tomorrow’s bigger profits. If your CFO has their spreadsheet out and is doing a cost analysis on your customer service initiatives, you’re doing it wrong. The best and most creative customer service initiatives will fail a CFO sniff test in ten seconds.
Can you imagine Nordstrom’s famous policy of allowing customers to return everything and anything passing a CFO sniff test? Probably not. If there were a formula that showed definitively how allowing customers to return anything, no questions asked, improved profits, every company would do it. But you can’t, so they don’t. There is no definitive financial sniff test that says Nordstrom’s policy is profitable. But, it sure does create a boatload of goodwill and there is a line item on the balance sheet for goodwill.
2. Be creative and surprise people
Extraordinary customer service should be a differentiator. It’s about doing the unexpected. Extraordinary customer service should catch customers off guard. It should surprise customers and get them talking. If you’re defining customer service like everyone else, it’s not extraordinary customer service. It’s just service and no talks about plain old service. The following is a great example of how to surprise a customer.
Peter Shankman was getting on a flight hungry and tired, so he tweeted:
Guess what? Morton’s showed up with a steak, shrimp, bread, potatoes, and silverware. Think about that for a second. Someone had to get approval for the idea, a cook had to make his food, and the food had to be driven from the nearest Morton’s. Plus, someone had to track down Shankman’s flight information and figure out where he was landing all in time to meet him at the right location, at the right time. That’s extraordinary customer service.
3. Start with the customer’s experience
This is my favorite step in creating extraordinary customer service. When we stop and walk a mile in our customer’s shoes, we learn a lot. We get to be the customer. We get to feel their emotions. We get to experience their frustration, their joy, their relief, their confusion, their happiness, and more.
When we start with the customer’s experience, we begin to empathize with them and it’s this empathy that drives better experiences, better products, and better service. Remember, everyone got into business to service customers. Unfortunately, many of us seem to have forgotten that. Consider the next example.
Zappos has seen success in the online shoe business because they understood the customer’s experience and the fear about buying shoes online, specifically, what happens if they don’t fit? By recognizing this and making it simple to return shoes, Zappos crushed it. They were hip to their customer’s experience and built extraordinary customer service around it.
4. Build a culture of customer service
Every person associated with your organization has to eat, breath, and sleep customer service. Every encounter with your business has to ooze customer service. Every touch point, every engagement, every experience has to express to the customer, “Hey, you are the most important thing to us.” Every policy must be created and executed from the customer’s perspective.
Training must target the customer’s experience and metrics around this need to be created. Employees should be rewarded for demonstrating amazing customer service. They should also be given the authority to offer extraordinary customer service without having to ask or check in. They should never be admonished for delivering this kind of service, even if it wasn’t within “policy” or if it was prohibitively expensive (see rule number one).
Extraordinary customers service is nothing short of actions that surprise, delight, and put the customer first. If you want to deliver extraordinary customer service, stop talking and start doing. Your customers will let you know how you’re doing and that’s the whole point.
Jim Keenan is an international speaker, sales strategist, consultant, disrupter of the status quo, identifier of the elephant in the room and a sick “bump” skier. His consulting firm, A Sales Guy Consulting, is known for its ability to solve difficult, complex selling and leadership challenges locally and abroad. Keenan has been named one of the most influential sales and marketing people by multiple organizations including; Top Sales World Magazine. He's also been referenced in Forbes Magazine, Harvard Business Review, Business Insider, and many other publications for his straight, no frills, get it done approach to selling and making the number. Download as much Keenan magic as you want at A Sales Guy U.