Superior customer service gets five stars
While we think of a customer as someone who purchases a commodity or service in exchange for money, rarely do we expand that definition to non-monetary transactions. In many of our departments, however, our customers—whether they are internal or external—often perform the latter: in exchange for their commodity or service, we give back repeat business, a five-star rating, another service, or just plain gratitude.
In this expanded view, both parties want to give something to get something.
For example, say you work with a graphic designer to get a stack of pamphlets printed for an upcoming event. In the traditional lens, you are that designer’s customer. If we look at it differently, however, the designer is also your customer.
How? Well, each of you wants to provide value and feel valued through your exchanges. You can provide value to the designer through a good review and repeat business should the designer provide you with a quality service. You feel valued that the designer gave you quality service, while that good review or word-of-mouth advertising you gave is what the designer needed to increase sales or standing within a department.
You both gave each other an experience, and that experience equals value.
This is a simplistic way to look at customer service in a more holistic light. Customer service is the support we offer our customers, both before and after a transaction is made for products or services. Superior customer service is something we strive for, whether we are making pamphlets, answering the phone, or engaging in cutting-edge research.
So how do we make customer service superior?
There are many different books and articles that address this question, but we can boil all of them down to three main ingredients:
- Exceed Expectations
- Make First Impressions Count
- Follow Up
Obviously to be superior, we must exceed expectations. We can do this by going above and beyond at every interaction. If you’re the graphic designer exchanging your skill for a client’s repeat business, it does you no good to simply deliver a bland pamphlet that is nothing more than what the client could have printed on a Mac at home. You, as the designer, want to provide a valuable product and also feel valued yourself. To go above and beyond is to understand your customer. While the initial exchange was—on the surface—nothing more than a stack of pamphlets for money, the real exchange is experience for value, or a quality product for a satisfied customer…
…who will become a repeat customer…
…who may exchange more money for more pamphlets…
…who may tell others…
…who may exchange their money for their own pamphlets…
…and so on
Make First Impressions Count
A first impression is critical to superior customer service. Will Rogers (and many others) said it succinctly enough: “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Your customer wants to feel welcomed and valued, just as you want the same. There may not be an exchange of money for your service, but something is still being exchanged: an experience. Guess what? Experience is everything. If your customer has a good one (i.e., you smiled at them, gave them the attention they deserve, provided a quality exchange), they probably won’t look to your competitors and may be back.
Finally, you really cannot define superior customer service without reaching out to your previous customers to make sure they had a good experience. Following up does not mean you will guarantee another transaction, but it will make your customer feel valued.
Again, there’s that word: valued. Why is that so important in the explanation of Superior Customer Service?
It’s all about the experience you’re providing. Your own behavior gives an experience (good or bad) to another person. As a result of that experience, beliefs will form (e.g., this is a person I would like to do business with again). Based on those beliefs, a person will tend to respond accordingly. He or she may come to you more often or may go somewhere else. You may seek out another graphic designer or you may like this one so much you come back again and again.
Because the experience created value, and in the end, that’s what counts.