With some customer service ratings in free-fall, customers now more than ever need some moments of magic.
The drive to improve customer service and loyalty in the United States has received an unprecedented amount of attention in the last decade, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the American Society for Quality report that the additional focus isn’t making a difference.
Regardless of the quality and re-engineering approaches introduced by Tom Peters, W. Edwards Deming, Joseph Juran, Philip Crosby and others over the past several years, research concludes that customer service continues to erode at a dizzying rate.
Harry Beckwith, who wrote Selling the Invisible, agrees with the bad news. He says, “Service in this country is so bad that you can offer above-average service and still stink.”
The reasons some experts give include: poor hiring practices, downsized companies and service, acquisitions and mergers, limited labor pools, lack of training, lack of support and lack of management commitment.
But I believe these reasons are just excuses. Organizations like Federal Express and Disney deliver exceptional service in spite of their circumstances or challenges. I think an article entitled, “The Death of Manners,” which was featured in the Sunday magazine section of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, reveals a more compelling reason. According to the article, people aren’t as civil as they used to be. In fact, they are often rude and discourteous. The cover photo was, appropriately enough, a picture of a herd of pigs!
I’m sure you’ve experienced enough insensitive or rude behavior from customer service reps that this isn’t news to you, but it’s interesting to see it confirmed in cold, hard data. For example, in a survey conducted by market research firm Yankelovich Partners, 90% of the people questioned said they feel they pay enough to get the highest level of service. Yet, 69% of these customers reported that the customer service people they deal with don’t seem to care.
In other words, there remains a significant gap between what companies are delivering and what customers want. This presents a huge opportunity for the people in organizations that really do care. And since you are reading this, I presume that includes you!
How can you take advantage of this opportunity? It’s simple. Deliver planned – not random – acts of kindness to achieve “moments of magic” – one customer at a time. Let me explain. Say you are a service rep for a major retailer. You don’t feel well, but you go to work anyhow. Your supervisor strongly reminds you about the importance of complete paperwork and says you will be written up for any more mistakes.
Now, the store opens and customers approach you. I’d like you to consider two questions:
- Is your sickness or your boss’s reprimand a good reason to give poor service to those customers?
- Is it your customers’ problem that you have problems?
The answer to both of these questions has to be an emphatic, “No!” Great service requires you to move from self-concern to a concern for others. Superstars in customer service deliver exceptional service in five moments of truth where you have the opportunity to create happy or unhappy customers.
It is your responsibility to manage them. By doing so, you can overcome internal or external stresses that don’t matter to the customer and create moments of magic – not mediocrity or misery for your customers. Here are five moments of magic defined and how you can apply them right now to reap immediate results!
The first step to satisfying the customer has nothing to do with the customer, but it has everything to do with you. How do you stay positive and treat customers right no matter what? With peak performance strategies, it only takes a few moments to “self-manage” your attitude. Acknowledge how you are feeling and refocus on the customer. How? Use these three steps multiple time during the day: visualize yourself giving sensational service with customers, verbalize it to yourself (I am the best; I give superstar customer service to all of my accounts!) and vitalize it by acting with an upbeat approach with every one.
How can you greet your customers every time so they are impressed with you? It only takes a few moments to be nice. Smile, be prompt, pay attention and use uncommonly good manners in dealing with people. Use words like: please, thank you, excuse me, thanks for waiting, I appreciate your patience, or how may I help you? Customers crave courtesy and friendliness. After all, it’s what you expect as a customer, isn’t it?
Meeting the Need
How do you help the customer solve his problem proactively? Be a good listener, ask key questions and be genuinely helpful. This is hard work but is where the rubber meets the road. Take the time. Take notes if necessary and summarize what you heard and your action plan. It only takes a few moments to do it right. Then, do it with a sense of urgency! One additional note – be a student of the game and keep learning about your product, procedures and how to deal with people. This is what superstars do in all professions.
How do you go the extra mile to be of service? Follow up with e-mails, send a thank you note, ask if you can be of further assistance, point out additional products or call back to check on results. And, genuinely express a thank you or appreciation for the customer’s business. Think of complaints you have had as a customer. How many times did the reps at the company really follow-up? It only takes a few moments to exceed the customer’s expectations. Do this proactively and you’ll become a legend in the customer’s mind.
How do you deal with complaints or difficult situations? Deal with the person first. Listen, empathize and apologize. Second, solve the problem. Too many service providers skip the first step. They take care of the problem and still have a dissatisfied customer. Remember, deal with the customer as a person first to let them vent and express their emotions. Then fix the problem. This is a key to healthy human relationships. It only takes a few moments to demonstrate you care by making this effort when the chips are down.
These five steps represent a game plan to make a customer happy-now! While it is not a cure-all, it does give you proven and practical steps to show your customers that you care and to keep them coming back. The alternative is to skip some steps and deliver moments of mediocrity to the customer, only meeting expectations or worse yet moments of misery, doing significantly less than the customer expects. You can be better than that and your customers deserve it. These five moments of magic are about under promising and over delivering to the customer.
If you are a manager you need to train and coach your team in these principles and apply them yourself. It’s your obligation to bring these best practices to your team. If you are on the frontlines of service in your company learn and adhere to these five steps daily with enthusiasm and consistency. It’s your job to excel regardless of your manager’s support. After all, whose responsibility is it to satisfy the customer? It’s your job! Be a service superstar! You and your company will retain more customers and succeed in a challenging marketplace!
About the Author
Rick Conlow is CEO & Senior Partner of WCW Partners, a performance improvement company. Based in Minneapolis/ST. Paul, Minnesota, WCW work with clients in a variety of industries worldwide to help them excel in sales, service and leadership, facilitating business growth and vitality. Rick is author of Excellence in Management, Excellence in Supervision and Returning to Learning.