We’re All in the Customer Service Business

Even in our competitive business environment, organizations that pride themselves on great customer service continue to be few and far between. To test that thesis, answer this: How often do you receive exceptional service—the kind where you can tell that the person serving you actually cares about keeping you as a customer?

I rest my case.

Now just for fun, let’s see what happens when I turn it around: When was the last time you gave one of your customers that same kind of exceptional service? If you work in the retail, foodservice, or hospitality industry, or as an online customer service representative or another frontline position, you may deal with hundreds of customers a day. How do you think they would rate your service?

Perhaps you don’t think of yourself as having customers because you aren’t in a customer-facing job—you’re a middle manager, you work on a manufacturing line, or maybe you spend your day looking at spreadsheets in a cubicle. Think about the internal customers you interact with. And parents, teachers, and coaches have customers, too.

In reality, we’re all in the customer service business—and every customer deserves special care. No matter what position you hold, or who your customer is, you can make a positive difference in that person’s life. And doing that may be simpler than you think. Read on!

One of my favorite real-life customer service stories begins with my friend Barbara Glanz giving a speech to hundreds of employees of a major grocery chain. At the end of her speech, Barbara challenged every attendee to think about something small but special they could do on the job—starting the next day—to make their customers feel important.

About a month later, Barbara got a call from a young man named Johnny who had been at her speaking event. As he introduced himself, he mentioned he was 19 years old, worked as a grocery bagger, and had Down syndrome. Johnny told Barbara that after seeing her speak, he went home and talked with his dad about what special thing he might do for his customers. They decided to focus on the fact that Johnny loved to read and collect quotations.

That night, Johnny chose one of his favorite sayings, typed it as many times as it would fit on a single page, and printed 50 copies. He cut the printed lines into strips and signed his name on the back of each one. The next day as Johnny finished bagging each customer’s groceries, he dropped a strip of paper in their bag and said, “I’m putting my favorite saying of the day in your bag. Have a great day!”

After a few weeks had gone by, Barbara was surprised to get a call from Johnny’s store manager. He wanted to let her know that Johnny’s small gesture had changed the store’s whole atmosphere. A few days earlier, the manager had noticed a huge line of customers at Johnny’s station but only a few at the other checkout counters. He tried to get people to change lines, but he kept hearing “I want to be in Johnny’s line so I can get his quote of the day.” One woman shopper even told the manager, “I used to shop here once a week, but now I stop by every day to get one of Johnny’s favorite sayings.” Johnny’s little gesture made a big difference to his customers, his manager, and his store.

To help spread Johnny’s message to more people, Barbara and I wrote a little book called The Simple Truths of Service: Inspired by Johnny the Bagger. It’s filled with true stories about simple acts of service that made a difference and helped build customer loyalty.

Just like Johnny, we all have the ability to make a difference in the lives of our internal and external customers. Remember that the best competitive edge in business isn’t product or price. It’s the way we make our customers feel.

You are in the customer service business. What simple thing can you do today to make your customers feel special?

The Simple Truths of Service

When was the last time you received customer service that was so great you wanted to tell others about it?  Okay, now what about the last time you had a really bad experience as a customer? My guess is that the bad experience will pop into your mind a lot more easily than the good one.

People have always shared customer service stories, good and bad, with each other. But as we all know, these stories are no longer confined to a small circle of friends. Social media has made it easy for both kinds of stories to be shared with hundreds or even thousands of others with a few keystrokes. And many people make their buying decisions based on reviews they find on websites. So as a business owner or manager, how can you ensure you are delivering service that delights your customers so much that they want to brag about it to their friends?

Through the years I’ve learned how even the smallest effort or the simplest change in policy can make a positive difference to an organization. That’s why I’m so excited about the re-release of The Simple Truths of Servicea charming little book I wrote with Barbara Glanz. It is filled with true stories about simple acts of service that build customer loyalty. Barbara and I collected these stories over the years and compiled them into an easy to read book that will spark your imagination about how simple it can be to create loyal customers. It will inspire you to realize that every single person in your company—even you—can make a difference.

The first story is the heartwarming tale of Johnny—a bagger in a grocery store whose one act of kindness transformed the level of service in the entire store. It is proof that a simple message from the heart can sometimes have more power than a company-wide marketing strategy. More true stories follow—all great examples of heartfelt, caring service that turned regular customers into raving fans.

I’ve said for years that if you don’t take care of your customers, somebody else is waiting, ready, and willing to do it. The best competitive edge for a business isn’t their product or their price. It’s how they treat their customers. Make a point of giving your customers a service experience they will remember and share with their friends. You may end up with a story you can brag about!

Learn more about The Simple Truths of Service, or order your copy at Amazon.com.

 

Five Keys to Great Customer Service

Legendary Service Book CoverThink of a time when you experienced really excellent service. Now compare that to a time when the service you received was just acceptable—okay, but nothing special. Which organization do you want to do business with again? I’ll bet it’s the one where someone made you feel valued and cared for—someone who understood the true importance of Legendary Service.

That’s the central message of my latest book, Legendary Service: The Key Is to Care. It’s a story that I think will change the way people look at service. I wrote it with my colleagues Kathy Cuff and Vicki Halsey, two experts on customer service. As coauthors of our Legendary Service customer service training program, Kathy and Vicki have spent years teaching the concepts of Legendary Service to clients in every industry.

What we know from working with companies of all sizes is that most organizations recognize the necessity of offering great customer service, but few really get it right. They zero in on specific tactics or trendy catchphrases, or they provide training to just a small number of people in customer service roles. They don’t understand that the best companies work to create a true service culture—where taking care of customers is everyone’s responsibility, not just the job of the people in the customer service department. These companies look at service from three equally important perspectives:

  1. Frontline service providers, who play a critical role because they are the ones who have direct contact with the customer.
  2. Managers, who not only empower their frontline people to provide exemplary service, but also act as role models for both internal and external service excellence.
  3. Senior leaders, who fully embrace the service initiative and communicate desired behaviors to the entire organization. Their goal is to create an environment where associates feel that they are valued internal customers of the organization so that they, in turn, want to take care of external customers and make them feel valued.

Legendary Service is really an inside-out issue—in two ways. At an organizational level, creating loyal external customers begins by taking care of your internal customers—your people.  At a personal level, providing great service begins when you realize that, as an individual, you have control over the service experience each of your customers receives. You can create a loyal customer by the service you provide.

To get at this dual focus, we use a model we call ICARE. We believe that there are five steps to becoming a Legendary Service provider:

  • Ideal Service: Meet the customer’s needs on a day-to-day basis by acting on the belief that service is important
  • Culture of Service: Foster an environment that focuses on serving the customer
  • Attentiveness: Know your customers and their preferences
  • Responsiveness: Demonstrate a genuine willingness to serve others as you fulfill their individual needs
  • Empowerment: Take the initiative to implement the service vision

We’ve found that the lessons of this simple model, when applied, will have a profound impact on the service experience your customers—both internal and external—will receive.

You can find out more by joining my coauthor Kathy Cuff on April 16 for a free webinar called Creating A Customer Focused Organization, where she will be sharing some of the book’s key concepts. We have also created a special web page where you can take an online quiz about your company’s service mentality and read an excerpt from the book. I hope you’ll check out both of these resources and discover the value of creating a Legendary Service culture in your organization.

Dealing with “The New Normal”

bigstock-Business-man-in-front-of-a-hug-40875844A client recently asked me to speak to their company about “the new normal.” It reminded me of an interview I conducted with Sir Richard Branson on the same topic a couple of years ago. As you know, Sir Richard is an expert on operating in the new normal. His international investment group, the Virgin Group, is one of the world’s most recognized and respected brands and runs successful businesses in several different sectors.

During our interview, I asked Sir Richard how he chooses the different sectors he invests in.

His reply was that he looks for sectors where the current competitors are not as customer focused as they could be. If they are not taking care of their customers, he’ll go into that industry.

But that was just the beginning. In addition to being customer focused, he shared that you have to be fast and flexible, you have to be cost effective, and you have to be continuously improving. Continue reading

I Care—Do You?—the key to great customer service

bigstock-Enigne-4002090One of the books I’m working on this summer is a customer service book with Kathy Cuff and Vicki Halsey tentatively titled I Care—Do You?: The Essentials of Delivering Legendary Service. A recent experience I had at my vacation home in upstate New York beautifully illustrates what we are trying to capture with this new book.

I was driving the car we use up here when the light came on and said I needed an oil change and the air pressure in the tire was down.  So I took it over to a local service station about fifteen minutes from our cottage for an oil change and to have the tire checked.  Bob, who owns the place, is a fabulous guy.

While my car is being looked at I asked, “How’s business going?” and Bob replied, “Amazingly well—but some of the other folks I talk to, it’s not so good.” And I said, “The reason, Bob, is because you are such a fabulous guy with your customers.  You really care and so do your people.” Continue reading