I’ve wanted to blog about customer service for awhile now, and I must admit I spend a lot of time pondering and analysing my own experiences of the good, the bad and the downright shithouse! I could perhaps be described as one of those quiet Australians who, when we do experience bad customer service, usually don’t make a big fuss. While I sometimes let the person who’s disappointed me know what the problem is, I almost always make a point of not going back there. I often take to Google Reviews or Yelp as well.
So this week I am going to get up on my soapbox, give some case studies from personal experience, and talk a bit about the critical role that customer service should play in all businesses. Of course I won’t be touching on any bank stories as what’s needed to cover those experiences is more a 20,000 word essay then a 500 word blog…
So what is great customer service?
I think its’ a feeling or impression that you leave with the customer. They might not make a song and dance about how great you are, but the impression lasts. Good impressions keep you coming back, bad impressions keep you away. A good impression might be made through just doing what you said you were going to do – ‘walking the walk’ - or simply being polite and genuine. After all, no one wants to experience half-arsed service. (And if you’d like to read possibly the only blog every written on the topic of ‘being half-arsed’, CLICK HERE.)
Case Study #1
The bad Chinese restaurant experience.
Recently I had dinner at my Mum’s place. The plan was to pick up some Chinese takeaway on the way over to her house. No big problem, my wife went in to pick it up and although my business might be named CashFlow Advantage, I’m not big on carrying much cash around. Guess what, the Chinese restaurant only accepts cash! Where’s the ATM? I don’t know and neither do the people at the Chinese restaurant. So after piling back in the car with no Chinese food, two hungry kids and a cranky wife, we go in search of an ATM. Ten minutes later, Dan Murphy’s saves us. (Not the first time I’ve been saved by a bottle shop.) We purchase a bottle of wine, pay with EFTPOS and take some money out. Problem solved. Not a huge hassle in the whole scheme of things…but I won’t go back to that Chinese restaurant. The year is 2013, after all. I don’t want to have to use cash, in fact I get annoyed if they don’t have the tap-and-go or ‘pay wave’ system these days. I love that technology and saving those 20 or 30 seconds!
Case study #2
The good hotel experience.
This case study is also based on hospitality. A few weeks back, my family and I travelled to the Snowy Mountains in New South Wales for a holiday. We stayed at a hotel we hadn’t visited before. What grabbed me about this hotel was there fantastic hospitality. There is only so much you can do to make an impression but I think they did it exceptionally well. Basically what came through was a feeling of warmth and genuineness. The staff seemed to be interested in where we were from, how long we were staying, and acknowledged us every time we arrived for breakfast. I appreciate those simple courtesies. It’s not rocket science, is it? The result? I’d go back again, for sure, and I gave them a good wrap on Trip Advisor, too.
Looking at these two examples, the difference between good customer service and poor customer service wasn’t about big things at all. The people at the Chinese restaurant didn’t spill food on my wife or call her rude names – they just had no credit card facilities, and offered no solutions. The staff at the hotel didn’t offer to wash my car or give my family a complimentary helicopter ride – they were simply warm, attentive and courteous. Seemingly subtle things and small details can make all the difference. So with this in mind, I’ll roll off a list of my top tips towards offering great customer service.
Everyone’s in customer service
There is no customer service department. Everyone is responsible, whether you are in administration, sales or finance. You have to pull together to make sure you deliver that great experience to your customer. You can’t afford that cranky old bean counter that refuses to answer the phone - and pisses people off on the rare occasion that they do answer the phone, simply because they’re a sourpuss with no understanding of the importance of customers. One single cranky sourpuss is enough to upset the whole apple cart. Maybe you need to have a FIFO conversation with them? (Read more on the FIFO ultimatum HERE.)
Hire nice people
Following on from above, you can’t train a sourpuss to be nice; you just need to hire nice people in the first place. Avoid at all costs that staff member who has clearly had a charisma bypass operation at some stage in their life. Don’t waste your time with them. Some people simply cannot and will not grasp the concept of customer service. Sounds like I am speaking from past experience here doesn’t?
Yes, really! KPI’s are a great way to make sure you are actually delivering on what your customer service standards are. What is commendable, what meets the standard and what is unsatisfactory? It’s pretty simple. Figure that out and create the KPI. A good start is a response time to new customer enquiries or existing customers
Know how to admit you stuffed up
I’m sure many of you will remember the show Happy Days. My nickname for my wife is Fonzie, because like Fonzie she can’t say ‘sorry’ or ‘I was wrong.’ It’s okay, she never reads my blogs so I reckon I’m pretty safe! Know how to really listen to your customer and if you made a mistake, apologise and fix it up. Customers appreciate it when you can admit that you messed up and that you are going to fix it.
Why is customer service so important to your business?
Firstly, I think it’s very important to know what an average customer is worth to you, as well as the real cost of attracting one. While I genuinely enjoy striving to deliver exceptional customer service in all its many facets, I’m not completely selfless. I also like what it does for my business. Providing great customer service helps me acquire clients, retain clients and grow as a result. And as discussed in a recent blog, growth is a balancing act (HYPER LINK GROWTH IS A BALANCING ACT BLOG to last phrase) but when done correctly it’s also profitable. And profit is not a dirty word. In fact I think it’s the only true indicator of the real success of a business. But I’ll talk about that some more in a future blog, no doubt.
Wishing you all the best for your week in business.