Category: Customer Service

3 Reasons Why We Need to Love Our Service People

Customer Service

Your customer’s “punching bag” holds the keys to your company’s success.

Customer service is one of the most challenging career roles out there. Over my 20 years working in service positions from the front lines up to executive decision maker, I have been screamed at by customers, cursed at, personally threatened, and told that I am incompetent. Countless times, I have been on the phone for over an hour with customers who were on a furious tirade on how my company (referred to as “you people”) wronged them. Being a customer’s “punching bag” used to bother me. In fact, I still remember my very first night on the job as a waitress in my teens, pin-balling between 10 tables during my shift. After burning my hand while serving mushroom bisque, I quickly brushed away tears, hiding them from the expectant eyes of my 3 tables that were unhappy with their meals. The time that I spent on the service front lines has helped me to gain a special appreciation for how those dedicated to providing customer service in our companies play a big role in our success. Here’s why:

  1. Good service people have an uncanny skill set.

Let’s face it — jobs in service are not for work-criers. Service professionals need to not only develop a thick skin, but they also need to have a soft approach that is likeable so they can diffuse tough customer issues. Being tough and soft at the same time? Not easy. It takes a rare combination of skills. When people who work in service are good at what they do, they have excellent people skills, they are optimistic, and they are good at humbly listening to lengthy soapbox speeches. They can remove emotion from the conversation in order to identify the true problem and the right solution. Good service professionals have empathy, humility, patience, and the emotional control to not be threatened by a customer who is so angry that they lose their cool. Empathy, the ability to listen, approachability, and humility — not surprisingly these skills are traits that are shared with some of the most respected leaders. And successful leaders understand how the voice of the customer drives a company’s success. Good service people who aspire to hold leadership positions can take heart in knowing that their hard work in the trenches of a company is fine-tuning a rare set of skills that can set them up for future success.

2. Great service people love the challenge of making customers love your company.

The angry customers, the recurring issues that seem to never end — this is the ugly part of client service. Who wants to be yelled at for a living? But this negative view is only a corner in the big picture of a job in service. Sure, there are customer problems that need to be solved, but in most companies handling issues is only a small part of providing great service. Filling much of a service professional’s time are wonderful, positive customers whose calls are the highlight of their day. This is what working in service is really about — strengthening relationships with people. The fun part for a service person is talking with people who have been 30-year customers, people who have enthusiastically referred their entire family to the company, and the customers who take the time to say that your company just made their day. Great service professionals love people, and they care about helping them. They understand that getting customers to the point where they love your company solidifies a customer’s loyalty to your business for years to come. To them, interacting with customers is uplifting, interesting, and fun. They love making people love your company. THIS is how great service people see their job.

3. Your best service people will drive your business’s success (if you let them).

Within the feedback that your front-line people hear every day from customers is the true quality of your company’s products and services. When there’s a problem in your product or distribution, it is often your front line team members who hear of it first from customers. Your service people are capturing your company’s “report card” from customers every day. Customer feedback on whether you’re doing a great job or whether you need some serious improvement is right in front of you, but in some companies this feedback is buried beneath several layers of corporate hierarchy. The key for companies is to develop a way to capture this feedback to put it in front of those who are involved in making the strategic product and service decisions for your company. Companies need to pull their service people close to tap into this valuable feedback. And when pulling your service people close…it wouldn’t hurt to give them a “high five” and a “thank you” for the time they invest every day to help to make your company great.

To all the service people out there — Thank you for what you do. Working in customer service can be challenging, but know that it enables you to gain stellar skills that you carry with you throughout your career. Your job centers on building relationships with people and these people can be the most rewarding part of your job. Every problem you solve and every difficult conversation with a customer is adding to your professional skill set. And despite the difficult interactions of each day, the big picture is that you have the ability in both small and big ways to influence your company’s (and your own) success.

To company leaders — Your service professionals have a unique skill set, they love making customers love your company, and they hold the keys to making your company even better. So why not take some time today to show them some love? Your gratitude will pay back in dividends.

Gandhi Quote Large

 

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The Secret Sauce for World Class Service

Customer Service

Over the course of working 12 years for a company that literally holds trophy cabinets for their collection of client satisfaction awards, I can’t tell you how many times I have heard the question, “so, what’s the secret to great customer service?”  Many companies want to “wow” customers, but few achieve the enviable status of an Amazon, a Zappos or a Southwest.  There is a very simple recipe for world-class service, but putting it into practice is much more difficult than it sounds.

Putting the recipe together for amazing service is hard because while so many companies are striving to hit quarterly earnings targets, it is difficult for them to not let the almighty dollar drive every decision.  But in customer service – success is all about people.  It’s about the human touch–not just metrics and equations.  Here are the 3 basic ingredients plus the 1 secret ingredient to make the best world-class service that people rave about:

  1. Make sure your business works. Before you stop reading here, and as silly as this fundamental step sounds, this is the one reason why so many companies can’t even get the train to leave the station.  It’s useless to implement a customer loyalty program if your product is never shipped on time.  There is no point in having a 24/7 contact number if no one can ever reach a person to get their issue resolved.  And what is the use of collecting customer feedback if you do not have a system in place for extracting its value?  Yes, as basic as this sounds, the first step to great service is making sure that the basic components of the product, service delivery and troubleshooting are in place and working well.  Before starting on the road to delighting customers, companies must be meeting their customers’ basic expectations.
  2. Keep a long-term view of profits. The best service organizations look at the lifetime value of a customer as opposed to evaluating the profitability of a single transaction.  You never want to lose the next 20 years of your customer’s business over your “policy” to charge a $2 service fee.  The best service organizations far surpass their competitors by prioritizing the lifetime value of customers.  I’ll give you an example.  I ordered a scarf as a gift from Nordstrom on December 11th.  They sent me an email on December 22nd apologizing that the item was backordered and that it would not arrive in time for Christmas.  I called Nordstrom and the person on the phone immediately found the item in one of their stores in Alaska.  Within the hour, the item was gift-wrapped and sent by overnight mail to me, all at no additional cost.  When all was said and done, the cost of shipping the item alone was twice the value of the scarf.  But Nordstrom, like other great service organizations, looks at the lifetime value of a customer.  To them, footing the $30 to wrap and ship a gift was worth keeping the thousands of dollars of my future business for many years to come.  Thank you, Nordstrom!
  3. Let the customer drive your every decision. Throughout my career in client service, the one question we ask in every single meeting is, “how does this affect our customers?”  In a great service organization, this is the priority we consistently have to consider to make a business case – not outlining the return on investment.  At the base of every decision is a person.  And great service organizations recognize that the person is more important than a quick profit.
  4. Employ the right people who care about people. This is the secret ingredient!  The people you employ are the ones who make an emotional connection with customers.  And it’s the emotional connection that keeps customers coming back again and again.  Employing the right people goes beyond just hiring front line staff who score high on “customer focus” in your pre-hiring skill assessment.  Most great service organizations have what I call “the circle of service” – the company treats their employees well and the employees then treat the customers well, and in turn customers treat the company well through repeat business and referrals.  Tony Hsieh, the founder of Zappos and the foremost expert in correlating culture to profits said, “Businesses often forget about the culture, and ultimately, they suffer for it because you can’t deliver good service from unhappy employees.”  Hiring people who care about people throughout the organization is an investment in building this circle of service that enables so many organizations to have thriving, regenerative profits and an excellent reputation in the market.

So there you have it, in a 5 minute read, you have the secret sauce to world-class service.  It is so simple, yet it is the hardest recipe to master.  Since these principles must be driven from the top down within an organization, you must have a leader who is truly passionate about service to make bold decisions that may on the surface seem to ignore the short-term bottom-line.  But take it from someone who has been there, the recipe works, and companies who use it will see the results!

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