Providing Customer Service

By Lindy Earl

Who has an example of when they received bad service?  And good service? Who has an example of when they’ve given bad service? And given good service?  Isn’t it funny which ones stand out to you?

Bad customer service is responsible for thousands of dollars of lost revenue.  And, it is well remembered.  Even when people no longer recall the details, they remember that they didn’t receive good service so they don’t like a specific company.  Not only do you lose future business from this person, but possibly their friends and any referrals that they may have shared. It is therefore paramount that you make a decision up front that you will always offer excellent customer service.

            One of the challenges of bad customer service is that it shares the same challenge as defining porn—you don’t know how to define it, but you know it when you see it (with thanks to Supreme Court Justice Stone).

For instance, a focus group was held within Walmart, where they queried what constituted a clean store. No response. Okay, what’s not clean? The answers offered were immediate: dirty bathrooms, unorganized shelves, and stained floors, all received within a few minutes by three different customers. Wow!  No general agreement on what is clean, but we know it when it’s not clean, according to our own preferences.  So now Walmart has three distinct challenges to face daily.  No wonder it’s hard to provide good customer service if we all define it by our own experiences and preferences.

In considering customer service, a safe approach might be to consider how you want to be treated. You can now create a set of rules, so you have a specific list when training new reps.  You’ll also have a list to refer to when reprimanding a rep; and you’ll have something to show disgruntled clients. One of the joys of having an SOP (Standard Operating Procedures) Manual is that it shows that you have invested in standards within your company.

A large portion of customer service is communication.  Often, people have no idea that they have failed to communicate with one another until both have gone their separate ways and an issue arises.  General rules for communication:  Think before you speak; you have two ears and one mouth for a reason; be specific even to the point of being redundant.

Along with this, really listen to your clients.  Sometimes they just need to vent.  Your willingness to listen to them may be enough to not only appease them, but make them a loyal customer.

Further, act.  It’s a lovely thought to consider sending a thank you note for a referral, but it’s not worth the paper it’s written on until you do it.  So don’t walk away just thinking that you should do something. Actually take action to improve customer service immediately.

We know what good customer service is because we know what bad customer service is.  To truly offer good customer service it takes an investment.  Think ahead about the message you want to send to your customers – that they are important to you; that they are appreciated; that they are a vital part of your business.  Tell them and show them.  Train ALL your employees in Customer Service.  Invest in your team.  Have a plan, as part of your SOP, of how to treat all customers and how to handle any issues.  Make yourself available to listen to clients, and to respond to needs and wants.  You don’t want to just provide customer service, you want to provide Excellent Customer Service.

Lindy is a Speaker, Consultant, and Business Author, currently living in Atlanta, GA, and available to answer your questions anywhere in the world. Focusing on Communication, Leadership, and Corporate Culture, you can be more successful with Lindy as your Coach.