Customer Service Excellence Often Touted Rarely Achieved
by Nigel Brownjohn
Many companies claim superior service or customer service excellence. But how many companies actually deliver? It’s not easy for companies to deliver superior service year after year. If leadership can stick to a few core principles, superior service can be obtained and sustained.
Know Your Customer
This seems obvious, but do you and your team know who your customer is? Some departments serve only external customers, customers of your business. Some departments serve both external and internal. Nobody serves only internal customers. While some departments think of themselves as not serving external customers, in reality everyone serves the customers of your business. Because without those customers, you have no business. If you think your department, or role has only internal customers – think about how the service you provide enables others to serve customers directly. From the janitor, to the canteen, to finance and sales if you are not providing a value which at a minimum enables delivery of a product or service to a customer – you are just overhead.
Leadership Must Model Customer Service Excellence
Superior service is one of the core values that must be embraced by all leaders in the company. Leadership must do more than talk about superior service. They should demonstrate and reward it. As a leader, do you respond to your internal customers in a professional and timely manner? How does the service you provide to your team reflect on the service they are able to provide to the customers of your business? Do you model the excellent customer service traits that you claim to expect of your team? It starts at the top and continues to the team members on the frontline.
Invest in Service
People buy from people, and people are the reason that customers stay customers! In almost all businesses it is far cheaper to keep acquired customers than to acquire new customers. Churn not only introduces customer acquisition costs; it also places former customers in an increasingly vocal marketplace. Hire the best customer facing team members who like building relationships with customers and aspire to exceed customer expectations. Hire people that you would want to deal with, and you are likely hiring the people your customers will want to deal with. Smart, articulate, knowledgeable staff who understand your customers, and their needs will drive customer satisfaction and loyalty. Also, as a customer it is rare to speak with a knowledgeable service contact who actually knows you and your account. How do your customers feel when they contact your company? When service is viewed as a cost to be managed, live support turns into FAQ’s, a chatbot and frustrating calls with people who have little to no real knowledge of customer needs.
Meaningful Service Metrics
Most companies have a customer satisfaction survey or track net promoter scores, but how often those metrics are reviewed and used varies widely. For example, when was the last time you were called back from a company representative about a survey response? Surveys done well provide valuable insight. To gain the insights, the data has to be reviewed in a timely manner and actions must be taken. Customer service staff enjoy hearing positive feedback and knowing their efforts are appreciated by customers. They also respect hearing constructive feedback that helps them improve their skills. Do you use survey data to inform, motivate and shape the service you are providing? Or is it just another number?
Additionally, customers like to know that their feedback is heard – not with an automated response, but real responses, from real people. Not all feedback warrants a personal response, but quality input from customers who care whether negative or positive deserves a response. Positive response is great, it validates everything you and your team are doing – so share it, internally, externally (if appropriate) and celebrate it. Negative feedback is, of course, even more important as it is an opportunity to grow and improve. Don’t look to blame, look to learn – does it suggest a change in process, policy, training or even external service provider? Don’t look to justify, or defend – apologize, make it right and thank the customer for highlighting the issue.
Principles in Practice
At Cyberscience, we try to live these principles. As a leading Business Intelligence solution provider, we measure the service we provide. Our daily survey data goes to all executives. Not just the satisfaction scores, but the customer comments too – no censorship, no dealing with the issues “before it gets to management”. We know we can trust our team, because we have the right people. We differentiate our service by using real experts who have built solutions and trained customers to staff our customer service team. No bots, no “first level” support reading from a FAQ – just people who know our products, know our customers, know the challenges they face, and have a deep passion for helping people succeed. We are committed to having the right team for our customers.
If these principles resonate with you and you’d like to connect and talk further, please contact me at email@example.com.