Customer Service That Goes Above and
by Laura Benjamin
The International Customer Service Association celebrated National Customer
Service Week (October 4-8) with SOUL - Service on Unbelievable Levels. For
those of us in the customer service business, (and who isn't?) service on
unbelievable levels needs some definition. Here's one person's interpretation:
service on unbelievable levels means going a little bit above and beyond what
most people expect.
In other words, it's the experiences you remember for months and years because
someone took the extra time, energy, and interest to give you more than you
believed you would receive. These are the experiences we share with our friends,
relatives, and co-workers; the times someone took our best interests to heart
and made it their personal mission to ensure we wouldn't just be "satisfied"
- we would be pleasantly surprised, amazed, and perhaps even thrilled at the
results. And it's often the little things that have the biggest impact.
So, in recognition of National Customer Service week, it's appropriate to
share examples of customer service that goes above and beyond, and to thank
the people who work so diligently behind the scenes. Here are a few of many
- Thanks to the auto repairman who took extra effort to quickly get a part
installed in a friend's jeep, and stayed late to finish the job.
Thanks to the shuttle drivers at the airport parking lot who give you
a slip of paper with the row and space number to remind you where you parked
- Thanks especially to the driver who told me they also provide "roadside
assistance" should I ever lock my keys in the car or my car battery ever
Thanks to the phone representative who jeopardized a sale to warn me
my bank would soon be merging, indicating I may not want to order more
than one box of checks.
Thanks to the airline for an unexpected letter I received shortly after
experiencing a lengthy delay with a Salt Lake City connection. They apologized
for the inconvenience and enclosed a $75.00 voucher towards my next flight.
Thanks to the young high school student working as a courtesy clerk for
a local grocery chain. He not only insisted on taking my groceries out
to the car for me, but sincerely asked me how my day had been. His smiling
face, enthusiasm, and polite conversation was the highlight of a very stressful
Thanks to the Assistant Manager at a local retailer who recently bent
over backwards to provide credit on a returned shirt for a friend. He wanted
to apply it to the purchase of a suit, and the lack of a sales receipt
could have been a major obstacle. The store gained two loyal customers
that day by giving their employee the autonomy to be flexible with store
Here are some simple ways you can ramp up your customer service efforts
to go above and beyond the norm:
Anticipate and communicate difficulties that could occur and offer advance
warning to prevent a disappointing experience. These are the unexpected delays,
frustrations, and set-backs customers experience when they took action "X"
because no one told them it was possible "Y" could occur. You know these experiences…it's
when you usually respond, "well, couldn't someone have just TOLD me that in
the first place?"
Offer Apologies with Teeth
Sincerity makes all the difference in the world when something goes wrong.
We know customers should immediately receive an apology when things go awry,
but often an apology is the bare minimum. If our only motivation is because
it's company policy, customers will hear it in our voice or see it in our
expressions. On the other hand, customers who also hear, "How can I best solve
this situation to your satisfaction?" or "What I can do to compensate for
your inconvenience?" or "I'd be happy to offer you a free 'X' for your frustration,"
will feel much more understood, appreciated, and valued.
Good old-fashioned courtesy has not gone the way of the dinosaur, despite
the fact that U.S. News and World Report found 9 out of 10 Americans surveyed
said incivility is a serious problem in our culture. 78% felt it's gotten
worse in the last 10 years. You will automatically exceed the majority of
Americans in courtesy, respect, and basic etiquette if you consistently do
one simple thing…return your phone calls. Reputations are quickly built or
destroyed by this one test of manners.
In today's complex world, companies that only do it only one way - "their
way" - will be left behind, as customers seek out more flexibility, choice,
and control over their buying experience. How many of us have seen customers
now waiting in line to scan their own groceries in stores where this is now
an option? We also expect choices on how to communicate with the organization
which includes, phone, email, voice-mail, automatic call-back, live "chat,"
etc. Ensure that the reasons you establish certain policies and systems are
because you are supporting the needs of the customer, not just your own. To
be absolutely sure - ask them!
Say Thank You
Rewarding your loyal customers with upgrades, free shipping, and other "premiums"
is a highly effective way to thank those who have been your source of repeat
business and referrals. (Too often, the "perks" are extended only to lure
Make a bonus payment as a thank you to a vendor who was willing to accept
flexible payment terms.
Quote your customers (with their permission) in your next newsletter, article,
book, or white paper and send them a copy of it upon publication. They will
appreciate the free publicity and your thoughtfulness.
Select a customer at random each month to receive a special gift for no
reason at all.
Call them periodically and ask their opinion of what you are doing well,
and what you could do better. Then send a thank you gift for their willingness
to share their opinion.
Colorado speaker and author, Laura Benjamin, specializes in Developing Managers
and Job Search strategies. Her work has been featured on television, radio,
and national publications from bluesuitmom.com to Remodeling magazine. Subscribe
to her FREE email newsletter at: www.laurabenjamin.com.
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