Never underestimate the power of customer service

Never underestimate the power of customer service

Let’s face it. No matter how much you love your life, when your honeymoon in paradise is over, it can be hard to move on! Such as it was when my daughter and her new husband spied their expensive luggage coming around the conveyer belt with only 1 ½ wheels, transporting them immediately back to reality. All prepared to submit a damage claim and then lug their luggage to their taxi, the newlyweds got in line at the customer service counter. As they lifted their bag to display the damage, before either of them could even open their mouths to speak, the customer service specialist immediately greeted them with a sincere apology. Quickly, she came around the counter and escorted them through a nearby door into a room filled with all types and sizes of brand new luggage. “Here, these bags are similar to yours,” she said. “Please choose any one you would like as a replacement.” No form. No excuse. No waiting. Satisfaction. The end.

Now, consider this experience: My friend’s satellite radio subscription came to the end of the 12-month discount period and, as he does every year, he called to get a discount for the next 12 months. As always, he got the current discount requested and an offer for a free radio (a $100 value).  After confirming six times that the radio was absolutely free and there would be no charge unless the monthly service was activated, he accepted the radio. (Hey, being the sports nut that he was, if his radio ever failed, he would need a backup.)  A few days later, after seeing an unexpected $79 charge on his credit card, he phoned the company to inquire. He learned that, although the initial customer service representative confirmed over and over again that the radio was free, by accepting the “free” radio, he authorized the charge for an additional monthly subscription plan. If he wanted to cancel, his only option was to return the “free” radio. When he stated that he didn’t want to pay for the return, the customer service representative said that although he would be charged for the return, when the radio was received back at the warehouse, he would be credited for both the radio and for the cost of the return.  Did he cancel? Oh boy did he. He cancelled both subscriptions and now listens to engaging sportscasts from another provider.  Form. Excuse. Waiting. Waiting. Credit. Waiting. Credit. Satisfaction. The end.

Customer Service: Push vs. Pull

Although both of the above situations were resolved there is no doubt that the “push” customer service in the first story far exceeded the “pull” experience in the second.  For many of us, the emotions surrounding what we get are even more important to us than the fact that we receive what we expect (or deserve). And the next time we have to choose a favorite, you’d better believe that there will be one less horse in the race.

What can you do to create the memorable experience that will turn ordinary customers into fans? Consider engaging your team with a book (one of my favorites): Joseph Michelli’s “The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary Into Extraordinary.” In the book, Michelli outlines five principles to transform a humdrum customer service experience into a phenomenal one.

Here are the five principles:

Principle 1: Make It Your Own – Encourage your employees and teammates to “be” about the brand and personalize that service as much as possible to each individual customer.

Principle 2: Everything Matters – No detail is too big or too small and no one job is more important than the next. Care and a thoughtful approach to even the smallest details—like giving a customer a glass of water while he or she waits—can make a big difference.

Principle 3: Surprise and Delight – Remember how excited you used to get when the doctor would give you a lollipop for good behavior? Even though you’re not 5 years old anymore, that same sense of surprise and delight still gives you a good feeling when someone does something especially wonderful for you right out of the blue. Apply that sentiment to customers with appreciation perks and other “just because” acts from time to time.

Principle 4: Embrace Resistance – Try as you may, you can’t make everyone happy 100% of the time. Address unhappy customers and ask them for their thoughts as to how you can do a better job. This demonstrates a willingness to own up to faults and improve.

Principle 5: Leave Your Mark – Business is more than just turning a profit. It gives companies and employees a chance to make a positive impact. Take care of your employees, customers and your community in ways that extend far beyond the monetary.

The five key leadership principles open the door to endless opportunities that can help you increase not only the customer experience but also make your organization a better place to work.

By going above and beyond the call of ordinary customer service, your actions will pay off in the form of customer loyalty. In a day and age when customers share their experiences with friends around the globe on social media or review sites, being the company that goes the extra mile to bring their customers a smile can really go a long way. Doing so not only can help you from a business standpoint but sometimes just feels darn good to know you’ve done something nice for someone else.

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