I once worked for a boss and business owner who knew everything better than anybody else. He had a habit not only of berating and upsetting his staff, but also clients and vendors. He’d say or do something that made the client or vendor upset, threatening to rip the working relationship apart. Then his long-time assistant would have to get on the phone or appear in person to try to smooth things over as best he could.
It was a toxic environment. Unlike the faithful assistant, I did not work long for this boss, but rather decided to part ways and move on to other opportunities.
The thing is, this business owner was capable of doing good work. Which I presume is why people were willing to overlook his outbursts.
Inarguably, quality of both service and product form the foundation of great customer service. Like that former boss of mine, we can offer a stellar product, but if our service is lousy, we’ll turn people away. Likewise, we can’t just eke by on wonderful service if our product stinks. This holds true for tangible product as well as a service business.
Whether you like it or not, “The customer’s perception is your reality.” – Kate Zabriske, business consultant. In the end, it really doesn’t matter how we view our products and services if our customers perceive them differently.
But for the purposes of this article, let’s assume that you have a great product or service that people want. So, let’s focus on your customers’ experience. Below are 5 pillars on which the customer’s experience stands:
- Do what you promised—and more! Honesty must be a basic given. People do business with those they know, like and trust. If we can’t do what we said we’d do, people won’t trust us. And trying to win back broken trust is very difficult. And for some reason, dissatisfied customers are very eager to share their poor experience with others. So be careful what you promise.
However, just meeting basic expectations (what you said you’d do) doesn’t “wow” the customer. What does “wow” them is receiving unexpected service and bonuses. Under-promise and over-deliver. What are some ways that you can do this in your business?
- Establish and follow great systems. “Systems, not just smiles” retain customers. Having great systems in place enables us to provide predictable, consistent service and products. Basically, anything in your business that you want to be repeatable should have a system associated with it. Systems ensure that the same quality product and service will be delivered every time with every customer.
What great systems do you currently have in place? What aspects of your products or services are still lacking great systems? How can you remedy this?
- Personalize service. No one likes to be treated like a number or faceless person. Again, people do business with us when they know, like and trust us. The more relational we can be, the better. Systematizing your business may seem to fly in the face of personalizing service, but look for ways to ensure that the systems of your business allow you to interact with people in a relational, personalized manner.
Remembering a customer’s name and some detail from a conversation with them can go a long way toward making them feel that your service is very personal. What are some specific ways you can personalize service for your customers?
- Establish repeat, long-term customers. “It’s much easier to retain a customer or client than find a new one.” That was the mantra of Carl Sewell of Sewell Cadillac. As amazing as it sounds, he found that over the course of a customer’s lifetime, the loyal customer would spend $517,000 with Sewell Cadillac! I recommend his book, Customers for Life: How to Turn that One-Time Buyer into a Lifetime Customer. What would it take to retain your customers, making them customers for life? Why would they want to do repeat business with you?
- Make it easy to do business with you. This must be an integral part of the customer service experience. Doing business with you should be both a delight and simple. Amazon has capitalized on this principle with their “one-click” purchase option. What are some ways that you could craft your business in such a way that your customers find you very easy to do business with?
Look back over these 5 pillars of great customer experience. Which of these pillars do you excel at? Which ones need more work? What will you do to improve your customers’ experience?