Relax - Customer Service Is Easy. Or Is It?
“Customer service is easy”, “There’s no real skill to customer service, you just have to be nice”. “Just treat customers how you’d like to be treated”. As a trainer with Beyond Theory, delivering courses on exceptional customer service, I’ve heard these words many times. So, if delivering customer service is so easy, then why are so many companies and organisations asking for our help?
If you were asked to give five examples of outstanding service you’ve received in the last year, would there be a bit of a pause whilst you dug deep into your memory to recall maybe one or two examples? You could be lucky and have five to hand. Most delegates attending our training struggle to give one that comes to mind easily. Whatever your answer, it highlights that maybe we are not as customer-centric in the UK as we think we are or could be.
How can you ensure customers receive great service and keep coming back to buy more? With pressure on costs and the uncertainty of business after Covid-19, there are a lot of unknowns out there. What we do know is (especially in uncertain times) the importance of customers feeling assured, confident and trusting in our brands. Giving them a consistent, personal service is one aspect that we need to encourage our teams to focus on.
So, where do we begin? Great customer service starts from the point of allowing the customer to feel relaxed. It’s a bit like getting home and putting on your favourite slippers - you know how comfortable they are going to be before you’ve even put them on. You can’t literally be your customers’ slippers (unless of course you sell or make them) but you can think of how you can help your customers have as little stress as possible when they interact with you or your brand.
Doing the basics brilliantly is vital. Questions to ask yourself are:
- How consistent is your team?
- How consistent are you in how you lead and manage your team?
Those companies that enjoy a reputation for great customer service have a defined customer experience. They know the value of great service too. This means delivering a consistent, easy customer journey with knowledgeable, well-trained employees. They also realise that sometimes a genuine act of flexibility or thoughtfulness can go a long way to getting a first sale or encourage repeat customers to buy again. Although consistency is key, having the ability to be flexible if needed is critical too. On our customer excellence training we often talk about how customer standards are the floor rather than the ceiling. This means that when circumstances dictate, going above and beyond is a great way to win the hearts as well as the minds of your customers.
In my career I have been fortunate enough to travel extensively. This has allowed me to see how different countries and cultures approach customer excellence across the globe. The surprising thing is it’s not the swankiest hotel or the most expensive dinner that first comes to mind. Instead it’s genuine thoughtful interactions where someone has made me feel wowed. A great example is a 4* hotel not so away from our base in Northamptonshire. A very rainy day meant customers had to run the gauntlet to their cars parked at the rear of the hotel. One of the hotel team took it upon themselves to escort the guests with an umbrella to their cars, saving them from getting wet, creating a genuine moment of surprise, a chance for some extra interaction and all at no cost. How can you empower your team to create those genuine Wow! moments?
Here are some of my top tips to deliver customer excellence:
- Give your teams a framework to work within so they know what’s expected i.e. your defined customer experience.
- Give your teams the training, knowledge and skills so they can deliver the basics brilliantly.
- Make sure your teams understand their responsibilities to you, your business and their customers.
- Give your teams the freedom and confidence so they can create genuine Wow! moments when the opportunities arise.
- Recognise and reward those who live your company’s values, train and coach those who do not.
In summary delivering customer excellence is so much more than ‘just a smile’. It takes sound leadership and well-motivated and engaged team members. They need the knowledge and skills to enable customers to feel relaxed and at ease, confident and assured that their expectations will be met - even better when exceeded. Only then will your customers who buy from you again, recommend and be your advocates. A winning combination.
Nick Skillett, Customer Service Trainer