I suddenly realized that I have been working with customer experience almost my entire life. I remember I tried to stay out of fights when I was a little boy because it could hurt my parents business. I have this memory all the way back to when I started school. I remember my grandfather buying a tie rack and sold none, until he drove the prices so high that the customer thought it was good quality and emptied the rack in few days. I remember that I started helping customers at my parents’ shop bagging groceries and counting recycled bottles. I am almost at the breach of claiming that there is no such thing as good customer service. Why? I believe it is all about good customer experience. So how is this affecting you?
Create an experience higher than expectations and win, or…?
I worked with an excellent call center tech representative about five years ago. He always started each phone call with a deep sigh and negative prognosis for solving this extremely complex problem within the next millennium. He drove expectations straight into the basement where only darkness live. How bad is it they said with some hope left in their voices? “Well, let’s have a look” he would reply, changes some settings and the customer was back online in minutes. The customer was thrilled. He had a great way to lower the bar and almost stumble over for great joy.
So how about that pool? Finished yet?
If it is a bloody hot summer day, and you decide to buy a pool and place it in the soil of your back yard; Would you expect the pool to be delivered and installed today? In a week? In a month? Two? Four? Well, most people I talk to say, delivering a pool you say? Two months. I saw an advertisement in a newspaper in Norway for pools. WE DELIVER IN ONLY TWO DAYS! – This is a pool that is supposed to be dug down, not just placed on the ground inflato style. GREAT if they can deliver it before the planned pool party for Saturday! – I need to ask, what if they fail and deliver in four days? Your pool friends and ready to swim guest would just find a good barbeque and a hole in the ground. What if they said, we deliver in just two weeks! And you got it within a week, or in three days? They probably feel very pressured by the two day limit, I know I would be. Be careful not to overpromise and underdeliver.
Is time the essential credential for delivering good service?
No – Time got nothing to do with great service, keeping promises and meeting expectations is. I am customer at two different companies providing the same service. At one of them they got online chat with tech support. At the other I need to fill in a form or call. I expect that one of these companies solve my problem within minutes and the other within days. If I wait for ten minutes I would start to be unhappy, but if I receive a reply from the form within the day or two, I would be happy.
I really do not need that…
Listen to the customer, analyze and find out what the customer need, and don’t need. My mom needs a TV that works, it does not need to be huge and sound and image should be ok, she is not a movie freak, she just like to watch if its rainy. My mom do not need 200 sockets in the back of the TV for everything from computers to stereos, multimedia, HDMI and so on, she need a place for the TV signal input. And she needs to know how to change channel and use the volume buttons. That is it. You would be a great salesman if you sold her state of the art, but you would piss me off. But if I buy a DVD player to my TV, I expect you to ask what kind of cable I need, and it would be nice if you would give me a discount on a DVD movie as well.
How would you like your product delivered?
When I order something online I expect the correct amount of items and the correct items delivered in a box on time. I expect a paper saying what’s inside the box as well. That is it. Sometimes I get a hand written thank you note; sometimes I get a piece of chocolate or a thank you card. I once got a few balloons. Suddenly it’s not just a package; it is something to show to the entire family. Look what I got! – It’s as easy as exceeding expectations. I live in Norway, Amazon does not promise overnight shipping to me. Standard shipping is about 18 days. And it is always early in my mailbox.
Hear me roar!
So let us now put what we know in a psychological perspective. People like to be heard, feel safe and cared for. People do not like bad news and surprises unless the surprise is positive. If you have a customer that needs to yell, it is not personal, just understand and show compassion. A rational solution does only work with calm people. This gives me some grounds for a customer experience list
- Do not promise what you cannot keep
- Lower expectations if you can
- Be a provider of positive surprises
- Be polite and kind always
- Listen and solve the needs
- Make sure that you understand the customer
- Calm feelings first, provide solutions last
- Get the right amount and the correct stuff in the box
- Make it easy
- DO NOT SEND E-MAILS TO CUSTOMERS WITH THREADED INTERNAL DIALOUGE IN IT!
Do you have a call center or a customer service center? Or a customer service department? Are they really in control of customer experience?
Do they ship orders? (Logistics)
Do they handle the warehouse? (Logistics)
Do they handle billing? (Finance)
Do they handle the look and feel of the website? (Marketing)
Do they decide on company policies? (Leadership)
Do they produce the goods? (Product)
Do they decide profits? (Sales, leadership)
So what is the role of the customer service department REALLY? Just being nice and understanding? Cleaning up the mess after others? Serving coffee? My point here is that all and every one in a company is a part in the puzzle of providing great customer experiences. Do not forget that. Customer service is not a department, it is a companywide attitude.