Great customer care

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jump I have been working with customer care since I wandered around at my grandparents groceries store in diapers. I am born and raised in a customer oriented world. As I teenager, I avoided bad behavior, not because of my good upbringing, but if I misbehaved it might cause less customers for my mom and dad. (They took over the store from my grandparents). I have been working with customers all my life, and my wife claims that I have a twisted perspective on customer care. Well I do get annoyed at bad customer care, and I do become happy when I experience good customer care. The hard part is how do I teach other people to give great customer care?

Meeting expectations

According to Wikipedia, customer service is:

Customer service is a series of activities designed to enhance the level of customer satisfaction – that is, the feeling that a product or service has met the customer expectation

I want to tell you a story about my grandfather, he once bought some cheap ties on a rack and placed at the counter in the store, selling them for only one dollar each about thirty years ago, they did not sell, customers did not want to buy cheap ties. He raised the price to ten dollars and gave a 10 % discount, and sold every single one within two days.

A more modern story fresh from this week. My youngest son has an eye that he calls the binocular eye, as he is farsighted on his right eye. So we need glasses. We went to Specsavers, an international company just recently established here in Norway, marketing that they beat competition on price. As we stumbled thru the door we meet a young lady that could not help us since we wanted glasses and not sunglasses. She called for another young lady to assist, which could not help either, so she went to get an optician at the back. He did not show for 5 minutes, and in the meantime I had lost my patience. I said, can you just give me a price estimate. She said it would be about $430-$500 depending on the frame. I found my exit and thanked her for the price estimate, and said I need to check out the competition (meaning:) “You do not have a clue, and I am not impressed by the way to busy optician” – So my son and I went to the nearest competition. Greeted by one person in the store, an optician, a lady that knew exactly what I was looking for.When I asked for pricing, she explained that I would only pay for the excess after they got their refund from the state. Glasses for kids is subsided by the state in Norway. I knew we got it on the first set, but  I did not know that we could do this again. She explained that they bill the state, and we pay the rest, normally being about $100-$125 – depending on the frame, and suggested I should pick one in titan as kids need rough frames. And as she would register the order, she gave us the remote control for the lock on the shelves and he could try on frames as she punched the order in the back. Five minutes later she came and assisted on size and color. We found one he liked, and she said I will have them finished by the end of the week and you will receive a SMS telling you to come and pick them up. You will pay then. 

I expected Specsavers to be cheap because of their marketing here in Norway. I did not expect unqualified staff to help me. They was not cheaper, and they did not know about the refund arrangement with the state. Maybe the optician would know, but he was not present. And I needed to pay up front.

At the other store, she knew my worries about the price being high and removed my worries. And I saved 3-400 dollars going to a store that is supposed to be expensive, well knowing that the lack of knowledge at Specsavers will cost future customer a lot of money or cost Specsavers a lot of customers.

So what can we learn from these real live examples?

My grandfathers customers expected more quality in a tie, buying one dollar ties did not give them the quality they expected. When he sold it to them at nine times the original price they thought it would have the right quality for them. And they got it for 10 % off the price. All of a sudden it was a good price. My opinion is that in the Norwegian countryside they only wear a tie to funeral and weddings, and it would be disrespectful to show up in a cheap tie. So a one dollar tie would not sell there anyway. 🙂

When I had to buy new glasses for my son, I expected knowledge. I do not know anything about glasses as I do not use such an item myself. I find it interesting that the cheap store needed 3 employees to serve me, while the expensive one only had one, she on the other hand was an adult optician, knowing what I needed.

So it is very much about meeting expectations. I am going to provide case in two setting:

Both: An Internet Service Provider gets a customer on the phone. The internet line is not working. I am providing two different scenarios.

Scenario A Scenario B
Hi, welcome to Acme Inc, how can I help you today?
My internet line is not workingI will see if there is anything wrong here, that I can fix right now or if I need to involve our second line support.

Both looking for the error and can’t fix it.

Hi, welcome to Acme Inc, how can I help you today?
My internet line is not workingNo worries, I can help you with that.

Both looking for the error and can’t fix it.

I have done my best sir, but I can’t figure out this one I have done my best sir, but I can’t figure out this one

Who got the best customer service? Who raised the bar the highest? And who failed? It is the same call handled differently.

You should not fear high expectations, if you can meet them. If you can not meet them, you must try to get the expectations down and then meet them.

The same goes with marketing, if your marketing create high expectations that your company just won’t be able to meet, well there is a problem in your hands.

What is the customer expecting? How can you meet that? Do you know? You need to know to be able to produce good customer care.

If you buy a cheap product and it is broken you might think, well I could not expect anything better, and you pray and hope that you can swap it. If you buy an expensive product and it gets broken you’ll not only swap it, but your experience will also be bad, resulting in you in anger driving to the store to yell the poor sales person all out of motivation.

It is hard to describe good customer service in a short blog post. It is all about smiling, greeting, thanking, analyzing, providing, fixing and solving. And on top of that you need to exceed the expectations your image create. What do you do to provide great customer service to your customers?

More from my site

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  • Delivering PizzaDelivering Pizza Yesterday was one of those days where making food seemed like a huge task*, we had so many other things to do. So we decided to order pizza. We experienced extremely poor customer service […]
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4 Comments on "Great customer care"

  1. Frode Heimen | August 9, 2009 at 7:15 am |

    Hi Clement.
    Thank you for reading my blog and providing great comments and questions!

    We are selling services, and can’t replace the product if it doesn’t work.
    I understand this as you are selling products. I do not know what kind of products you are selling. But I do want to share a story of a marketing agency that had one client ordering 5000 t-shirts with their logo and a slogan on it. The sales agent visited the customer with sample t-shirts in different colors. They agreed on one specific color and the production order was given. When the customer received the 5000 finished t-shirts he was not satisfied with the tone of the color. Even if the sales agent could prove that the shirt he picked was the same, they apologized, sent new sample of colors and produced 5000 new ones. The customer was wrong, but happy, taking his business to this place over and over again.

    If you sell appliances like refrigerators and larger items you would probably try to get it fixed for free. I know two companies that sell electronics and household appliances. One trade the product, fix it and sell the fixed one at a lower price. The other one tries to fix it first, and if this doesn’t work out, they trade it.

    The customers have expectations, and as you say, the complaint is not always valid. Some customers are abusive and demanding and you will never make money from them. These customers should be given a map to the closest competition.

    I think you should try to figure out a good strategy for great customer care. Ask your customers what they do expect as a research and find your own strategy. This will ensure that you treat your customers equal, and that you do not hesitate. I have one company downtown where I by most of my clothes. They change everything without asking why as long as I have the receipt. I think this is a great service. And it does not differ depending on who you talk to.

  2. Clement Geferts | August 9, 2009 at 2:57 am |

    Hi Frode

    Where i work we often get upset customers because they are not satisfied with the product the bought. And we always try to determine the problem and see it from their point of view and treat them with respect.
    But that doesn’t always do it as long as they don’t get what they expect and that is a new product.
    If the complaint is valid we will give a new product but that’s not always the case so they say we are not giving them good service.

    But on the other side we never get complains about the selling part we are only getting compliments about how we help the customers and do everything to get them their products.

    So does that mean if i want to change the view of the customers on the service given after the sales that i always have to give them new products when the have a problem?

    Whats your thought on that ?

  3. Frode Heimen | July 20, 2009 at 7:27 pm |

    Hi Kyle!
    Thank you for reading my blog and for your great comments.

    Listening to upset customers is a great trick as you get them out of the emotional state. Talking with someone emotional is a waste of time. That is why you need them to calm down before communicating sense with them. You write: “Very rarely did we ever get an upset guest who was just a difficult person.” – That is most likely because you treat people with respect. You would not categorize people as jerks and had good reasons why the customers acted as they did. That is why you managed to have rarely encounters with difficult people. Very few people are just upset and difficult, if you understand the reason, communicate and understand you will have happy customers.

    Good comment Kyle. Thank you. Keep reading.

  4. Very good illustration comparing the two different eye glasses stores. Clearly the first needs to do something about their staff’s knowledge, or they will be out of business quite soon!

    I’ve never worked in sales, but I did work for four years at a water park. Quite often I would have guests come up who were upset about one rule or another since water parks, generally, have a lot of rules due to their high risk nature.

    The first step that we always followed, and what we always trained out staff to do, was just simply to listen. Often this meant listening to an upset guest yell for five minutes, or more! However, an interesting thing would happen once they finished yelling. They would calm down! Once they got what they needed to off of their chest, we were quite often able to just explain why the rule existed and they would go, “ohhhh, that’s why…that makes sense,” and then they would be on their way.

    That first part was key though. I’d say that of that remaining 10% who were not satisfied with that method, most fell into two categories. The first category was a guest who had been argued with instead of listened to initially. The second category was a guest who had been allowed to break the rule at first, and then had the rule enforced by another lfieguard. Very rarely did we ever get an upset guest who was just a difficult person.

    Thanks for the good article,

    -Kyle

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