Being good enough is no longer enough. As the market becomes more competitive, the demand for great customer service increases. We are no longer competing with rival companies in our own field; we are up against the best in the world.
Our customers understand great customer service. Now they want it from all the companies they deal with. They’ve been to Disney World, ordered from L.L. Bean and Nordstrom’s, booked airline tickets and rental cars on Expedia—and they know how easy those transactions can be. Now they want it from us too.
Our customers are accustomed to buying anything, anytime, from anywhere in the world with just the swipe of a finger on Amazon. We need to deliver that type of service. It is both ironic and challenging that as printed circuit boards technology exponentially rises, so does the challenge to deliver quotes almost immediately.
Some people look at these challenges and just shrug their shoulders in resignation. Of course, this is not the right thing to do. We must dedicate ourselves and our companies to delivering the best customer service experience in our own marketplace and find ways to be better than everyone else.
So, what does that mean exactly? I believe it’s being focused on the customer: Talking to them, getting close to them, and having a complete understanding of their worldview. We need to know their business, market, customers, and products. We need to know what these things are like today and what they will be like tomorrow as well.
Great customer service is not reactive, it is proactive. Great customer service is not random, it is purposeful. It takes a lot of work.
Here are some of the lessons we teach and the tools we use when training our team to produce and deliver great customer service:
- Bring the customer to the table. Teach them about the customer, what they need to always know and be aware of. Knowing and understanding what your customer needs is the first step in producing and delivering a great customer experience.
- Always be “on.” This is a 360-degree experience. Every time the customer encounters your company and anyone on your team is an integral part of their customer experience. From the way you answer the phone, greet them at reception, how your salespeople act, respond to questions, deliver that first quote, and everything thereafter—it’s all part of the customer experience. It’s also about the questions you ask, produce their products, deliver on time, and produce great quality. It’s all the time, every time. When it comes to customer experience, we are on every minute of every day. Unfortunately, one slip-up can spoil the whole experience.
- Be a problem-solver. No matter how good you are, you will have a problem occasionally. Every company has problems. Even in the best of companies, sometimes things go wrong. In fact, having a problem can be a real bonus: It provides a fantastic opportunity to show what a great company you really are. Nobody likes problems, especially your customers. Nobody likes telling their suppliers they have a problem. This is because so many times, instead of immediately working with the customer to solve the problem, some companies immediately get defensive and pass the blame. This is the biggest mistake you could make. From the customers’ point of view, it’s doubling down on the problem. Yet this is a time for your great customer service to shine. It’s an opportunity to step up and show what your customer service experience is really all about. I have seen many times where the way we handled and solved a problem became the true cornerstone of a long-lasting customer relationship. It’s true that almost always, great customer-supplier relationships are forged in adversity. Everyone has problems sooner or later but the way a company handles and solves a problem is the true testament of a great customer service-focused company. Customer service is the best way to set a true standard of excellence.
Show me a company that delivers great customer service and I will show you’re a great company, period.