The importance of truly great customer service

We’ve all heard the old truism, the customer is always right.  And while we don’t necessarily believe it’s literally true (Have you ever been wrong? Have you ever been a customer? There you are then…) pretty much everybody would agree that what your target market wants, likes and needs is of paramount importance in business.

So, how come we so rarely experience truly great customer service? After all, if we all know what it is, surely there’s no excuse…?

Customer service – why bother?
Let’s first just agree on the obvious benefits to your business of providing great customer service:

  • Satisfied customers are repeat customers.
  • They also tell their friends about you.
  • Your people spend less time dealing with problems and complaints.
  • When customers trust you, not only do they recommend you to others, they’re also more forgiving if you do slip up occasionally.
  • Better customer service = a better bottom line.

In fact, there are NO negatives to providing great customer service. Seriously. It might sometimes be time-consuming (or even tedious – ‘difficult’ customers!) but the investment always pays off, sooner or later.

The hallmarks of great customer service
To return to the question of why we so rarely experience great customer service: if everyone recognises it when they see it, why can’t they provide it? Perhaps the answer is that while we all know what great service looks like for us personally, other people often expect something different, but what? This is the core challenge of customer service: understanding exactly what your customers want. But while that may often be a very individual matter, we can probably agree on the following as the ‘foundation stones’:

  • A good first impression – you’re welcoming, you’re smiling (assuming that’s appropriate!) and you make a connection with the customer; that’s how it starts.
  • Understanding and respect – Great customer service is taking the time to listen to the customer and understand what they want and why.
  • Providing value – Delivering what you promised (goods, services…) in exchange for an agreed price is a transaction. The ‘service’ element comes not from what you deliver, but how.
  • Give ‘em what they want and need – Having emphasised the ‘how’, the ‘what’ still important. Whatever you’ve promised, follow through and deliver. Advice must be relevant and clear, information must be accurate, solutions must fix the problem.
  • Improved quality of life – It’s a bit of a grand claim but really, as with any positive interaction between two people, your good service improves the life experience of the customer. Even if it’s only for a few minutes, their life got a tiny bit better because of you.
  • Sensitive complaint-handling – Nobody likes getting complaints but when you do, it’s always a crucial customer service opportunity. A well-handled complaint can result in an intensely loyal customer. The opposite results in someone being prepared to go to great lengths to tell everyone they know just how bad you are (and with the global online review culture, their feedback can really travel!)

Respond to feedback – Whether you have a formal way of gathering it or not, when a customer makes a suggestion, you listen, and you consider. After all, this is someone taking the time to try to improve your business. It’s only polite and respectful to at least hear them out and you never know, they may just have the fresh perspective you’re looking for.

Truly great customer service is absolutely critical to any business. Whatever you’re selling, the quality of your customer interactions is possibly the most influential factor on your success. And while everyone may have their own private definition of ‘great customer service’, there are some fundamentals which it is never wrong to focus on.

Whatever your role, whoever you deal with, providing great customer service is part of the job.

Ask yourself, is your customer service great? Or grating?

If you want to know more or further explore the foundations of great customer service, check out our one-day workshop ‘Successful Customer Service‘ or give us a call on 01582 463464.  We’re here to help!

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