Yes, you do have “customers.”
And customer service is your job.
Because I spend long hours talking with clients on the phone, good quality, comfortable headsets are among my most valued tools. A few months ago I needed new ones, but I dreaded shopping because of past hassles, like being stuck with equipment that didn’t work with our telephones.
I searched on-line and elected to place a phone order with Headsets.com, whose website invited me to “Call our Headset Advisors.” My call was promptly answered by a cheerful fellow who asked good questions about my needs. Then he requested the product number of my phone to assure selection of a compatible headset. After he talked me through finding that number, he recommended a model and promised that his team would coach me through the setup, if necessary.
After I placed the order, an email informed me that if I had questions I could reach a live person by phone. I did pose a question, although via email, and got an immediate response. But it didn’t stop there. After a shipping update, the next message inquired about how the delivery went and asked whether I needed further help. Then someone actually called me, noting that I’d initially had concerns and asking if everything was OK. Finally, a friendly customer service manager phoned to ask if my headset was working properly.
The service level seemed too good to true. But then much the same thing happened when I ordered a second headset a couple of weeks later. What caught my attention was now much positive human engagement was built into the simple process of selling a small item. I went from putting off a purchase to wishing that Headsets.com sold a wider variety of products, so that I might direct more shopping their way.
Because real people listened to me and were consistently upbeat and helpful, the Headsets.com team made me, the customer, feel good. I noticed my own happy reaction and I thought, “this is how I want my clients to feel.”
While we’re not all vendors, most professionals do have some kind of “clients” or “customers.” They may be your colleagues, bosses or other people who rely on your work. So customer service is part of your job, no matter what your position description says. And good customer service takes more than simply sending acceptable products. It requires listening to your customers, seeing things from their perspective and acknowledging their needs.
If you think it’s time to put new energy into the service that you deliver, ask yourself: “how do I want my customers to feel each time they deal with me?”
If you’re searching for new approaches to stellar service, you might try looking for inspiration outside your current workplace, and even beyond your industry. That’s a suggestion offered by customer service guru Donna Cutting, in her new book, “501 Ways to Roll Out the Red Carpet for Your Customers.” According to Cutting, “Some of your best red-carpet successes will come from ideas you borrowed from outside your field and then adapted, to the surprise and delight of your customers.”
Here are more of Cutting’s tips for offering world-class service:
- Have them at hello and keep them at goodbye. Although Cutting argues that every single interaction you have with another person has more impact than you may realize, she suggests that some encounters count more than others. She agrees with the old saying that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. “In other words, you literally can have them – or not – at ‘Hello’.” But psychological research suggests that the last (or most recent) impression you make may be the one that sticks most of all.
- Know how to recover. If you’re aiming for a first-class operation, your goal should be to strive for flawless service. But we all make mistakes and sometimes we have to face unhappy customers. Some researchers found that more than half “of complaining customers will continue to do business with you if they receive a response to their criticism. If they feel their grievance was resolved, that number goes up to 95 percent.” So when you’re faced with a crisis, ask the customer, “What can I do to make it right?”
- Model five-star service. If what you produce requires a team effort, it’s hard to deliver excellent service if some members of the team have never received Cutter says “red-carpet service” means “treating the person in front of you right now as if he or she were the most important person in the room. This is as true of how you treat your internal customers (your team members and coworkers) as it is of others you serve.” So Cutter urges you to model what you want by offering praise and surprises, and “providing your employees with a little five-star treatment of their own.”
Whatever your job, providing effective customer service is the way you leverage the full value of all your hard work. Cutter’s “501 Ways” is a fun read, full of stories that will spark fresh ideas for treating your customers like royalty.
And for more tips on managing your career, please check out my new book, “Think Like an Entrepreneur, Act Like a CEO.”