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Are the Days of Good Customer Service Over? These 7 Hacks Can Bring it to Life at Your Company Blow away the competition by using customer service and customer experience to make your company stand out, and to build true customer engagement and loyalty — while inspiring your employees as well.

By Micah Solomon

Key Takeaways

  • Customer expectations have grown higher and higher, and customer service levels haven't kept up.
  • Exceptional customer service requires room for interpretation, with your employees making those interpretations.
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As a customer service trainer, speaker, and consultant, I am approached by all sorts of people who tell me all sorts of things. Some refrains are, "Customer service is dead," "Nobody provides customer service like they did back in the day," or even, "Kids these days don't know how to give good customer service."

I don't buy into this negative strain of sentiment. I think what's going on is that customer expectations have grown higher and higher, and customer service levels haven't kept up. But to the extent that today's customers — your potential customers — feel this way about your competitors in the marketplace, there's an extraordinary opportunity for your business to get ahead of the curve and use exceptional customer service as a competitive advantage.

Related: 4 Ways Brands Can Educate Their Customers and Win Hearts

As a start, consider this list of pointers.

1. Stress a pro-customer purpose to all employees

Employees need to know that you want them to step away from their functional tasks if a purpose-driven task requires a different use of their time at the moment.

The thing about above and beyond customer service is that it, by definition, requires extra effort. These extra efforts are elective; employees (no matter what their delusional bosses may believe) can contribute or withhold at their discretion. We all know people who keep their work level just above where HR would come in with a performance improvement plan and thus stay under the radar without contributing much at all.

You need to get that additional, creative effort out of your employees, and a key factor in doing so is in stressing, from onboarding onward, the importance of a pro-customer purpose that takes you above and beyond your functional, checklist-style duties.

2. Empower employees at every level of your organization

If you get serious about employee empowerment, you'll move a lot further and a lot more quickly toward being an organization where purpose-driven employees contribute their elective efforts. Exceptional customer service requires room for interpretation, with your employees making those interpretations, deciding, and bringing to life what exceptional customer service really looks like in action.

And if they lack empowerment — power, really — they'll remain hobbled, no matter how good their intentions.

Related: Want a Customer Service Revolution? Start By Changing Your Culture

3. Review and revamp your employee selection (hiring) criteria.

Restaurateur Danny Meyer has written and spoken eloquently about the mix of skill and attitude criteria that can reveal an ideal new employee together. Personality traits are generally stable and unlikely to change once people reach their 20s, so it's valuable to look for a pro-customer orientation in every potential employee you consider, alongside whatever skills criteria you are also screening for.

4. Celebrate your customer service accomplishments companywide

I suggest you systematize this celebration along the lines of what has worked for years—decades, actually — for the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. Twice a week, every Ritz-Carlton hotel and resort shares a "wow story" of over-and-above hospitality from one of its more than 100 properties. This works wonders in inspiring all the employees who hear these stories to contribute similarly wow-level customer service themselves.

5. Adapt to the rapid pace of response that modern customers expect

Review and, if necessary, update your response times to meet today's customer expectations: What was "fast enough" a couple of years ago is no longer.

Related: 4 Keys to Satisfying 21st Century Customers

6. Involve everyone in customer experience innovation

Great customer service should constantly be growing and adapting. Get people at all levels and all positions in your organization excited about contributing suggestions for innovation. At the very customer-centric insurance and financial behemoth USAA, employees have been responsible for over 1,000 patented innovations!

These come from every corner of the company (one security guard alone is responsible for contributing 28 patented ideas!) Be sure to explain that multiple areas are available for (and need) innovation. While everyone thinks of innovation as product-based, it's only one of the three areas that are ripe for contributions:

  • Product: what you sell or make; in spite of the name, this includes services as well as goods.
  • Process: how you make your product or service and how you sell it.
  • Business model: how your company is conceptualized and organized.

7. Embrace the triangular model when considering technology, including AI

In the customer service triangle framework, the human agent occupies one vertex, the customer the next, and AI or other technology the third. These three entities should work interactionally rather than in an either-or manner. A customer who started interacting with your company via AI can switch to a human agent, for instance.

But after that handoff, AI will still be involved behind the scenes for the agent to serve the customer best. And the customer can also be expected to use AI themselves, even while they're speaking to the agent (most likely the world's biggest AI experiment, Google).

Micah Solomon

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Customer Service Consultant, Trainer

Customer service transformation expert, consultant, author, keynote speaker. Named "World's #1 customer service transformation expert" by Inc. Magazine. Reachable at micahsolomon.com. Very happy to hear from any readers at any time.

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