Service matters. We know this in our guts, and yet, most companies make service an after-thought, and a cost center. They say, “We value our customers,” quite often on their pre-recorded 6-8 minute long hold message tape. Service has always mattered, but it’s coming to be a vital competitive edge. With that in mind, I wanted to offer you 5 starting points for improving your service craftsmanship.
Cure Your Amnesia
If someone buys from your organization and then later communicates with you about some matter, it would be good to know that they are a customer. Though we’re not really supposed to treat people differently, you would be foolish not to treat your best customers with the utmost of care. Remember that “most money paid” isn’t always the criteria for best. You’ll know the difference. To cure this, simply be sure that every system that requires one to know a name also gives that file some kind of nod to the fact that the customer is a repeat patron of your organization. Want to go a step further? Remember what I did last time and ask me if I want more of the same.
Consider The Extra Touches
In almost any business transaction, there’s an opportunity to add an extra nice touch. Quite often, this makes a powerful impact on your customer. What can you do? It can be simple, inexpensive, or even free, if it’s timely and shows a level of connectedness with your customer. Christopher Lynn from the famous Hotel Colonnade in Boston knew that Jacq and I were out at a Black Keys concert. He ran over to the mall across from his hotel, picked up a copy of the latest CD, and had it on our pillow when we came back. It was a perfect little touch that cost about $15 and 20 minutes of his time, but that strengthens my commitment to staying at the Colonnade any time I’m in Boston. What extra touch can you give? Can you draw smiley faces on my sales slips? Even that’s nice.
Communicate Simply, Clearly, and Almost Often
Airlines seem to have mastered the art of vagary, especially lately. As I experience more and more delays on flights, I’m getting answers like, “we’re just waiting on some paperwork.” First, it’s 2012. Do we really use a lot of paper? Evidently so. Second, why are you holding up my flight 10-15 minutes for a piece of paper? Answer: that’s not really why they’re delayed.
People want to feel informed. This improves outcome, even if the response from a company is a bit negative. It’s better to know that you’re not going to get your package today than it is to say, “Well, we’re tracking it and there haven’t been any updates to the status.” Be simple, be clear, and communicate fairly regularly (but not too much- if you over-communicate, it’s showing fear).
Reduce Friction Everywhere
Most processes come about from past experiences, and rarely from current circumstances. They almost never come from “what’s best for the customer.” If you have a process that makes it harder for people to do business, why would it shock you that people won’t do business with you? Policies are meant to facilitate business, not hamper it. Revisit every policy frequently to determine whether it’s giving you or your customers/clients a problem. It’s amazing what you’ll turn up. Sometimes, fixing this kind of friction costs money, but often, it’s as simple as crumpling up a piece of paper and starting with a new perspective. The rewards are magical.
Say Thank You
Companies have a strange history with saying thank you. Sometimes, they get the words out, but follow them up with, “And I’d love you to buy THIS item, too!” Other times, they say thank you only when they’re ready to hit you up in the sales process again, or when they need something. Get in the habit of thanking your clients and customers. It’s a magic secret to creating good service.
Service Craftsmanship is part of the Human Business Way, a set of guiding principles and practices we’ve assembled for professionals in companies of any size – solo to mega corporation – so we can help you build a sustainable, relationship-minded business. If you want to learn more about the Human Business Way, I’d recommend checking out my weekly newsletter (it’s FREE).