The sad reality is that customer service is a dying art form. Companies simply do not seem to care as much as they once did. Some blame it on the Internet and how things have gotten more impersonal over the years. Some blame it on the fact that people are in a hurry and want convenience and “cheap” over quality and attention. Some blame it on the younger generation not knowing or being taught any better, while others blame it on the older generation being tired and unhappy with having to work longer in life. The reality is none of these are right and all of these are right. The true reason customer service has gone by the wayside is plain and simple … businesses have gotten fat and lazy.
However, in threat of a down economy, businesses shift from fat and lazy to lean and mean. And I mean “mean” as in crotchety. Frustrated by business not coming in so easily, and fearful of what this means to bonuses, pay raises, and on the job security, instead of stepping up their service, companies and their employees become their own worse complaint department. It is no wonder we as consumers, in business or in life, are frustrated.
The good news for any business wanting to set themselves apart from competitors is that it can be as simple as just providing good service on a very basic level. Take for instance the plumbing contractor who promised to return a call within two hours. Or perhaps the doctor’s office who promised to see a patient within 15 minutes of checking in to the front desk. Consider the company who decided that someone would answer the phone in person versus a caller going straight to voicemail. In all cases, one simple act set them apart from competitors and in the case of the plumbing contractor, he set himself apart from an entire industry known for not returning calls, not showing up on time or at all, and not being considerate of the homeowner’s time in general.
Growth companies take the idea of serving their customers to an entirely higher standard. They are not just focused on serving their customers. These companies are focused on “wowing” their customers. They have made it an operational priority in their business, not just a marketing focus. Consider how you can shift from a service mindset to a wowing mindset.
1. Sense of Pride: When a customer is proud to do business with you, they are also telling and sharing with others out of their sense of pride. They want people to know that their needs were met and they got the products and answers they were looking for from a company that is a cut above the rest. How can you manifest a sense of pride in doing business with you? Have you won awards? Have you accomplished something no-one in your industry has accomplished? Do you have an approach that is not only unique, but proprietary? Make sure your customers know and make them the center of why this is significant for them.
2. Sense of Purpose: When your business is driven by an underlying purpose that ultimately benefits your customers, then your customers also feel engaged and a part of something bigger and more meaningful. Have you defined a mission for your company that gets to the very heart of what matters most to your customer? Is it something your customers can relate to and appreciate what it ultimately will mean to them and for them?
3. Sense of Priority: Believe it or not, companies that understand “wowing” a customer are more focused on the customer being number one versus the customer always being right. Think about this for a minute. If the customer is always right, then why do they need you? If your business is a services or consulting business, they are looking to you for answers, not to simply say “yes” to whatever they “think” they need. By making them a priority, you focused on what they ultimately need versus what they think they want. And when you help them see this, you have just elevated your worth in the eyes of the customer.
4. Sense of Power: Companies that make their customers number one also allow their customers some power to choose. Choices give customers a sense of empowerment that makes them feel as though they are the ones ultimately in control. Have you devised package levels or service options so a customer can choose according to budget, time or convenience? Have you articulated ways in which a customer can get more value or save more with options that cater to both?
5. Sense of Privilege: Creating a level of service or perks to customers that spend more and are engaged more can inspire some customers to take it up a notch in how they are doing business with you. This VIP level of service, or concierge approach, instills a feeling that the customer is getting special considerations or options not available to all other customers. Important here is to be clear what is expected and why it matters.
Take a step back and consider all the ways you could be serving your customers better. Look at what your competitors are not doing and make that your benchmark starting point. Pick just a handful to truly excel in and show your customers how they truly mean everything to you. Then once you are beating your competitors in customer service, then strive to continually “best” yourself, because after a while, the customer is yours to lose, plain and simple.
Sherré DeMao is author of the nationally acclaimed books, 50 Marketing Secrets of Growth Companies in Down Economic Times, www.50marketingsecrets.com, Me, Myself & Inc., www.memyselfandinc.com, and Dream Wide Awake. Her column seeks to help business owners build and grow sustainable enterprises and businesses with economic value and preference in the marketplace.