Most business owners launch companies because they are passionate about delivering a specific product or service. For the first few months (sometimes even years), the company’s offering is front and center in every company decision (and usually the core focus of every entrepreneur’s dreams or nightmares). But after a while, owners start to realize that the thing they sell doesn’t mean nearly as much if their company’s customer service strategy isn’t award-worthy.
These days, the proliferation of information about every company under the sun is causing customers to be far less brand loyal. Case and point: a customer may buy from you for a decade, but then fly the coop after a single bad service experience. In fact, a recent study found that eight out of 10 customers are willing to pay more for the same offering if the service is better.
Especially now, it pays to look at companies that have held top spots in a variety of industries and ask: is it because of the customer service they provide?
The answer is yes, yes, yes.
Convinced your customer service strategy needs a revamp before it can win awards?
If so, follow these five pieces of advice and watch the awards stream in.
Bake service into your DNA.
The world’s most successful companies consider themselves customer service companies before anything else. Yes, they sell other things, but top management realizes that if customers aren’t happy, they won’t be able to keep the lights on for very long.
So how do they make service such a high priority? They bake it into their DNA. This means service is a topic up front in all major company meetings, is written into the company’s values and mission and is part of regular trainings—even for long-term employees.
There’s no such thing as too-good customer service. Companies that focus heavily on this topic are quick to see a return on the investments of time and money.
The way a company hires can make or break even the strongest customer service strategy. As the saying goes: skills can be taught but attitude is innate. When interviewing candidates, make sure you quiz for customer service mentalities. How do you feel around the person? Would you want to grab dinner with them? What types of answers are they giving you? Are they willing to answer all of your inquires, or do they easily get impatient?
Even if you are in a hiring bind, it pays to take the time to find the right people. Replacing a bad apple is far more costly than waiting to find the perfect fit.
Go the extra mile.
Great customer service doesn’t need to break the bank—sometimes it can be as cheap as sending a snail mail card to a good customer, thanking them for their business. Do this out of the blue for customers several times per week and it will help your company stay top of mind. Or, if you do have boatloads of cash, reward your best customers in style with bigger ticket items that make sense in your industry.
Most of all think about life from the perspective of your customer. What would he or she appreciate? What off-handed comment did they make on the phone or in person during your last meeting? Did they mention where they were going on vacation and the name of the hotel? If so, send flowers to their room to surprise them once they arrive. You get the idea: creativity wins points with customers.
Give your employees autonomy to solve issues.
Companies like Nordstrom and Ritz Carlton Hotel Company are famous for this. They give each employee a dollar limit to use (rumor has it, this limit is in the hundreds of dollars) to solve customer problems without manager signoff. Speed is essential when it comes to customer service, so train your employees to make decisions on their own and watch how happy it makes your customers.
Make your staff happy.
This. Is. Huge. Happy employees equal happy customers. How do you make staffers happy? The answer is dependent on each individual, so take the time to get to know the motivations of every person on your team. One person may value working remotely, while another person may love more food in the office. Don’t assume that you know what it takes to make a harmonious work environment. Poll your people and gain the insights.