“Great” Customer Service

By SBDC Business Consultant Kay Remar/Athens Office
Many business owners say they offer great customer service, quality customer service, exceptional customer service or some other description of the customer service they provide. But what does “great” service really mean? What does it look, sound and feel like to the customer? What do you do intentionally to “WOW” your customers? If you are a business owner or an employee, are you reliable, competent, and helpful? Are you creating experiences for customers that will inspire them to tell stories about you?
You’ve probably heard the phrase: “Customer service is not a department, it is an attitude.” Although a positive, empathetic and compassionate attitude is very important, customer service also has to be part of the company culture. “Great” service is a choice but it doesn’t just happen. There has to be a vision and a plan and the plan has to be executed diligently every day by every employee with every customer. It has to be given joyfully with a sense of ease and grace. To be great or exceptional, customer service has to come from the heart.
Why is customer service so important?
• 90% of customers make buying decisions based on the service they receive.
• It helps to build strong relationships.
• It creates lifetime customers.
• It will grow a business.
• It may be the only competitive advantage a business has.
• It inspires great word-of-mouth stories.
Most business owners know the importance of a business plan, a strategic plan and even a marketing plan. But rarely is there a customer service plan. “Great” customer service can be one of the most powerful and economical marketing/sales strategies a business can implement. It requires outside the box thinking to determine how to exceed customer expectations. You have to put yourself in the shoes of the customer. What do they want, need and expect from you? Many business owners and employees say they treat their customers according to the “golden rule” which is to treat customers the way you want to be treated. However, to have truly great service, implementing the “platinum rule” would be a better choice. The “platinum rule” is to treat customers the way they want to be treated. That requires a person to be a good listener and to have empathy and compassion.
What to remember about “great” service:
• There has to be a clear vision.
• It has to be a way of life, not a rare occurrence.
• You have to plan for failure and determine how to resolve issues quickly.
• To do it better, you have to do it differently.
• Take care of your customer or someone else will.
• Focus on what your customer really wants and give it to them consistently.
• Please your customer, value them and let them know you think of them often.
So what should a customer service plan include?
• Who’s responsible and what authority does each person have.
• Various ways to greet customers.
• Questions that will help you uncover the customer’s needs, wants or desires.
• A list of solutions or actions that can resolve the most common customer problems or complaints quickly.
• Predetermined actions that can be implemented if you really fail.
• Actions or comments that will delight and exceed customer expectations. Actions that will really “WOW” your customers and make lasting impressions. Impressions that will bring them back and inspire “great” word-of-mouth stories.
• Various ways to thank a customer.
• Always have specific follow-up actions to implement.
• If you want lifetime customers you must be top of mind when a customer is ready to purchase. That means a minimum of 7 touches a year. The plan should include what those touches will be.
Two more very important requirements for “great” customer service are a budget and a training program.
So what is your customer service vision? Determine what it will be, what it looks like, sounds like and feels like to the customer. Create a plan and implement it by living it, breathing it and working it every day and then….. start listening for those “great” customer service stories that will keep your customers coming back and bringing new ones through the door.

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