Few companies deliver ‘Moments of Magnificence’ to their customers. It shouldn’t be that way. It doesn’t have to be that way.
The drive to improve customer loyalty has received an unprecedented amount of attention by companies worldwide. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, the American Society for Quality and other studies report that the additional focus isn’t making a difference. Regardless of the service approaches, customers see little progress. Research concludes that customer service continues to erode at a dizzying rate.
The six key reasons for poor service:
- poor hiring practices
- downsized companies and service
- acquisitions and mergers
- limited labor pools
- lack of training, lack of support
- lack of management commitment
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.”
But I believe these reasons are just excuses, as it relates to customer interactions. Organizations like Federal Express and Disney deliver exceptional service in spite of their circumstances or challenges. The article entitled, “The Death of Manners,” which was featured in the Sunday magazine section of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. It 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.
I’m sure you’ve experienced enough discourteous behavior from customer service reps. It is 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.
A Customer Experience Opportunity
87% of companies deliver poor to average service, and seem never to improve. How can you take advantage of this opportunity? It’s simple. Deliver planned acts of kindness to achieve “moments of magnificence” 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. He 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 the 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 key moments of truth. Moments of truth are where you have the opportunity to create happy or unhappy customers. It is your responsibility (employee, manager, CEO- to manage them). By doing so, you can overcome internal or external stresses that don’t matter to the customer. You can create moments of magnificence – not mediocrity or misery for your customers. The truth is a company’s culture greatly influences how well employees and managers perform. See my post: The Lucrative Link Between Employee and Customer Loyalty.
Turn 5 Moments of Truth into Moments of Magnificence
Mental Psyche – The first step to satisfying the customer has nothing to do with the customer. 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 times during the day.
- Visualize yourself giving sensational service to customers
- Verbalize it to yourself (I am the best; I give superstar customer service to all of my accounts!)
- Vitalize it by acting with an upbeat approach with everyone.
The Greeting – 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 you, 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 her problem proactively? Be a good listener, ask key questions and be genuinely helpful. This is hard work. Take the time. Take notes if necessary and summarize what you heard, and explain 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. Always be open to knowing more about your product, procedures and how to deal with people. This is what superstars do in all professions.
Follow-through – 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
- 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 expectation. Do this proactively and you’ll become a legend in the customer’s mind.
Handling Problems – 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.
Pulling It All Together
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. The alternative is to skip some steps and deliver moments of mediocrity to the customer, only meeting expectations. Or worse yet, giving 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 over-promising and over-delivering to the customer.
If you are a manager, you need to train and coach your team in these principles. Apply them yourself. It’s your obligation to bring these best practices to your team. If you are on the front-line of service of your company learn and adhere to these five steps daily. 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 works 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.