Customer service is an overused term that we are beat over the head with constantly, but it implies that you're only serving customers and nothing more. Yet there are so many opportunities to convert a one-time buyer into a life-long customer by creating an environment that eats, sleeps and breathes service. To do this, though, you must go well beyond expectations.
There are two key words from the previous sentence that dictate true customer service, "beyond expectations." You need to create situations that leave your customers in awe of the level of service you’ve provided, well beyond their wildest expectations. If you are good at this, they are going to tell at least a handful people about your exceptional service with a chance of at least one of them becoming a new customer. Growth by word of mouth is good, right?
The great news is that the world is full of companies that could care less about their customers, or so it seems based on the terrible service they provide. This means that you don’t have to come up with a life-altering plan, you just need to provide much better service than your competitors, and maybe even get a little creative.
Start simple with customer communication. One of the easiest and most impactful ways to provide over-the-top customer service is to respond to calls and emails from your customers with lightning speed for as long as you can. If you can’t respond personally, you must find a way to make the response feel personal.
The reality is we’re all accustomed to sending out an email and maybe receiving a template response a few days later, which often doesn’t have any application to the actual question we’ve asked -- key word there being "maybe." You can easily overcome this by creating a process inside your company that has rigid standards for rapid and personal response to customer communication.
For example, start with a plan to respond to all calls and emails within two hours of receipt during normal business hours -- and even respond outside of normal hours … gasp! If this doesn’t work for your business, set a goal but make sure it’s at least moderately unreasonable -- you’ll need to push yourself to truly dazzle your customers.
Make employees feel like owners. It’s easy in the beginning to keep an exceptional level of customer service because you control it -- because, well, you’re the only one doing it. The difficulty comes when you bring on outside help from people that don’t have the personal or financial incentive in the success of the company -- yes, you can give them equity but that often isn’t enough to get them to act like an owner.
As a leader, it’s your job to create an environment that allows them autonomy and decision-making ability with respect to their roles. Let them own their positions so they’ll actually care about them, the result of which is that your customers' minds will be blown with the otherworldly service they receive.
Under promise and over deliver. One of my greatest pet peeves revolves around people or companies that say they are going to do something then simply don’t, a common customer-service folly that I think most would agree with. With that said, you are at a great advantage by being able to control the customer’s interaction with your company and brand, so use the opportunity to be modest with your guarantees while continuing to blow their expectations out of the water by over-delivering results.
You’ll find examples of this point with companies such as Zappos, which built its business around a very customer-centric model and over-delivered with speedy shipping -- along with a laundry list of unique service features.
Although this example is a good one -- they did sell to Amazon for more than a billion dollars -- it isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution. You must take a look at your business and the pain points of your customers to find the diamonds in the rough. That’s where you’ll find opportunities that create long-lasting customers.