QUI QUOTE: Nobody raves about a company that meets customer expectations.
When you are working in customer service, you have been happy that your customers leave satisfied. You have sold them a product or service that meets their wants or needs. Or you solved their problem for them. You were happy because, in the end, you met their expectations and they were satisfied.
But that’s not good enough. Satisfied customers feel service is good, not better, just average. Nobody raves about average. And satisfied customers will leave when they find something better or less expensive.
So don’t serve to satisfy customers. Don’t treat customers as they would have expected. Instead, treat them a little better than they want to be treated. Serve to WOW them.
We don’t offer customer service training. Training is top-down, one-way “I know everything, you know nothing” instruction. Training is the “how” of service. Training is to develop THE BUSINESS. Training is for a job. And the job of employees is to serve to satisfy the customer. In the end, training instructs students on how to TAKE CARE of the customer.
Instead, enroll in Customer CARE University. We don’t have trainers or instructors. We have mentors and coaches. Our education classes are interactive. Our education is the “how” and “why” of Customer CARE excellence. As mentors, we educate you with customer CARE actions to practice your interpersonal skills. You will learn and appreciate the value of telephone etiquette, service recovery, and customer CARE. After graduation, as coaches, we remind you with our customer CARE excellence strategies. With suggestions, recommendations, and encouragement, we empower you and your colleagues to develop YOURSELVES. Ideally, all of you will be enthused and energized to engage customers. You and your colleagues will create an emotional connection with your customers. The more emotional the connections, the more memorable the experiences, the more loyal the customers. And everyone’s lives will be enriched.
In Customer CARE 101, our passion is to CARE for you and your colleagues.
COMMUNICATE openly, transparently, interactively, and frequently any customer CARE information that you and your colleagues need or want to know. We will listen empathetically to your suggestions, concerns, and complaints.
APPRECIATE your role, responsibilities, and actions, and your suggestions and recommendations.
RECOGNIZE, honor, and offer accolades for you and your colleagues’ role-playing acts of customer CARE.
EMPOWER you to act on your own to do what is right for you, your colleagues, your customers, and your business.
In Customer CARE 102, we will educate you on how to CARE for your customers:
COMMUNICATE with each customer with a smile, eye contact, and polite interaction. Inform each customer transparently and interactively of the product’s or service’s function, liabilities, and advantages to the customer. Listen empathetically to understand the customer’s questions and concerns.
ACKNOWLEDGE each customer’s presence and value to you and your business.
RESPOND compassionately to each customer’s questions, concerns, and complaints.
ENRICH the experiences of every customer.
And, yes, we educate everyone. If we’re not caring for customer CARE representatives, we better be caring for your colleagues who are.
When we create a great experience for you as much as we do for your colleagues, you will earn the loyalty of both colleagues and customers. And soon, without your focus on profits, profits will grow, for you and your business, literally and figuratively.
Enrollment starts now. Tuition is free. But you must attend to learn each of the classes of the two courses or you will fail.
Enroll today. You won’t be sorry. And neither will your customers.
DISCLAIMER: Customer CARE University classes are my posts for either Customer CARE strategies for customer service people or Customer CARE actions for customers. You are always invited to “attend” the classes. Our discussions have been very interactive with open and honest opinions and complaints from some who have disagreed with me. With each interaction, I hope we can agree to disagree or agree. Whether you have the opportunity to “attend” regularly or can only “attend” when you can, I encourage you to remind yourself or your colleagues who interact with customers, when you say, “Let’s be GREAT out there!”
“Customers perceive service in their own unique, idiosyncratic, emotional, irrational, end-of-the-day, and totally human terms. Perception is all there is!” Tom Peters. Customers are paying for their experience. It’s ALL about them, NEVER about us. To them, perception is reality. Image is everything. Feelings are facts. And they buy with emotion and justify that decision with reason.
Some customer service people will believe that customers will understand and be empathetic to the new employee. I get it. Customers will get it, too, but many are not going to like it. Customers are paying for THEIR experience. And they seek the best value in their experience, so, someone saying, “I’m in training” is, bluntly, a poor one. When someone new doesn’t say anything, the customer feels that the person must be knowledgeable and the problem is difficult. But that’s OK because the problem is the problem. But when someone says, “I’m new here,” that’s not OK, in fact, dissatisfying because the problem is not the problem. The problem is the person. They will leave and rant to others via social media. Customers thinking about coming to your company will decide otherwise because of his rants. It doesn’t have to be a customer they know. If you say you’re great, that’s advertising, but on social media, if they say you’re poor, that’s the truth. People are talking about you, whether you like it or not, whether you know it or not. You can give them a story that “We’re new here,” or be new here but not tell them. You decide.
The customer is paying for his experience, not your company’s service. Customers don’t care how many new people you have hired. They don’t care if self-service works for you or not. And customers don’t care if you think scripting will or will not work. What they care about is how big you care about them. New employees or not, self-service or not, scripting or not. To a complaining customer, you are not a representative of the company. You ARE the company. So own it. Be the CEO of the moment. DO take it personally. DO take it professionally. Just DON’T take it home. Simply apologize. DON’T offer an explanation. Customers feel that your explanation is an excuse. Customers want action, not excuses. Just do whatever it takes to fix it fast.
And when all alternatives don’t work, DON’T fire the customer. Simply ask him to resign. “I’m sorry but we aren’t able to resolve your problem. Could I recommend Brand X for your solution? I could contact them if you like.” Both are happy. And both will remember. The customer is happy because he has a fix. He has an emotional connection with you. The more emotional the connection, the more memorable the experience, the more loyal the customer. And loyal customers will return. Ideally, he will come back to you. The competitor is happy because you recommended them. Later when one of them cannot resolve the problem for the customer, they will recommend you. A Mutual Admiration Society of Sorts.
So you decide. Are you telling customers you are or have people who are in training? Or do you simply not say anything and do whatever it takes to fix the problem, even if it means going to a competitor? Whatever you decide, customers will decide, too.
Don’t serve to satisfy customers. Serve to WOW them.
We don’t have a “Peak-End Rule”. Customers don’t “journey” sequentially over time, from start to finish. They journey emotionally with “ow” and “WOW moments”. The more ow or WOW, the more emotional the moment, the more memorable the experience. The more ow, the more disgustingly memorable the experience, the more disloyal the customer. The more WOW, the more delightfully memorable the experience, the more loyal the customer.
So when we analyze the journey, we first ask, “What are the customers’ expectations? Then we ask, “What are the potential dissatisfiers and how can we remove them?” And when we ask and take action, a negative customer experience has turned into a neutral one. But that’s not good enough. Satisfied customers feel service is good, not better, just average. Nobody raves about average. And satisfied customers will leave when they find something better or less expensive.
So don’t serve to satisfy customers. Don’t treat customers as they would have expected. And don’t treat them as they want to be treated. Instead, treat them a little better than they want to be treated. Serve to WOW them.
Customer loyalty is not one BIG WOW to a customer. It’s one little wow delivered consistently to every customer. And when you consistently deliver a little wow, you transform a neutral customer experience into a positive one.
So Be Magnificently Boring! Consistently deliver a low-cost, no-cost “a little better than the average experience that customers expect” product or service so tediously repetitive that you feel it is boring, but to the customer, at that moment, you are Magnificent! For retailers, start opening 10 minutes earlier and closing 10 minutes later. For hotels, offer bottled water at arrival or departure. For auto service repair businesses, wash the car before returning the vehicle. For fine dining restaurants, personalize the menu with the customers’ names. Customers have an emotional connection with you. The more emotional the connection, the more memorable the experience, the more loyal the customer. And loyal customers will return again and again, raving about you to others along the way. Consistency builds trust. Trust builds loyalty. Loyalty builds your business. Deliver consistency Magnificently!
For many years, there has been a stranglehold of the “Profits over People” mentality on business. Senior executives care about revenue dollars, market share, the stock price, bottom-line profits, even their competitors, more than their people. Listening to the sweet cha-ching sound of profits, these bad bosses do not hear their grumbling employees and complaining customers many hierarchical rungs below. Even if bosses could hear, they would wear noise-canceling headphones, oblivious to the employees’ concerns and customer complaints. And “Profits over People” bad bosses would demand “My way or the highway” to the employees. Bad bosses didn’t care much about employees and employees could care less about their bosses or customers.
Today, instead of focusing on “Profits over People”, envision “People First” as the solid foundation for everlasting business success. One caveat is “Employees First”. Managers will always see people as “employees”. Despite preaching “Employees First”, senior leaders would always have the rank and file employees “first”, on the bottom of the ladder, well below the leaders.
Recognizing “People First”, leaders will CARE for their people.
COMMUNICATE openly, transparently, interactively, and frequently any information that their people need to know. Listen empathetically to the people’s suggestions, concerns, and complaints. Express compassion with their recommendations and encouragement.
APPRECIATE the important roles, responsibilities, and efforts of their people.
RECOGNIZE, honor, and offer accolades for individual and team achievements, accomplishments, and acts of service to colleagues or customers.
EMPOWER people to make the right decisions for themselves, their colleagues, customers, and their business.
Whether it’s the turmoil of the pandemic, Skimpflation, or The Great Resignation, businesses will invigorate the New Normal with the “People First” culture. No longer are people taking second or third seats to customers or profits.
This cultural transformation of “People First” and the leadership commitment to CARE will enthuse and energize people to be engaged with their colleagues, customers, and the business.
When we create a great experience for people as much as we do for customers, we will earn the loyalty of both. And soon, without our focus on profits, profits will grow.
Is customer service the frontline? Really? Are we called to duty on the frontline battling customers? Doctors and nurses don’t serve their ailing patients. They care. So shouldn’t customer service be customer care? Or even better …
We are the Customer CARE team.
We CARE for each member of our team:
COMMUNICATE openly, transparently, interactively, and frequently any information that their people need to know. We will listen empathetically to the people’s suggestions, concerns, and complaints.
APPRECIATE our team’s role, responsibilities, and actions, and their suggestions and recommendations.
RECOGNIZE, honor, and offer accolades for our team’s acts of service.
EMPOWER our people to act on their own to do what is right for our team and our customers.
We CARE for each customer:
COMMUNICATE with each customer with a smile, eye contact, and polite interaction. We inform each customer transparently and interactively of the product’s or service’s function, liabilities, and advantages to them.
ACKNOWLEDGE each customer’s presence and value to us.
RESPOND empathetically and compassionately to each customer’s questions, concerns, and complaints.
ENRICH the experiences of every customer.
And when we CARE, each customer is wowed and happy, intent on returning again and again, raving to others along the way.
Customer service is for a job. If all a person did was for a job, then it would be to satisfy a customer. Satisfied customers feel that customer service is good, but not more than was expected, just average. Nobody raves about average. And satisfied customers may leave when they find something better or less expensive. So don’t have a job that satisfies customers.
Instead, invest in Customer CARE to develop your people to wow your customers. And when your people are energized and engaged to enthuse your customers, everyone’s lives will be enriched.
A while back, I wrote an article entitled “Great Service is Great Theater”. Today I want to offer another article about the very same subject, an encore performance so to say. So, here it is:
There are some who say that they, as customer service professionals, have been trained to act the part to be happy to serve. They believe they are acting. They claim they can never “be the part” to be happy to serve. Here is what I say:
Movie actors like Scarlett Johansson, Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Anthony Hopkins, and Jack Nicholson act to be happy, sad, scared, scary, or angry. Yet, we, as the audience, believe they are genuinely real. The actors may “act their part”, but they are so good that we, as the audience, believe they are real. Whether actors are acting the part or believe they are real is not important. It is never about the actors. It is always about the audience.
The best movie actors have rehearsed before they are watched by their audience. Even theatrical actors rehearse before a live audience. We, as customer service professionals, can train or rehearse before we connect with our customers, our live audience. But, more often, we are interacting as we go. So we need to be better than actors who rehearse. We need to be so good that our customers believe we really are happy to serve. So be GREAT out there!
We, as customer service professionals, act to be happy to serve our customers so much so that they believe we are genuinely happy to serve. It doesn’t matter if we act it or not. What matters is if our customers believe we are genuine. When it comes to customer service, it’s never about us. It’s always about them. Like the movie and theatrical actors, we have to be Magnificently Boring! We need to consistently deliver a “better than the average experience that customers expect” so tediously repetitive that we feel it is boring, but to the customer, at every moment, we are Magnificent! Customers have an emotional connection with you. The more emotional the connection, the more memorable the experience, the more loyal the customer. And loyal customers will return again and again, raving about us to others along the way. Consistency builds trust. Trust builds loyalty. Loyalty builds our business. So we deliver consistency Magnificently!
When it comes to exceptional service, be Magnificently Boring! And always be GREAT out there!
When you are working in customer service, you have been happy that your customers leave satisfied. You have sold them a product or service that meets their wants or needs. Or you solved their problem for them. You were happy because, in the end, they were satisfied.
But their satisfaction does not guarantee their return. The good news is that your satisfied customers didn’t complain. But the bad news is that your customers also didn’t rave about you to others. And the very bad news is that some customers don’t come back as they seek alternatives that they think will be as good as you but might be less expensive.
You don’t want to earn customers who are merely satisfied. They have to be more than satisfied. They have to be happy. They have to be ecstatic. They have to be raving to others about how great you were.
And in order to do that, you have to do more than satisfy them. First, personalize their experience. Get to know who they are and understand how they are feeling. Create an emotional bond with your customers during your interaction. Don’t just take care of them. Care for them. Then make a difference. Do a bit more than they expect.
After you are done, they will be more than satisfied. And they will be coming back again and again, happily raving to others along the way
To earn loyal customers, you have to do more than be good enough to satisfy them. Be GREAT out there!
P.S. If you lead employees in your business who make your customers happy, then you have to do better than to satisfy every employee. Be GREAT in there, too.
Social media is bad for customer service. Whether ranting or raving, customers are telling stories online about businesses whether those businesses are listening or not. With customers using platforms like Twitter and Facebook to complain loudly and sometimes virally to the world, companies have had to add resources to respond accordingly. But I am not against monitoring social media or using it as a responsive customer service channel. On the contrary, I believe social media has been literally and figuratively priceless for small businesses. Those businesses offering exceptional customer service don’t build their brand through advertising. Their customers build it for them via their raves on social media.
So, it is critical to know how to respond on social media, especially to the rants from dissatisfied customers. If you feel you need to get better at social customer service, don’t look to me for advice. If you want to become a millionaire, don’t ask me. I am not a millionaire. I’d tell you to go to Las Vegas or play the lottery. If you want to become a millionaire, ask people who have worked hard to earn a million dollars.
When I say social media is bad for customer service, it is because, for retail, hospitality, healthcare, and other bricks-and-mortar customer service positions, it has created a pool of candidates who are lacking in the social skills to connect with and please customers. Millennials have already overtaken Baby Boomers as America’s largest generation. By 2025, Millennials will comprise 75 percent of the global workforce.
While today’s technology can create the opportunities to personalize customer service, it is still up to a person to deliver it. Yet this incoming generation can only deliver to the level of service that they themselves have experienced. And their experience has mainly been without in-person interaction. Text messaging and social media have made their interactions one-way communication. Baby Boomers have cellphones, and the subsequent generations have cell phones. But what is Gen X, Gen Y or Millennials doing on their cell phones? “OMG. LOL.” No real live conversations. I’m so old I remember hearing on my phone someone actually laughing out loud. I contend two text monologues do not make a real dialog. Texting is one-way communication. You don’t hear voice tone or inflection. Even a pause is dubious. Was it because they were thinking about what you said or is it because they got busy with something else for a minute?
Likewise, a post and a reply on Facebook do not make for real dialog. The average Facebook user today has 338 friends. When people post on their page, they have no loss of self-esteem when only eight “like” the post. The other 330 have ignored them – and they are OK with that! Even those that “like” the post rarely leave a comment to begin an interaction. A meager “thumbs up” is all the acknowledgement given to a friend. Really?
Despite all the buzz about how social media keeps people connected, social media is not really social. Look around you. Social media and text messaging have turned people into digital zombies. Walk into your staff break room and see what is going on. Did anyone even look up to acknowledge you? Do you hear any real conversations going on?
At the same time, retail technology in the form of self-service or contactless purchases may have made it more convenient for the customer, but it eliminated the human connection.
As a result, the experiences for many people are not full of good examples of emotional intelligence, body language or verbal communication that only face-to-face interactions can teach. I believe that translates in a real world where it is OK to ignore our co-workers and worse, ignore the customer. Many don’t feel it is important to greet our co-workers every morning or every customer who walks through the door.
People buy from people they know, like and trust. Likeability is perceived by a smile. Trustability is driven by eye contact. Yet, self-service technology and social media have reduced the number of human interactions for potential candidates to not only experience it for themselves but also to understand the value of its importance. Having not experienced good examples of communication, collaboration or relationship-building skills, how will your people whom you entrust to take care of your customers emotionally connect with them? And if you allow yourself to accept that such a level of emotionless transactions is adequate, how will your business build customer loyalty to succeed? Remember that satisfied customers are not necessarily loyal ones.
QUI CUSTOMER SERVICE LEADERSHIP STRATEGY
For you to succeed in this very competitive marketplace, you will need the right people. You will need people who know how to consistently welcome your customers with eye contact and a smile, listen and respond empathetically, and bid them a sincere fond farewell. You should not assume that every candidate who applies for your open positions will do that just because you put it into your job ad. Finding and keeping the right people starts with the selection process to welcoming them at first day orientation and continues every day thereafter for as long as they are with you.
As the manager, always remind yourself that you are only as good as the people who surround you. Your success is dependent on you identifying the right people among all the candidates by asking the proper interview questions with the specific intent of finding out if the candidates have the skills or potential to express sincerity, empathy and trust. The STAR interview process will better be able to identify the right candidate than the standard interview questionnaire.
Take ownership for the education of those you select to deliver the experience your customers are expecting. That education starts on the first day. Of course, you need to introduce the policies and rules required by your legal department or the state. But the first day should be as much, and I contend should be more about your company mission, values and performance standards. And that message should not be delivered by the Human Resources onboarding specialist. It should be delivered by the highest-ranking operations manager to convey the critical role your employees play in driving customer satisfaction. That manager, ideally the CEO, should convey the message that when employees interact with an individual customer, they ARE the company to that customer. As the general manager, I scheduled myself for every orientation to explain that with every single customer interaction, we were expecting them to commit to “Be the Company”. I shared a video of the CEO of the company headquartered in another state reinforcing that commitment to end orientation.
Customer service training cannot be a “Day One and Done” kind of thing. Soft skills reinforcement must be continuous. Define forbidden phrases like “No problem,” or “Sure, you bet,” and offer the proper alternatives. Role-play recent customer situations and the best responses. Explain the service recovery process and empowerment guidelines. Build in frequent opportunities to remind your team what great customer service looks like. Whether it is a daily 15-minute huddle or weekly update e-mail newsletter, be sure to reinforce often your customer service performance standards. Repeat it often to make it stick.
Regularly ask “What are you hearing?” to get feedback from those who are directly interacting with your customers. Listen, act, and let them know what you did.
And if you want your employees to make it a habit to deliver outstanding customer service, you need to make it a habit to thank them when they do. For example, share customer feedback and rave reviews you earn on Yelp or TripAdvisor with everyone.
QUI TAKEAWAY: Select the right people. Educate them on what great customer service looks like in your business. And then continually remind and recognize them when they deliver it. Only then will you strengthen the interpersonal skills of your staff to drive their success and yours.