Today’s business environment is becoming increasingly complex and competitive due to globalization, new technology, increasing product proliferation, brand erosion, market segmentation, consumer skepticism and time poverty, rendering traditional business plans obsolete. For just about every product or service, there is an overwhelming number of choices to choose from, leaving consumers dazed and confused. So how can you stand out from a sea of competitors promoting similar offerings? Become known as THE company in your field that provides world-class service.
What is world-class service? It is the talk of many but the reality of few. When a company provides customers with world-class service, it often becomes a legendary experience that the customer retells to others in a form of free publicity, which can’t be bought.
What companies come to mind when you think of world-class service? What establishments do you patronize whose service exceeds your expectations on a continual basis? Typically, these are not the places that have the lowest prices. They do not have to. Their value is created by elevating the customer experience to a point where paying a premium is not an issue.
There are six simple actions that will determine your level of customer service (from the customer’s perspective). When a realistic and objective assessment is made in each coupled with systems and strategies to improve, it can result in immediate and transformational changes in your business. They are:
How well you listen. Do you clearly understand the needs of your customers? As Mark Twain once said, "We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak." What do your customers really want and how can you better serve them?
What you say. How well do you answer questions, provide information, guidance or direction? Helping your customers understand the range of offerings available and what best fits their unique needs will build loyalty.
How you say it. Have you evaluated your non-verbal communication such as body language, tone and inflection? In his book, "Silent Messages," Dr. Albert Merhabian found that communication is 57% non verbal—body language, eye contact, a warm smile and open gestures, 38% voice quality—volume, tone and inflection, and only 7% the words you say. Yet most people tend to focus their time, energy and training on the words they say.
What you do. Do you consider your actions taken or not taken? The only thing worse than doing nothing is saying you are going to do something and you don’t. It creates disappointment and a loss of trust. Taking the time upfront to address your customer’s every need, want and desire will keep them coming back.
How you do it. Are you there to please or appease? Do you find that it’s just a job for some people as they are going through the motions while others take pride in their company, their work and truly care about the well-being of their customers? Making customers feel special and appreciated creates an emotional bond that is not easily broken.
When you do it. Do you consider your response times?Immediate response times that exceed expectations create a positive perception, while long wait and response times create frustrations leading to a negative perception. We are now living in a "drive-thru" world where communication expectations are now greater than ever before with the advent of emails, cell phones, PDAs and text messaging.
Most service experiences are unremarkable. We tend to remember only those experiences on the extremes of either side. Poor customer service tends to leave consumers frustrated and disappointed. In the restaurant business there is famous saying: "You are only as good as your last visit." An exceptionally long delay in receiving food may be as damaging to a restaurant’s reputation as a bad meal.
Remember, not only are the products or services in most categories being commoditized by your competitors—where the lowest price has a distinct advantage—but more and more often the service component is playing a greater role in your customers’ buying decision. Since most people don’t truly understand what is being done underneath the hood, their loyalties lie with the way they are greeted and the way they are treated.
Michael Guld is the president of The Guld Resource Group and creator of "Talking Business with Michael Guld," airing on National Public Radio. He can be reached at (804) 360-3122 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.