Ginaherald's Blog

March 26, 2010

Continuing to chat about customer service

Filed under: Uncategorized — ginaherald @ 12:55 am

I think what’s hard about the whole customer service discussion for business owners, is the inability to actually quantify the impact of “great service” or “not so great”  to the bottom line.  We’re so bottom line driven these days (and with good reason to be sure) that some of the first things we cut are marketing and training.  I see customer service as a function of marketing, and employees not properly trained can create a double whammy to the bottom line.  Word-of-mouth is the most cost-effective form of marketing and when your employees don’t provide service that creates a great experience for your customers they won’t feel compelled to talk about it.  However, if employees exceed the customer’s expectations chances are that your customers will begin telling people about the experience they had with your company.  And if they blow it with a customer we’ve heard how that will be reported on the street. 

I think one question that comes up is, “what are the customer’s expectations?”  And to that I say “if you just plan to exceed them every time it doesn’t matter”.  I also mentioned that my perception is that we have lowered our expectations in recent years and that’s unfortunate in my opinion.  However, the good news for companies is that they may not have far to go to exceed expectations.  There’s a simple formula for success in this endeavor. 

The 4 “E’s” of great customer service are a great training model and application.

1.  Expectation – set the service expectation for your team and confirm that they understand it. 

2.  Equip  – give your people all the tools and information that they need to take care of your customers.

3.  Empower – turn them loose and let them succeed, fail, learn and grow – painful I know, but worth the effort. 

4.  Example – show them what it looks like through your own actions.  The hardest part of the formula. 

Myself, I’m calling for a revival of great customer service so I plan to do my part to contribute.  I can do that by giving feedback to companies that provide products and services to me and so can you.  Give feedback when your service expectation is exceeded and when it’s not. 

If you’re a business owner you can help support the revival by applying the 4 “E’s” into your company customer service philosophy.  Of course change is never easy, especially company culture change.  It can be done though with commitment and reinforcement.  Give it a try and see how it goes.

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March 19, 2010

Pondering the impact of customer service

Filed under: Uncategorized — ginaherald @ 2:39 am

The topic of customer service always seems to come up in conversations with other business professionals.  I’m genuinely curious about their thoughts on the subject.  As someone who provides customer service training to my clients I’m constantly mining for new nuggets.  Someone asked me today “How do I know if I’m giving my customers good service?”  “I guess if I’m not they will complain.”  My reply:  “You can only hope they will complain which at least means they care enough to give you feedback and an opportunity to “fix” the problem. ”  Many times they choose to walk away without a word and take their business elsewhere.  And tell 2 friends, who tell 2 friends………………..and so on. 

While it’s true that “there’s nothing new under the sun”, customer service is a concept that generates plenty of discussion.  How do you measure the impact? Do you consider customer service to be a “cost center” for your company.  I challenge all product and service providers to ponder the idea of customer service as a “function of marketing”.  Think about the impact that paradigm shift can make in your business.  To my mind, in tough economic times it’s even more imperative to set your company apart.  Giving great customer service is one sure way to do that. 

As a consumer I must say that often it’s the little things a company does that make the biggest impact on my overall experience.  For instance, Southwest Airlines, when they built their new terminal at BWI airport made the stalls in the restrooms deeper so that travelers could pull a roll aboard  in and close the door without having to wrestle with it.  A small but impactful gesture of customer service.  What about toilet seat covers in restrooms?  Again, from the customer point-of-view, a small but impactful gesture.  For the mom who has to take a child to the restroom it’s a huge thing.  When people come in to your establishment in the mall or shopping center that they frequent, because they like the restrooms, they are in your store/restaurant and you have a captive audience.  The opportunity is to consider every single experience through the eyes of your customer.  And we’re only talking about restrooms at this point.  Think about all the small ways the customer experience can be enhanced. My next post we’ll talk about the people providing the service. 

As consumers, my perception is that we’ve come to tolerate bad service and accept is as “status quo” versus embracing the role we play in the type of service we receive.  I’m curious as to what has caused this acceptance of less than stellar service.  I don’t know if there was any specific catalyst or if  it has just been a gradual decline that and we’re going with the flow.

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