Customer service is king…and all of that. Did you just groan or roll your eyes? Yes, me too.

Aha! Now that I’ve got caught your eye, I thought it was time to talk about why everyone knows it’s important, but pays so very little attention to actually following through on its delivery.

What is customer service? You might have seen something along the lines of consistently exceeding the expectations of the customer. And whilst that’s nice – if your customer service is left in the hands of someone who is inexperienced – they usually haven’t the slightest clue what exceeding customer expectations means. So let’s investigate further.

The dictionary defines service (verb – as in to be of service) as providing help – which in turn means to do whatever is necessary to satisfy a need, contribute to, to render assistance, to save or rescue, to make it easier or less difficult or to be useful.

Now think about your last interaction with someone who was supposed to render that service. The person you interacted with might have been polite or even friendly but did they really achieve any of the above? No? What about the last 10 interactions you had? Still no? Sad, huh!

Okay – there has to be someone. Think back to those great customer experiences you’ve had – when someone went out of their way to help you. Make a list. How many have you got? Not many I bet. When I did this, I was surprised at just how few instances I’d really experienced…in my life. And you’ll know it when you remember it. These people made you feel fantastic, so much so you wanted to do business again and again.

There’s a great piece of research that found 68% of customers will change service providers because they don’t feel cared for enough. 68%!! That’s a lot of business that’s waiting for someone to pay attention to them.

So if customer service makes good business sense, why isn’t it everywhere? How do we get real customer service into back into our businesses and have it delivered the right way – in a way that’s meaningful to the recipient?

1. Customer Service is About Them – Not You

Yes, in a way that’s meaningful to the recipient. And that’s where so many ‘customer service’ programs go wrong. They start with the hygiene factor stuff – smiling, being polite, being timely, checklists, etc instead of what the customer actually needs. Exceptional customer service has to start with a genuine interest in you helping them with their needs – not trying to get something for yourself.

That might be listening, getting them a coffee, glass of water, organising freight, helping carry something, taking up a hem, passing on a great piece of information or just plain listening to them – yes, sometimes your customer might just need someone to talk to.  What’s meaningful to your customers?

2. Customer Service is About Respect

I believe great customer service starts with respect. How many times have you heard people talk about their customers and roll their eyes, or denegrate them in some way. It’s everywhere. There’s a piece of research I read somewhere that said one of the greatest predictors of marital breakdown is that spouses roll their eyes at each other – why because it’s a sign of true disrespect. And although a customer might not see it being done, they can feel it in the interaction. And it’s not pleasant. And they will divorce the organisation and take their business elsewhere rather than experience it again. How can you check this doesn’t happen inside your organisation?

3. Customer Service is About How You Make Them Feel

If the customer feels that they’re an imposition, stupid or irrelevant, they might buy once, but that will be it. They’ll find another way to do it next time. Think back to those few instances you thought about earlier – those people made you feel fantastic or that you really mattered in some way. What can you do to make your customers feel they matter?

4. Customer Service isn’t a Title

It’s not something you do to or for someone, rather it’s something you do WITH them. It’s about shared experience – be it a moment, an idea, a heart-felt compliment, a contact. What can you do to create a shared moment with your customers?

5. Customer Service isn’t Just the Role of ‘Customer Service Staff’

That responsibility belongs to everyone within any organisation. One instance we’ve seen is a brag wall for what I did to assist a customer this week where every staff member tries to outdo each other in service. It gets the messages that the customer is king and excellent service is critical to the organisation’s culture. As long as it’s meaningful for the customer, imagine how those customers are feeling about that organisation?!

And there you have it. The only way to really know what’s really important your customers or clients if you’re a service based business is to ask them. How? Now is the perfect time to organise a customer satisfaction survey, so that you can start 2013 with a really solid idea of what’s important to them.

If we can help take some of your dreaded admin off your hands so that you can focus on what’s really important to your business – serving your customers, we’d be delighted to assist. You can call us on 9994 8000 and put our customer service levels to the test.