6 Steps for Delivering Exceptional Customer Service in 2021
After 40 years focused solely on customer service, I continue to devote my time and energy to helping businesses create a service culture. I have written hundreds of articles, developed more than 20 customer service programs, and just released Relentless, my eighth customer service book.
The point I try to get across to everyone is… You are in the service business. Most companies think they’re in manufacturing or retail. It’s a paradigm switch. Amazon is successful because it understands that it’s a customer service company that just happens to be the largest Internet-based retailer in the world. Does it pay off to be focused solely on customer service? Amazon’s net sales were predicted to increase 32.4% to about $310 billion in 2020. The company represents about 39% of e-commerce. Answer: Yes it does pay off, as customers celebrate excellent buying experiences.
Here are the 6 steps I tell everyone are needed for creating a service culture. It works every time!
1) Understand that you’re in the service business. Starbucks is successful because they understand they’re a customer service company that just happens to sell great coffee.
2) Look at all the policies, procedures, and systems you have in place that make life miserable for customers. You could have the nicest people in the world, but also stupid hours, stupid rules, or stupid procedures that irritate customers. Stupid policies, procedures, and systems keep customers from coming back.
3) Promote empowerment. Every employee must be able to make fast and powerful decisions on the spot – and they’d better be in favor of the customer!
4) Be selective about everyone you hire. Service leaders hire one out of 50 applicants, sometimes one out of 100, and they’re very careful. You have to look for the cream, the A players, instead of bringing on B and C players.
5) Educate and train the whole staff on the art of customer service with something new and fresh every 4 to 6 months. It doesn’t matter if you have 100, 1,000, or 10,000 employees; you’d better have something new and fresh constantly in front of them so when they go to work they say, “Fantastic, I’m taking care of customers.”
6) Measure the results financially so you know the impact customer service is making on revenue, profit, and market share. You must track the numbers so you understand that it’s worth the time and effort.
My methods shouldn’t shock anyone – and it’s likely that most successful businesses are doing some or all of these things already. However, I think it’s the commitment to following through on all 6 that establishes a great service culture.
5 critical elements for customer service success
Now let me share with you the 5 critical elements necessary for excellent service.
First, you must have speed. Speed allows you to be different in the marketplace. It’s not going from 10 hours to 9 hours, it’s how do you do it in the next few minutes.
Second, it’s important to empower employees. They must do whatever they have to do – on the spot – to ensure that every customer who walks out of the store, hangs up the phone, or steps away from the Internet thinks they’ve gone to heaven.
Third, quality in whatever service or product you’re selling is essential.
Fourth is quality in customer service. Quality customer service is highly intangible. If you asked 100 customers to define it, you would get 100 different answers.
Finally, I stress the importance of using the customer’s name, remembering the customer, and making each customer feel special. Take Apple, for instance. I always have a great experience because they combine technology, speed, quality, and service. They dominate because they understand how a service culture works, and they always call every customer by name. It’s part of their procedure, part of their culture.
After all these years I have not changed my focus. I am still devoted to customer service, to using all my energy to help organizations and individuals become as successful as possible, and it all starts with Customer Service.
John Tschohl is a professional speaker, trainer, and consultant. He is president and founder of Service Quality Institute, with operations in more than 40 countries. He is considered one of the foremost authorities on service strategy, success, empowerment, and customer service. His monthly strategic newsletter is available online at no charge. He can also be reached on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
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