What great customer service means is simple: doing what it takes to make your customers happy.
Most execs and entrepreneurs believe they provide great customer service—until they think about it for a moment, and ways to improve immediately start popping into their heads. Here are a few suggestions that will help your definition of great customer service line up with that of your customers.
One of the saddest customer service stats I’ve seen is that when asked only two questions in an email, only 20% of customer service teams answered both questions.
Customer service reps, don’t just read a message once, rattle off an answer and hurry to the next customer. Execs, don’t put your reps on a strict time limit.
Take the time to understand each person’s unique situation. Then guide them to the solution. If your team has to answer the same customer four times to resolve the problem, it would’ve been better for everyone if you had spent three times as long thinking about your answer the first time.
The world is busier than ever. Nobody has time to wait on hold or in line for a customer service desk for half an hour. They have kids to take care of, a meeting to get to—you get the idea.
Remember the phrase “time is money.” Long waits force a customer to pay a higher price for your product or service. And since they’re most likely reaching out because something is wrong with said product or service, waits get grating fast.
This may explain why high-income households hold bigger grudges against companies with bad service. People who understand the value of their time loathe businesses that waste it.
Do whatever you must to answer efficiently. Reps, learn the product well so you don’t need to ask around for answers. Execs, employ enough reps that a queue of unhappy customers is a rare occurrence.
You also need to make sure your technology speeds things up rather than slows them down—read our guide to ecommerce customer service infrastructure if you provide online support.
Your business has no better friend than an informed customer. How you educate your customers will depend on your product/service (anything from a technical manual to an online self-service platform might do it), but you will always have the same end goal: answering their questions before they need to ask you.
Just don’t get too carried away. Customer education is meant to increase satisfaction and reduce the burden on customer service, not to replace customer service entirely.
Cutting Red Tape
If anything can set an example of how not to run a business, it’s the government. For example, the day before I published this article, I had to deal with a mistake that my state’s health insurance marketplace made. It went something like this:
- Spend 50 minutes on hold waiting to talk to a rep.
- Get told to call back in one hour; the people I need to talk to are in a different department, and that department is in a meeting.
- Call back an hour later and wait on hold for half an hour.
- Talk to a different rep and tell her which department I need to speak to. Get transferred and put on hold.
- Talk to yet another rep in the wrong department. Get transferred to the correct department and put on hold.
- Finally speak to the right person. Get told he needs to inform someone “upstairs” about the problem, and they will maybe resolve the issue within three days.
- Wait nervously to see if I still have the health insurance I pay for.
You can bet your life’s savings that if this were a private company and not a government organization, I would’ve taken my business elsewhere after that experience.
The sad fact is, even private businesses do this all the time. But what’s the root cause of this kind of problem?
Powerless employees. Reps who can’t process a refund, access customer records, remove people from the mailing list, or really do much of anything at all. Reps who have to shuffle customers from one department to the next because they don’t have the training or authority to resolve the customer’s issue.
It’s sometimes necessary to have a few specialists or different departments. But the ideal customer service team is one where every representative can fix any problem. When employees have the power to meet customer needs, both sides come out much happier.
Nobody knows what your customers want better than your customers. If you want to know what great customer service means to them, ask them! Something as simple as a free survey, a suggestion system, or asking “What do you think we can do better?” can get you invaluable data about what will make your customers happier.
Always remember that it’s your customers who decide what great customer service really means, not you. Design your service around their desires and expectations and they will love you for it.
Want to really stand above the competition? Learn the definition of exceptional customer service and go from great to world-class!