Making your business stand out with excellent customer service is easier than you think. To some business owners, taking on the task of providing outstanding customer service sounds daunting. You have to set up a whole new set of rules for your employees to follow and constantly enforce and maintain it. For example, you might have to review and fix the different ways a customer communicates with your business, re-write your policies, and figure out a new way to hire the right people for the job. You may have to set up chatbots so that you can more promptly respond to customer inquiries. You think you’ll have to read countless books and watch tons of videos on how you can deliver great customer service, and you may be worried that customers will take advantage of your business.
These are very real and reasonable concerns. But what if I told you it doesn’t have to be that complicated? And that your competition is actually making it easy for you?
Here’s the thing: You don’t need to dive in and completely flip over your business. I mean, you can if you want, but a great way to stand out without doing that is to just change one thing.
Very few businesses out there deliver great customer service. Most businesses hardly even deliver good customer service, let alone great customer service.
Like this video explains, if outstanding customer service was a place, it would be a barren desert with tumbleweeds and crickets. If you Google “the extra mile” you’ll find posters telling you how lonely of a place it is. And it’s like that for the plain and simple reason that people are naturally selfish. We as humans are born thinking about self-preservation. Our own needs come first, then we think about other people. Which there is nothing wrong with that! It’s just something you have to do.
The point is, you gotta get this through your head, or it’ll be hard for you to deliver that outstanding customer service you’re promising. A good way to think of it is as your children. If you’re a parent, you probably understand it better than others. When you’re a kid, all you want to think of is what is “mine” and you might carry that mentality with you into adulthood.
It's great that the bar for customer service is set so low. It’s easy to find and easy to huck your competition out of the playing field. The bar is so low, you don’t need to jump very high to get noticed. I would even say you can walk over the bar, it's that low.
All you really need to do is find one thing your competition is no good at (and if you look, you may find many things), and then be good at it!
For example: In the pizza delivery business, Dominos promises to deliver in 30 minutes or you get a discount. Their prompt delivery time makes them stand out, from a customer service standpoint.
Ever heard of Buc-ee’s? (pronounced, ‘Buckies’) Neither have I, it’s a gas station/convenience store in the USA and out of all the gas stations (dare I say on the North American continent). This gas station stands out simply for having clean washrooms.
It can be a simple as just providing the service you offer as painlessly as possible. Life is hard enough as it is and if your guest just went through a bad day at work or had to beat the traffic to get to you, can you imagine how relieved they would be if the next process they had to go through is quick and easy?
In plain and simple words, having great customer service will contribute to the success of your business. And just in case you’re still second guessing on whether this will make a difference, here are some stats for you:
American Express tells us that one-third of consumers say they would consider switching companies after just one bad customer service experience.
American Express also tells us that the majority of Americans decide not to purchase something, because of a bad customer service experience. And, the average American tells approximately 15 people about their ‘terrible experience’.
Statistics from Kolsky lets us know that 91% of customers who are unhappy with a company will just leave without saying a word.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you must know, bad experiences are easier to remember than good ones, and will spread like wildfire.
No matter how good a business is, there will always be unsatisfied customers. So it’s essential that you know how to deal with them and how to deal with them well.
Also, to note, there is no way you can provide great service with rules and policies. While they have their place, there is no way you can solve every problem while navigating around rules and regulations. For example, Nordstrom mainly embraces one rule with their employees and it is, “Use good judgement in all situations.” See how this frees them up to provide the stellar service they're known for?
So what do you do with an angry customer? Drumroll, please . . . Just be a good listener. I know, I know. It sounds cliche and it seems like it'd be common sense, but honestly, the act of listening is a skill many people are far from mastering. And it's so important, that there’s tons of education out there on how to get better at it.
Remember Dale Carnegie's famous book, “How To Win Friends and Influence People"? The entire book is about listening and being empathetic but no one would buy it if they called it something like “How To Listen To People”.
For that reason, really tap into how you can sharpen your listening skills and it'll take you so much further. Here's a snippet from the book that'll really drive this point. A man who once met one of the greatest listeners in the early 1900s, Sigmund Freud, described his experience: "It struck me so forcibly that I shall never forget him. He had qualities which I had never seen in any other man. Never had I seen such concentrated attention. There was none of that piercing 'soul penetrating gaze' business. His eyes were mild and genial. His voice was low and kind. His gestures were few. But the attention he gave, his appreciation of what I said, even when I said it badly, was extraordinary. You've no idea what it meant to be listened to like that."
This kind of listening is still highly valued (and very rare) to this day.
To start, when someone comes blundering to you to tell you how angry they are, they want to vent and the best thing you can do is listen to what they’re saying. The more they talk, the more they feel like they’re being heard so ask lots of open-ended questions, questions that don’t just end in a ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
Asking questions will also help you get as much information as possible to understand the situation and come up with a solution.
While you do that, sprinkle in their name as much as possible. It makes you sound a lot more empathetic when you say their name back to them. It’s also less robotic than saying ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am’.
After they vent, you’ll also want to repeat back to them what they said. Try using their own words too. To them, it’ll feel like you’re speaking their language and understanding them.
The respectable thing you should do is take ownership of your mistakes and tell them how you plan to resolve the issue or, even better, give them some choices.
As for the end solution, you’ll have to get creative, but this is where you can show them how you’re better than your competition.
Keep in mind, the solution you come up with will reflect on the customer wether you were really listening or not.
I don't just want to leave you with nothing for the most important part so here are some examples of where businesses went the extra mile to solve a problem.
Trader Joe’s is popular for the story of delivering food to a woman’s elderly father when there was an impending snowstorm, and no one else would.
Or the Ritz Carlton hotel for getting special eggs and milk for a boy with food allergies delivered from Singapore to where they were in Balin.
And there are a lot of stories of Nordstrom. The most popular being the time a man showed up to return tires, and even though they didn’t sell tires, they refunded them anyway.
In the end, you don’t have to dread dealing with unsatisfied customers because customer complaints are opportunities to shine. If you do a good job, the customer can leave your conversation with a good impression of your business. Who knows, if you go far enough you may even set the gold standard for customer service, as Nordstrom did!
If you haven't yet, I really encourage you to read "How To Win Friends And Influence People" by Dale Carnegie because it'll really help set the foundation for better listening.
Providing great customer service doesn't have to be hard. Just find one thing your competition is horrible at, and you'll shine in the eyes of your customers. It's worth looking into, because stats show how detrimental unhappy customers can be for your business. Even if you run the best business in the world, there will still be unsatisfied customers and you'll have to know how to deal with them. The best thing you can do with an angry customer is to listen effectively, and respond promptly. If responding promptly is hard for you, simply hire a dedicated copywriter to help you set up chatbots with perfected copy that automatically answers common customer questions.
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