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Superior Customer Service Shouldn’t Be an Exception, It Should Be the Norm

We hear about both incredibly good and bad customer service moments all of the time. We see them reported on in the news, for instance, or we overhear them during conversations with friends and family. For example, perhaps you heard the news of how three employees at a Staten Island–based Lowe’s store stayed past closing time last year in order to assist a customer, a disabled Veteran whose wheelchair had broken during his shopping experience.

Maybe you yourself have a similar tale of superior—or, conversely, awful—customer service. Either way, one thing is for certain: Businesses need to be creating more unforgettable customer service moments in order to increase customer acquisition and retention and to competitively differentiate their brands.

In other words, these superior moments should be the norm within every organization. This unfortunately isn’t the case, though. In fact, nearly 70 percent of customers have had such a bad service experience with a brand that it stopped them from continuing business altogether, according to Parature’s “2015 Global State of Multichannel Customer Service Report.”

We have all been on both sides of the spectrum when it comes to customer service. After all, customer service professionals are only human; it would be unrealistic to expect unbelievable quality of service with every interaction. However, on the other hand, superior customer service shouldn’t be an exception within an organization, especially considering that 60 percent of consumers have higher expectations for customer service now, in 2015, than they did last year, according to Parature.

So, why do superior customer service moments only happen on a “once in a blue moon” basis? Why is this level of service considered a “nice-to-have,” rather than a must-have? More importantly, how can organizations begin making superior service their golden standard?

First we must consider the end goal within the average organization. For many companies today, service is driven largely by the goal to simply satisfy customers. Rather, service should be driven by the goal to anticipate customers’ needs prior to interacting with them, which will enable them to deliver truly intuitive service that evokes positive emotional responses. This kind of service should delight, even surprise, customers so that they want to continue doing business with the organization.

The best gift managers can give their employees, then, is their encouragement to surprise or delight customers by looking for avant-garde ways to make them feel welcomed and appreciated every day. For example, authorize your veteran associates to spend a certain dollar amount on guests in order to make their experiences perfect or to address a service issue and make it right. Or, delight a guest by sending a birthday card with a personal note and gift; it may just make their day as the guest may not have expected this. In taking such actions as these, organizations will create what I call the “WOW Experience.

Think about it: There is always something that a customer wants, whether it’s a purchase, an answer to a question or even an apology. You can always replace a product; however, a superior customer service experience can never be replaced. Each day is a new opportunity for organizations to delight and surprise customers, even if that means simply being authentic and honest when a situation is going awry.

To this end, remember: Honesty is the best policy – always. Be honest, own up to your mistakes and always communicate to customers what you have planned in order to change a situation or to prevent the same mistake from happening again. Don’t be fooled into believing that a regular ‘mea culpa’ will get you off the hook. At some point the plan to fix the problem must take effect.

With the holidays quickly approaching, here are three best practices that organizations can begin implementing now to begin making superior customer service the norm:

  • Value your customers’ trust

  • Be the brand you are; that is, don’t oversell a service you can’t deliver on

  • Stick to timeframes you can meet; don’t overpromise and under deliver a service

Your customers expect you to fulfill your brand promise. This starts with identifying ways to deliver superior customer service.

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