You're Probably Wrong About Customer Service

04/01/16

Buckle up – we’re about to go on a journey. First, some crucial facts you’ll need for the ride: It is six to seven times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing customer and 67% of your customers will leave because of the attitude of one person in your organization. This means that anyone who directly serves, or works with those who directly serve, customers, can impact your company’s bottom line. And, if almost everyone at your business can impact your bottom line through customer service, you better be paying attention.

But paying attention to what exactly? Customer service is hard enough to define, much less integrate into your company’s culture. That’s why I want to take you on a journey through common customer service assumptions and help you see past those assumptions to customer service paradise – a land where service is a part of your organizational identity, and employees are empowered and excited about delivering superior service every day.

Your ticket will cost you four assumptions:

  1. Customers come in three varieties – satisfied advocates, customers who get what they need but aren’t advocates, and dissatisfied customers. The goal of your customer service effort should be focused on changing the count within the buckets. Ideally, you are decreasing the dissatisfied customer number and increasing the other two buckets. Accept that there will never be an empty dissatisfied customers bucket. The goal instead should be to minimize dissatisfied customers and continually increase the amount of customers residing in the advocate bucket. Thinking in terms of creating customer movement through the buckets rather than focusing on eradicating dissatisfied customers removes a layer of unrealistic pressure and provides a more open space for thinking about customer efforts.

  1. The definition of customer may need to change in order to create transformational customer service. Customer service cannot be a switch that is flipped on only for certain people –  it has to be an adopted philosophy and integrated way of doing business. Instead of thinking of customers as those outside your organization that purchase your products or services, what happens if you shift your thinking to define a customer as anyone to whom you provide information? With that framing, your boss is your customer, your product or service users are your customers, your coworker is your customer. They are ALL your customers. Whoa – that may feel overwhelming because it means you have to think about the interactions you have with everyone – inside and outside of the company. The benefits of this approach, however, trickle down. When customer service representatives receive excellent customer service from their colleagues, they are better able to deliver on that promise to your external customers.

  1. Customer service is NOT a one size fits all kind of idea. What one business or customer sees as good customer service can be very different from what another sees. By its very nature, customer service has to be bespoke – tailored to fit your business, your strategy, your goals and your customers. Companies spend a lot of time and energy making sure each of these areas are uniquely and personally defined, why not be sure your customer service effort is as well? A bespoke tailor has a pattern and collection of tools they use to create a customized suit. These tools allow the pattern to be personalized to meet the unique style and sizing needs of the customer. In case you’ve never experienced the indulgence of a bespoke suit - NOTHING fits as well – as if the suit was actually a part of who you are, rather than a separate piece. Wouldn’t it be great if customer service felt that way?

  1. Customer service underpins everything – no matter your job title. Too often, customer service is seen as an ‘extra’ effort that resides outside of core job functions unless you are a customer service specialist. Even worse, management frequently considers themselves exempt from this important function, modeling behavior antithetical to their aspirations for their team. Customer service efforts will never achieve the positive business impacts you want if you, your team, or your organization continues to think of service as a peripheral activity. When service is your core work, the products you make or services you deliver become tools that help you deliver superior service. The result is a positive impact on the bottom line.

We’ve completed the first leg of this journey. Stay tuned for more helpful insights on how to engage employees at every level to integrate customer service into their working norms. If you’re looking for a guide to support you on your way to superior customer service, please reach out. Milepost has developed a unique four-step framework to help organizations of all shapes and sizes build a bespoke customer service effort that feels right for your organization. We’d love to work with you to turn your customers into advocates.

Sabrina Cowden
Sabrina Cowden

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