Customer service represents an opportunity for your business to really stand out from the crowd, but your Corporate Culture must promote customer service as paramount otherwise it will become little more than rhetoric to your customers. The impact of a good customer service system can be severely limited by an employee who is simply going through the motions.
I recently visited a business that proudly displayed its mission “…to provide the friendliest service of any business,” in large letters on their wall. It was an established multi-national corporation, and the statement on the wall was even signed by the CEO of the company. Ironically, I couldn't help but notice that the servers were unusually impatient and harsh with their customers. They said the right things, but it was clear they didn't mean them, so I asked one of them about the mission. Her reply was, and I quote, “when you've been here for as long as I have, you learn to ignore that stuff.” As bad as it was, the obvious lack of commitment to the mission statement drew attention to the rudeness of the employees, making it seem even worse.
Despite the fact that your customers perceive it as free, a certain amount of customer service is usually expected. When this is the case, treat it as if it were part of the product itself. In other words, if customer service is expected, then you need to start there and go up. When ordering a pizza, for example, people do not expect to pay an extra delivery charge. If your customers expect free delivery, then free delivery can no longer be considered customer service. Technically it is of course, but if you want your customer service to help you to stand out, you've got to take it to a new level.
Perhaps you could offer guaranteed delivery times, or faster, “VIP” service for regular customers.
Domino's Pizza started the home delivery because they wanted to make life easier for the customer.
Your customer relationships all started with a promise; the promise you made when you introduced your business to the world and said, “This is what I am offering to do for you.” When we organized your business from a marketing perspective and developed your Marketing Strategy and Unique Selling Proposition, the promise became even clearer. That's great, because your customers love to know what they can expect when doing business with you, on the other hand, once you make a promise to a customer, it must never be broken.
A health and fitness company used to advertise occasionally in various local magazines and newspapers. One day a salesperson from a local radio station called on the owner and offered him a particularly good deal. He was not sold on radio as a means of promoting his business at the time, but the price was right and he had a special event coming up, so he thought he'd take a chance. As he felt this particular event might be newsworthy, he asked the salesperson if she thought their news department might be interested. Not only was she positive, she assured him that she would pass the information along to the appropriate people. As the event neared, the business owner was surprised that he had not heard it mentioned on the local news. When he called the salesperson to ask about it, she told him that, although she felt it was a newsworthy event, the decision makers in the news department had disagreed. Curious as to why, the business owner decided to call the news department himself. What he found out was that no one in the department had ever heard of his special event. The salesperson had forgotten to pass the information along and was covering for her mistake by lying. Needless to say, the radio station lost his future business.
In today's competitive marketplace, outstanding customer service is surprisingly rare. This makes customer service one of the best opportunities around for adding value. Become a frontrunner in customer service and your company will stand out from the pack in a big way. This is true for any industry, but it's especially true if the products and services you offer are not exclusive. When you compete directly with others, it is particularly important to give your customers clear reasons to do business with you, rather than with your competitors, and one of the best reasons is outstanding customer service.
As with all aspects of your business, this is a continuous, evolutionary process so keep on the lookout for ways to improve your customer service.
“If you don't take care of the customers…someone else will.”