By Jeff Wuorio
In the business world, good customer service often isn’t good enough anymore.
Customers and clients are becoming increasingly disenchanted with the merely adequate. For them, extraordinary service is the rule, not the exception. Anything less, and they’re happy to vote with their feet and their wallets.
That makes extraordinary service necessary, not just desirable. And that, in turn, mandates a strategy to help ensure that your business matches that standout service standard on a daily basis.
Here are seven ideas and tips to help your business establish and maintain an ongoing climate of service excellence.
1. Define what extraordinary really means. It’s an easy term to toss about, but knowing what exceptional service entails is essential to establishing the procedures and the mindset with which to achieve it. So, delineate what extraordinary means – is it lower price? Keeping appointments on time, or making certain that telephone service reps always say “please” and “thank you”? By knowing precisely what is merely good enough – and what takes your business beyond that – you get a firm handle on what you need to do to hit that goal on a consistent basis. For 1-800-Got-Junk? that means calling a customer to let them know that the van they’re expecting is going to arrive on time. “We pledge to arrive on time, in a clean shiny truck, with two friendly uniformed drivers – but so can anyone. What makes us unique is, our truck crew will call the customer 15 minutes ahead of time, and let them know we’re on time,” says Christopher Bennett of the Vancouver, B. C., junk removal service. “This has a huge impact on the customer. Calling ahead sets exceptional expectations – even if we’re running late, the customer appreciates the call in advance.”
2. Ask if you’re not sure. Many companies may find it
understandably difficult to genuinely pinpoint what extraordinary service really entails. So, do some legwork. Conduct focus groups with customers to see what they really value. Ask your complaint department, if you have one, to identify topics that are frequent targets of dissatisfaction. Often, you may find extraordinary translates to a holistic grouping of issues, not just one product or service. “Often, being extraordinary means offering someone a truly exceptional experience,” says Dr. Noelle Nelson, author of The Power of Appreciation in Business. “The quality of something may be good, but it’s the overall experience that will really define customer loyalty.”
3. Allow your people to be extraordinary. Saying you want extraordinary service and actually carrying it out is a tough nut without the necessary authority. One of the biggest challenges of providing a consistently top-drawer performance is shifting conditions – what’s appropriate for one customer may not work with another. For instance, one customer may be so dissatisfied that a partial refund may be in order. By contrast, other customers who are a bit less peeved may be happy with a problem solved without any sort of refund. So, allow employees reasonable freedom of choice to read a situation and react accordingly. For instance, Nelson suggests giving employees a budgetary allotment which they can use, as needed, to address refunds or other unexpected costs associated with giving customers the benefit of the doubt. To illustrate: Southwest Airlines gives its telephone customer service reps the authority to OK refunds if a caller claims they didn’t get the airfare they wanted.
4. Share information.