The key to great customer service
If you work with people, then you are in the customer service business - whether you are supporting staff in their work, helping clients of your workplace, or dealing with enquiries from the public.
Most of us already know what great customer service is. But I think the more important question is why aren’t we always giving customers a great experience?
While not making excuses, I think there are barriers that often get in the way of us performing at our best:
- We become busy and it’s easy to forget what is important
- Our work becomes routine – we have seen it all before
- We see many 'difficult' customers which makes us guarded
- We are unhappy at home or work and this is impacting on the service we give
- Systems at work get in the way of delivering good customer service
- Our workplace grows and we think a particular customer is someone else’s responsibility
Overcoming these barriers can take a range of actions. But there is one solution that produces instant results. And that solution is finding the right mindset.
As with so many things, our thinking determines our behaviour. If we can get our mindset right, it becomes far easier to give our customers a great experience.
Here are some examples of thinking that helps:
How can I make this person feel good?
I remember one lovely Sales Assistant I met at a service station who started making Ken and Barbie jokes when she saw I was still wearing a nametag after presenting earlier that day. She later told me there was always something to tease customers about. She said she saw her job as being paid to make people smile.
When we genuinely care about making our customers feel good, we are quickly making assessments as to what a particular person will need and then running an experiment. Sometimes, our attempts fall flat, but here we quickly adapt our approach.
Some customers value a genuine, personal connection. Others in a hurry appreciate a speedy response. Then there are others who have had a hard day who might appreciate some lightness added to their day.
There really is no such thing as altruism, where we give to others and receive nothing back in return. When our focus is on making others feel good, we also experience the feel-goods that come from providing great service.
I can find a way to help.
This type of thinking encourages creative ways to help, even if the service a particular customer is wanting is not a service provided by you or your workplace.
I recall one bus driver in Sydney, who when he found out we had just missed our bus, told us to hop on. We took our seats and held on while he accelerated and took short-cuts through suburban streets until he pulled over at a bus stop just in front of the bus we needed. He then refused to take payment. While I am not sure as to how many road rules he ignored, we were very impressed that he found a way to help.
Sometimes, there might be flexibility in how you or your workplace normally does things. Other times, you might simply ask questions so you can better understand your client’s situation, finding out what has worked before, what ideas they might have, perhaps even referring them to someone else who is a better position to help.
How can I be memorable for the right reasons?
People delivering service are often memorable when they do something unexpected. Certainly the bus-driver in the story above did something unexpected. But we can also pleasantly surprise people when we relate to them in ways they are not used to.
I recall one lovely lady who works for Centrelink who gives a beautiful personable response to clients of her agency. She uses everyone’s name and lets everyone know her first name as well.
For those doing it hard, she gives genuine empathy. For others, she often adopts an approach with a sense of fun – “Fred, you will have to stand in this line over here … but I am only putting the good looking people in this particular queue today!”
Complaints are an opportunity to get things on track and improve what I do.
If you see some of your customers as rude, difficult or disrespectful, you can imagine the demeanour you will project. Given that the majority of our communication is with our body language and tone, the ‘this customer is a problem’ mindset might have you communicating messages that make the situation worse.
Those who excel in customer service often see these customers as giving valuable feedback or giving an opportunity to improve the service given or repair the relationship with this customer. Some see such customers as a positive challenge, to win them over.
Yes, there are other things that determine truly great customer service. But I think that having the right mindset is the most important.
For me, I try to help people whether or not they become paying clients. My ‘difficult’ customers are always right (even when they are wrong). And I am always looking for ways to improve.
What thinking works for you?