“Exceptional customer service” is a term that gets tossed around a lot. Companies claim that they strive to provide it, and the rare happy customer raves about receiving it. But what does it really mean?
Merriam-Webster defines “exceptional” as “unusually good” or “much better than average.” That seems simple enough. However, it brings up another question: what does “average” mean in the context of customer service?
It turns out that “average” really means “bad.” Most customer service leaves much to be desired, as Help Scout reports. According to them:
That’s terrible. If you failed to answer half of the questions on a test in elementary school, you’d fail the class.
If your own customer service statistics are better than those abysmal numbers, then it means you provide above-average service. But holding your business to the same standards as a third-grader does not make it exceptional.
I believe that eBay has the right idea of exceptional service. They only award PowerSeller status to sellers that have a feedback score of 98% positive or better. Considering that customers are far more likely to report a negative experience than a positive one, that kind of feedback score suggests that less than 1% were left unhappy.
But to truly stand out as exceptional, you can’t stop there.
If, for example, an eBay customer only buys from PowerSellers, then that level of customer service will seem average to her. You can’t just be exceptional for your industry. You have to be exceptional compared to the other places where your customers do business.
You also need to remember that for the 1% of customers who posted negative reviews, your customer service certainly was not “unusually good.” They thought it sucked.
People like these see your company as just another money-grubbing business. To really stand out and win them over, you need to adopt . . .
An unhappy customer always has a reason to be unhappy. If you have unhappy customers, it’s your responsibility to fix that problem.
It’s a simple philosophy, but one that can transform your business. Here are a few practical ways to apply it:
If you have even one negative review from a remotely reasonable customer, then you need to improve your customer service. Review what went wrong and figure out what you can do better. Then act on it.
A good customer service agent should have angelic patience, and always remain polite and professional no matter how emotional the other party gets. Remember that your top objective is to make sure the customer walks away happy. This applies even if he’s objectively a jerk.
Always try to offer an olive branch to an upset customer, even if they have already posted irrevocable negative feedback. Give them something for free. Send them a personal apology. Respond politely and kindly to unhappy comments posted in such public places as social media.
You can earn forgiveness this way. If you do, the customer may tell others about how well you responded, and you have a good chance of getting their business back. And ultimately, the goal is always to keep your customers coming back.
If you consistently apply the philosophy of exceptional customer service, then you will quickly emerge as one of the few companies that is “much better than average.” It will turn your customers into fans and your business into an undeniable success.