By Micah Solomon.
Consciously or unconsciously, customers continue to expect better and better customer service–in every industry, every niche, at every price point.
Consciously or unconsciously, customers continue to expect better and better customer service–in every industry, every niche, at every price point. These expectations don’t come out of the blue. Customers expect you to provide better customer service because they’re already getting better customer service elsewhere. Whether customer service has been improving in your particular competitive niche or not, it has improved over time at so many companies with such broad consumer reach, including Starbucks, Amazon, Apple, USAA Insurance, Trader Joe’s and Publix, not to mention the great hotels and restaurants that serve so many of your customers every day.
After one of these companies comes into contact with a customer of yours—when USAA expertly assists in filing an insurance claim, or Amazon enables an effortless product return, or a genius at the Apple Store debugs an iPhone issue with aplomb, it’s inevitable that your customer is going to expect friendlier, speedier, more intuitive service from your company as well.
Produce clerk Lucy Shuford inspects shelves at a Publix grocery store in Knoxville, Tennessee. Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg
How can you meet this challenge? Here’s a list to help you get started:
- Root out complacency. Just because you’re doing as well as you’ve ever done based on objective measures (response time and so forth), you may be slipping, subjectively, in the eyes of your customers. If all you’re doing is sustaining your longstanding service levels, don’t be surprised if customers are less satisfied with you than they were in the past.
- Benchmark across industries. Apple Stores didn’t become great by emulating Best Buy. They became great by borrowing best practices and cultural inspiration from the five star hotel brands. Similarly, you may not learn all that much by emulating your direct competitors, compared to what you can learn from expanding your mental outreach to include whoever is getting the customer experience right, regardless of what industry they’re operating in.
- Invest in well-designed customer-facing self-service. If you’re offering fabulous human-delivered customer service, I applaud you. But the reality is that, at least some of the time, customers want to interact via self-service, whether due to customers’ round-the-clock, multi-time-zone schedules, or their social anxiety, or because it allows them to multi-task.
- Beef up your internal technology to support your customer-facing employees. Every customer-facing employee should be empowered via well-designed, well-maintained technology that allows them to provide service at the level that customers today expect.
- Put some effort into sustaining the relationships you have with existing customers. For a moment, ignore the rest of the items on this list, and go back and check in with your existing stable of customers. Make sure they still realize you’ve got their back. Because this is one area where you truly do have a competitive advantage: the relationships you’ve already built over time. Make it clear that their business still matters to your company, and that you’re committed to doing everything you can (including items 1 through 4 on this list) to serve them better and better.
Micah Solomon is a customer service consultant and speaker, customer experience consultant and thought leader, keynote speaker, trainer, and bestselling author. Click for two free chapters from Micah’s latest book, The Heart of Hospitality, or click here to email him directly for an immediate response, or give him a call at (484)343-5881