Learn how to create an “Exceptional Customer Service Plan”, your gateway to successful client relationships.
Undoubtedly, as a Business owner the majority of your mission is to establish long-term relationships with your clientele through providing exceptional customer service.
Specifically, this means providing service that, by far, exceeds what your competitors are providing, because in today’s market basic customer service is simply not enough to capture or retain customers.
More importantly, exceptional service is required to make one’s business stand out from its’ competitors, more so because consumers have so many choices from which to choose.
In his bestselling book “Raving Fans”, Ken Blanchard said:
If they cannot distinguish you from your competitor, your business will get “lost in the sauce.” Your first step is to gain the competitive edge, by being savvy enough to find out what your competitors are not doing, and then capitalize on this by establishing an exceptional plan which will create customers who are your “Raving Fans”.
To make one’s company unique from it’s’ competitors, the fundamental recipe is two large scoops of “thinking outside the box” + one big scoop of what your competitors are NOT doing = Your company’s own distinct and Exceptional Customer Service Recipe.
In it’s simplest terms, the “Exceptional Customer Service Plan,” demonstrates our best customer service code of ethics, and it designed to portray to our customers “what makes us different” from our competitors. You see, unless there is some distinguishing trait, the customer sees our products, and or services, as the same as our competition. Plain and simple, an excellent and thought provocative servicing plan will separate us from the competition.
So, how do we create this Exceptional Customer Service Plan? The key starting point is to Research/Secret Shop and conduct due diligence on your competitors. To accomplish this, become a “true customer”, call your competitors and or visit their storefront – purchase their products or services; and after the sale is completed ask if they have a survey to complete.
In short, the goal is to do more than just stop by one of your competitor’s locations and price shop them. You should focus on finding out the truth – what are their clients raving or not raving about.
After you experience your competitors’ products or services, as a Customer, ask yourself and answer the following basic questions, honestly. And remember, honesty in answering the questions, will help you make your Plan, Exceptional! (Please note that, for some of the questions listed below, you may have to be a little more creative, diligent and resourceful to answer them).
Use these 14 Questions to Rate your competitors:
1. Was there personalized service by the staff?
2. How are they greeting the customers? Or did they greet the customers?
3. How did they answer the telephone? Or, was it voicemail?
4. Was the staff knowledgeable?
5. Was the staff friendly, helpful and patient while you were considering their products or services?
6. Is their sales methodology up to date?
7. Are their products and services up to date?
8. Did they add value to your experience as a customer? What did you learn as customer as a result of shopping this competitor?
9. What was their overall, response time in selling their products or services? Did you make the purchase within your time-frame, or did you have to beg them to take your business?
10. Did they “Sell” you and send you on your way? Or was it a buying experience?
11. How timely was their client follow-up, after the sale or services? Or did they follow-up?
12. Did they record your customer contact information into their database for constant contact?
13. How consistent and timely were they in resolving the client’s challenges?
14. Do you see indications of where they are headed in the future with products and services?
Other ways to conduct due diligence on your competitors’ entails, sending your own secret researchers/shoppers to conduct the same research, or surveying your competitor’s clients.
After you secret shop and research your competitors, create your plan for Exceptional Service for your clients.
Here are some core questions that will help you get off to a great start.
- Ask, “How can my servicing plan be different from my competitors”? (The Distinguishing Facts or WWCS – What Would Clients Say)
- What will clients say about their experience with your company, versus an experience with your competitor?
- ABC Company is different because they..
- I was impressed with how they..
- Their customer service is..
- When I had a challenge they….and I was..! Design a plan that creates a “Lasting Impression” on your clients (The “WOW” Effect”).
Design a plan that incorporates challenge solving in a timely manner and follow-up for a certain amount of time after the challenge has been solved.
Use these 10 Tips to help you create your company’s Exceptional Service Plan:
1. Employ a Friendly and knowledgeable staff as the first initial contact/greeter to your clients.
2. Institute a “Lighting Speed” response time in responding to client’s questions or challenges.
3. Employ a part-time or full-time customer service/quality control manager to remain in touch with clients.
4. Keep in contact with your clients, do things to demonstrate that you care about them even when they are not purchasing your products or services.
5. Offer free, on-site, client scheduled trainings on products and services sold to new and existing clientele.
6. Institute a 100% exceptional service, or money back guaranteed policy. (I know that’s a real bold statement, but if you believe in your products or services, you shouldn’t think twice about offering this).
7. Create “hassle free and effort free” as well as lightning speed solutions to resolving client’s challenges with services or products they’ve purchased from your company.
8. Be consistent in providing new products and services information to your clients.
9. Institute customer appreciation events, quarterly, and one large event annually to show your customers that you appreciate their business. It is also a way to fact-find on your company’s strengths, and to find out things that you can improve upon.
10. Be Creative – Try new ideas continuously, to keep your plan Exceptional, fresh, and up to date. And, when implementing new customer service ideas, ask the clients for their feedback on these new ideas. Think “Outside of the Box” to renew your company’s Exceptional Customer Service Plan. And, if nothing else, as you are trying new customer service ideas, your clients will think that you are more innovative than your competitors’ and that your company is forward thinking and progressive.
Continue to make sure that your Team is Exceptional! One of the best moves that you can make, to insure your company’s competitiveness is by hiring Exceptional People. Exceptional People can help you implement your service plan and build good, healthy repeat client relationships. As a business owner, this means that you must, interview tough and hire good people that want to service your clients, and those who will represent your company well.
It is said that, statistically, 68% of customers turn away or never return due to the attitudes of the company’s employees, either in person or on the phone. (Just think of how many times, you as a consumer did not call a company back because you weren’t “feeling the love.”)
And since it’s not a perfect world, and issues as well as challenges will arise with your customers, after you hire those “good people,” it is most important that you train and also update them on ways to solve customer challenges effectively, to save the customer time.
Did I mention Train, Train, & Train, anyone and everyone to become a master at solving customer challenges? As a business owner, you will find that all that matters to the client who is having an issue with your products or services is, WHEN, and WHEN you resolve the issue. Thus, train your team to be “Solution Based.”
Simply put, the term “Solution Based” means, a focus to solve a challenge or problem, without distractions from the barriers that exists, but to center on only the solution(s) available. (This is not in the dictionary, but my definition).
And finally, establish a time frame for when you update your plan, i.e. every 6-months, or every end of fiscal year, etc. Based upon your business and how rapidly your industry changes, some businesses may need to update their plan more frequently than others to stay ahead of their competitors. Overall, though, as the business owner, you will be the best judge.
A Great Big Idea on helping you make your Plan, Exceptional.
When in doubt, seek some excellent examples to help you build your Exceptional Customer Service Plan – The Hospitality Industry! By Far, if you really want a “great” experience as a customer, visit or stay at one of the high-end hotels and seek ideas on how to “top the bar” on offering exceptional client service. I chose Commerce Bank, Bloom Grocery Store and Jiffy Lube because of the WOW! that I personally experienced with these companies. Overall, if you can experience one or all of these companies, pay attention to how they greet and treat their customers, as well as the responsiveness to customers.
Kim’s “Exceptional Service” Picks
• Four Seasons
• Ritz Carlton
• Commerce Bank – Winner of JD Power Customer Satisfaction Award
• Bloom Grocery Store
• Jiffy Lube
About the Author
Kim Taylor-Wilson is an Audio Visual Technology and Media Expert, Coach, Trainer and Speaker. She is Adjunct Professor of Communication and Theater Studies, Department of Defense Education Activity, Northern Virginia Community College