Customer Service is one part proactive and one part reactive. Both are important.
No matter what product or service you provide, you have two options: compete on price or compete on experience. When you compete on price, you attract customers who are opportunistic and looking for the best deal. Margins are too thin today to compete on price. On the other hand, if you choose to compete on experience, you eliminate over 80 percent of your competition, who are cutting costs and service trying to be the cheapest. – John DiJulius
Great Customer Service Actions Create Outstanding Customer Experience
DiJulius wrote two of my favorite books on Customer Service and Customer Experience. Both are a must read:
I will never forget my first trip to the Waldorf Astoria in Chicago. The catch, I wasn’t even a guest staying at the hotel. I was attending a rehearsal dinner down the street Friday night. It was one of those dreadfully humid midwest days. You know sweat beading down your back standing in air conditioning. I enter the hotel and the bellman asks to take my bag. I mention I’m just dropping my bag off with a friend and I’m not a guest. He says, “No problem if you don’t need it I’ll take care of it for you.” I try to hand him a tip. He says, “No thank you, sir, it is my pleasure.” I try harder, he says, “I’m happy to help.” Huh, this is new. I haven’t experienced this before. I take a step toward the lobby and I’m greeted by a hotel employee offering me and everyone else entering the hotel a bottle of water. Remember it’s stifling hot. This water felt life-saving at this point.
Day two, I return to meet my friends to head to the wedding. Doorman says, “I liked your brown suit yesterday but I love this one.” Did he remember me? How many people walked through his door yesterday. I am now in love with this hotel. What did they do right? They looked for opportunities to help and executed. Do you think many hotels in Chicago were handing out bottled water to guests as they arrived? I was just a random guy meeting some friends but the bellman tried to become my personal assistant and get me anything I needed. The Waldorf Astoria room rates are expensive and not what I would normally spend on a hotel. Guess where I will spend my next special occasion with my wife. Hands down, The Waldorf Astoria.
My wife and I stayed at the W Hotel for her birthday a few years ago. We planned to go out to dinner then return to the hotel that night. I routinely forget a toothbrush or contact case. This time, my contact case. Great, I’m in The Loop, meaning a contact case could be pretty hard to find. I ask at the front desk, “We’re on our way to dinner, where can I get a contact case?” The lady at the desk replies, “Don’t worry about it, we’ll get you one and have it waiting in your room.” Not sure what my face look liked but I know I was surprised. Was she going to charge me for it, maybe? The idea that she didn’t even start down the path of giving me directions to Walgreens still blows me away. She saw an opportunity to help and executed. W Hotels have become my preferred hotels when traveling.
I called Finao to check on a special photography album I had ordered. It has been six weeks and it usually only takes them three or four to get me an album. I talked to Crystal and explained my problem. She explained that I ordered it when they were moving to their new space and some albums ordered at that time are taking a bit longer. Immediately I’m thinking, “Wait, I don’t care about your move. I want my album.”
She followed with, “I’m really sorry for the delay. I will go to production right now and expedite your album. I will try to have it out by the end of the week. I’ll also upgrade shipping to overnight free of charge.” In four sentences she took complete ownership of the problem and offered to personally fix it for me. She set new expectations and told me she would take care of it. Crystal could have easily passed this off to someone else. Did she owe me a trip to production or free shipping? No. There is an album company that I have worked with that I would have expected a sorry you’re out of luck response from. I am moving my business away from them. Not Finao. They make a product that I love and for the first time I have experienced a service defect with them. They made it right and will continue to get my business and praise.
The day after my wife and I bought our new minivan someone rear-ended us. I had finally come to grips with driving this thing and bam, I have to get it fixed. I take it into the body shop, leave it, and head on vacation. When we get back the car is ready as promised. I drive it off the lot and immediately noticed there’s a strange noise in my front tire. I look but I can’t figure it out. I forget about it until the next day. The tire pressure is now low and a warning light is going off. I find the culprit. A huge bolt sticking out of the tire. So here I am, two days after picking up my newly fixed car and it has a giant bolt and soon to be a flat tire. Now I’m pissed thinking there’s not a chance that America’s Collision will fix this. I’m ready to fight and lose and shell out money. Here’s how the phone call went.
Now I’m pissed thinking there’s not a chance that America’s Collision will fix this. I’m ready to fight and lose and shell out money. Here’s how the phone call went.
“Wow, I’m so sorry. We have bolts everywhere. It’s entirely possible it happened here. Take it down the street from us to the tire place. I’ll call and tell them you are coming. They’ll get you a new tire by lunch. It’s on me.” I admit I was so prepared for a fight I was a little disappointed. I sheepishly said thank you and got it fixed. While waiting at the tire place I pulled out my phone and wrote my first online review ever. Just like Crystal from Finao, the body shop took ownership of the problem and fixed it. Apply this idea to your business. Customer experience is always about the good times, it’s how you handle the bad ones. Do you make mistakes? I do. People may not write a review when you do things well. They will definitely write a bad review if you have a service defect. What if you could have a service defect and get them to write a raving review? That will only come with World-Class Customer Service.
Words/Actions of Experience
Defining Attributes of Experience
- Authentic and Genuine
- Uncommonly attentive
- Deeply engaged
- High in emotional labor/low or free in actual cost
Habits That Create an Experience That Connects
- Listening with all you’ve got. If you’re not exceptional at listening, learn to be. Develop the skills to make people feel seen, understood, and interesting.
- Honesty: especially when they expect you to sugar coat.
- Do the little things differently.
- The Details: look to the details for ways to thrill.
- Help: find ways to be helpful, give knowledge or catch details that save—even when it’s not “your job”.
- Engage: be interested in more than what you’re selling try to be and find out what your customers really need.
- Establish your signature: vary details and give individually, but develop something that you’ll become known for.
- Ignore the standards: set your own. Doing things a little bit better than everyone else limits you to perform just well enough to beat everyone else, and it ties you to an utterly stale framework for how to delight people.
- Hold Hands: educate them before they ask questions.
- Feedback: ask your clients what they think. Learn from it.
- Execute/Make Promises: Deliver what you promise and better
We have defined "experience". You have clear examples of customer service in action. Now how can you create World-Class customer service and experience in your business? It’s time to analyze your business process and build a customer experience map.