Great Customer Service Starts with the Basics

Pop quiz: What do customers feel is the biggest brand differentiator? If you answered great customer service, then you’re right. If you didn’t, it’s an indication that your business needs a major wake up call.

Seriously, there’s a huge disconnect between what businesses think is great service and what customers are really experiencing. In fact, 80% of CEOs believe they deliver a great customer experience, but only 8% of their customers agree (Bain & Company).

80% vs 8%. That’s not a disconnect—it’s the Grand Canyon.

I can continue to list a million statistics about the importance of customer service, or I can channel my inner customer and give you some advice based on my own experiences. I choose the latter.

We need to get back to the basics. I think sometimes we get so bogged down in departmental policies and procedures, we forget that on the other end of the email request or phone call is a human being with real frustrations. All they want is for you to take the time to listen to them, understand their issue, and reassure them that you are genuinely working towards a resolution. To you it might be just a broken iPad, but to them it might be the only thing that keeps their kids busy on an airplane for a few hours. Regardless, all customers deserve a great customer service experience and your job is to make sure that happens.

3 Steps to Providing Great Customer Service

Step 1: Apologize

I know, this one is really simple right? Surprisingly, apologies don’t happen as often as they should. Human beings are hard wired to respond to apologies. You might not be able to solve their problem right away but a simple sorry communicates to a customer in distress that someone understands their frustrations.

Let’s take the example of the broken iPad, it’s not hard to understand that to the customer, it’s more than just a mobile device, it’s an opportunity for some much needed peace and quiet. Next time you are chatting with an irate customer try saying something like this: “I am really sorry that your iPad broke right before your 18 hour flight, I know it can be tough traveling with kids so I am going to do my best to see if I can get this resolved before your departure.”

Here’s a few great resources to help you master the customer apology:
How To Apolgize To A Client (UserVoice)
How to Talk To Your Angriest Customers (HelpScout)
The 5 Smartest Things To Say To An Angry Customer (Inc.)

Step 2: Listen

Ok, I totally get that this is a tough one (just ask my fiancé). But the reality is, there is always a story behind a customers’ frustrations. It might be that their issue caused them to lose significant time and money, or maybe they had to leave during work hours to come into a store to return an item. Regardless, every customer has a story and if it matters to them, than it has to matter to you, too. People equate listening with caring so when I hear that in 82% of negative customer service stories employees were perceived as not caring (The Belding Group 2015) it leads me to believe that businesses are still a long way from providing great customer service.

Check out how active listening can help you deliver great customer service:
Customer Service Training: How to Actively Listen (ImpactLearning)
Active vs Passive Listening in The Contact Center (CallCenter IQ)

Step 3: Find a solution

Growing up, my father always told me that every problem has a solution. And he’s absolutely right. A solution might be something easy and obvious like pressing the reset button or maybe you have to get creative and think outside the box, or it might be something complex that requires the involvement of several people within the organization.

The point is it doesn’t matter what the problem is, what matters is that the customer knows you are working towards a resolution. The numbers don’t lie: Studies show that 70% of customers will do business with you again if you resolve their complaints (Ruby Newell-Legner).

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