6 Steps to Deliver Remarkable Customer Service

From a viral video to a positive review, a customer’s motivation to share their experience with your product or service usually comes down to remarkability. By remarkable we mean something that is worth commenting on and sharing with others.

Sharing can be in the form of ratings, reviews, comments, posts, and good old fashioned word-of-mouth. For small businesses, what your company offers must be remarkable, and the largest opportunity to make a guest’s experience notable lies within the domain of customer interaction. From the smallest details to the overall company culture, the customer’s experience is what makes or breaks continued client attraction and retention.

How do you instill a culture in your small business that motivates your staff to deliver consistently remarkable customer service, resulting in increased customer loyalty and revenues?

Here are six steps to delivering consistently on your customer promise and improving your business.

It Starts and Ends at the Top

Customer service begins and ends with YOU, the owner. Nothing else really matters, and all other efforts are pointless, unless the owners truly believe in the value of delivering remarkable customer service.

Do you believe your customers are looking to take advantage of you, or do you realize that the vast majority of them are honest and will reward you with their loyalty if you treat them right? Are your employee policies all about control and avoiding theft, or is your staff truly empowered to take care of the customer? The “Employee of the Month” plaque on the wall is meaningless if the owners and management of the company don’t truly believe in delivering remarkable customer service, and the investment it requires.

The investment from the top includes believing in and instilling a persistent culture of superior service. It should include a shared manifesto which serves as a foundation for your company’s culture. It’s not just the clichĂ© posters about leadership and team work, but your true conviction about running your company in a way that proudly represents you and your staff. It’s about delivering the service you enjoy experiencing when you visit your favorite establishments – the places you go back to again and again because they make you feel great, and which you share with others!

Culture

The interaction between customer and company has become increasingly transparent, thanks in part to technology. Company brands are no longer static entities, but rather dynamic and personified. Culture is everything in today’s business environment, and customers can smell insincerity from a mile away. Part of a brand’s culture must be built from the values and core beliefs of the company’s owners. Your company should foster an environment where a passion for remarkable customer service can thrive. Like much in life, it all comes down to balance. If you believe in your core values and have faith in the ability and training of your employees to deliver, it will be easier to develop an environment of empowerment and trust.

Culture is a living, breathing organism that needs to be supported and nurtured. It evolves over time, but the core tenets should never waiver. One way to measure if you have successfully instilled a strong culture is to observe how your team handles a new member. Does the team automatically correct and guide the new member’s behavior and actions if they vary from the accepted norms of your culture without being told? Are they quick to tell managers that this new employee is not a fit? Does the new employee stand out from the other employees and feel as if they are a “fish out of water”? These are good signs that your team embodies the culture of your business and leads to consistently delivering on your customer promise, even when you are not watching.

Systems

Systems are the ways in which a company’s culture is carried out consistently and repeatedly. Without the infrastructure of systems (including software, manuals, forms, training, and checklists), remarkable customer service deteriorates quickly. Systems are the key to executing consistently in every aspect of your business.

As it relates to customer service, your employee training and development systems are critical. Well trained employees that have access to protocols and procedures which foster good client relationships are a key to the success of any business. Your focus should be to develop systems as if you are a multi-unit operation, even if you are running a single-location company. This approach supports the repeatability of your process which should ensure that every new employee is hired, trained and developed to the same productive and effective standard.

Employees

Your culture and systems mean nothing without the right team of highly motivated people to execute them. When it comes to your company’s team of workers, it’s important to take the time and focus on finding people that will make a good fit.

Always remember to hire slowly, and fire quickly. If a member of the staff is not a good fit, it is critical to sever ties quickly. Remember, just because an employee is unsuited for a particular position does not make them a bad person or poor worker, it’s just likely not a good fit.

When hiring customer-facing employees, personality and character are often more important than skills or experience. You can teach a person new skills, but it’s extremely difficult to teach someone how to enjoy working with and serving customers. It’s helpful to have a baseline of a great employee, and also use employee assessment tools like Kolbe’s RightFit™ solutions when possible to help you choose the right candidate for the position.

Listen and Measure

How do you know if you are delivering consistently remarkable customer experiences? How do you measure customer service and satisfaction? It’s imperative that you and your management team listen and measure to objectively assess your progress and execution. Your customers will tell you what they think about your product and service, but you have to listen and be receptive to their feedback. You must also measure, and reward or correct, how your staff is executing. Doing so keeps your focus on customer service top-of-mind throughout your entire organization.

From online reviews to mystery shoppers, the trick is to make sure to listen and take into account what your customers are saying. Try listening for broad themes that permeate from a variety of sources. Ask your employees what they think, or ask a friend to test out your business as a customer to get an unadulterated and trustworthy view of customer-facing interaction. Monitor social media platforms and use alert technologies to stay attuned to what people are saying about your business. Take reviews and feedback to heart, and take input from the loyal customers who love your company.

Execute Consistently

Consistency is the true test of your commitment to delivering remarkable customer experiences. Are you dedicated to delivering remarkable service for the life of your business, or was it just a fading phase?

An individual customer does not really care that you have executed flawlessly on the previous thousand customers – it’s their transaction and interaction that matters most. Furthermore, a high opinion from one customer can be cancelled out by a bad opinion from another. And people are more likely to share a poor experience than a positive one – a reality which is greatly amplified by the relative anonymity and ease of the internet to share with others and encourage everyone to become a critic.

Delivering consistently, with each customer and every interaction, is the most difficult thing to achieve, and it should be your ultimate goal. While it’s impossible to be perfect, your standard must be set extremely high so that you execute as closely to 100% as possible. And when you fail, as we all naturally do at times, your process should include a fast and genuine resolution for your customers. Most customers understand that we all make mistakes – what they don’t usually tolerate is indifference and lack of follow-up.

Being remarkable is often what sets us apart from the competition. Our products and services must be of high quality, but it’s the experiences our customers enjoy when they interact with us that they value and share the most.

Spokesperson Sued Over Offensive Remarks

An interior designer has been sued for some offensive remarks she made awhile ago. Although she contends she didn’t know her remarks were on the record, the contractor who is suing her reported that it shouldn’t matter whether you are or are not on the record. A public figure has no reasonable expectation of privacy.

A few days ago, the interior designer, name being withheld, thought she was going to work on what seemed to be a regular day. When she arrived at the office, she went through her normal routine. She made herself a cup of coffee and read her emails. It started out just like any other day, but that was about it.

There was a message in her inbox she must have missed the day before. It was a notification that she was scheduled for an interview. That interview was about to take place. Not long after she read her email, a knock came on the door.

Journalist Mary Huddington of the Huddington Gazette thought it would be great to get some answers about the future of the fireplace. When they sat down in her office, she thought this interview should be easy enough. She has written plenty of articles explaining the problems with the traditional wood burning fireplace and why it doesn’t quite fit with the popular green initiatives we have adopted around the world.

The interview went nicely and then Mary started packing her things. That’s when Mary pulled a Journalist 101 trick the interior designer didn’t see coming. Mary made the remark, “All this green fireplace talk, it’s not like the fireplace is all that bad.”

The reply that came was off the cuff and she thought those words would never make the article. But, they did. A few days later, she was served. She found herself being sued by a contractor who builds fireplaces. I guess he didn’t like what the interior designer had to say about the future of the fireplace after all.

Standing in front of the honorable Judge Masters, the interior designer heard why she was being sued. The contractor Jerry Shiver made claims that the interior designer’s remarks were offensive and that they were a detriment to his business. Her only defense was that her remarks were not malicious in any way, which is one requirement of a defamation suit. Another requirement of a defamation suit is whether or not her remarks had caused any damage.

When being questioned, Mr. Shiver contended that the interior designer had remarked irresponsibly about the future of the fireplace and her words were hurtful to the fireplace industry all around. Shiver further inserted that he had suffered a loss of business since the article hit the Gazette and that the interior designer remarked in such a way that was so offensive it was unconscionable.

She was then asked to defend her statement, “The traditional wood burning fireplace should never be allowed in anyone’s home. It damages the environment. It’s a risk to the home. It has really never been a good idea to have a wood burning fireplace in the home and we should have been looking for alternatives a long time ago.”

She asserted that she meant every word of what she said. She added that she did not intend that those words would be included in the article. She assumed the interview was over and she was simply responding to Mary’s remark. But if she was going to be paraded into a court of law to defend what she had to say, she said that her remarks are true and should be heeded. She further added that she is glad her words were included so that they could be read by everyone who reads the Gazette, “The truth needs to get out there. I can’t help it that contractors are losing business because no one wants them to build another fireplace. Maybe they need to find other things to build.”

The courtroom was very quiet for about a minute. Shiver was speechless. His worst nightmare was staring him in the face from across the room. But at the end of the day, Masters just could not bring himself to side with the complainant. The interior designer was right and he made it very clear that even though her remarks had been damaging to Shiver’s business, they were not malicious. In fact, they had all the elements of good intentions.

It’s a very real possibility that anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. But if you have strong convictions, you need to stick by your guns and don’t let anyone bully you into being silent about them. At the end of the day, you either say what you feel or you forfeit your right to that freedom.

Run a Small Business? Treating Clients Right Is Easy – Just Don’t Do What the Car Dealer Did to Me

Last month I went out and bought a shiny, brand new car. The car’s nice, but I wanted to share my experience with the sales rep I worked with, and the dealership that ultimately took care of me by not really taking care of me. And it wasn’t so much that I was at the dealership for 4 hours, they had no snacks to eat or that I was shuttled between two competing sales reps, it was the way I was treated after the purchase.

Once the paperwork was signed, the sales rep was far more interested in getting referrals from me that ensuring I was treated remarkably. In order to make sure that he was foremost on my mind when I left the dealership, the sales rep gave me a stack of his business cards that could have weighed down an elephant. I guess his thought was, “The more cards I give him, the more he’ll pass out and the more customers I’ll bring in.” He then explained that for each sucker, I mean person I got to buy a car from him he would present me with $100 – wow, that’s roughly .027% of the purchase price! As you can guess from my tone, I recycled his cards and didn’t give him a second thought.

The sales rep had the car detailed, put a full tank of gas in it and gave me 10 coupons I had to fill out and mail in to maybe win a prize. That’s it, nothing memorable and nothing remarkable. Now I bought a nicer car this time, in fact the nicest I’ve ever owned, but that really shouldn’t matter no matter what kind of car I bought. I got the “run of the mill” treatment and yet the sales rep wants me to talk to all of my friends and colleagues about him. Ironically, had he been genuinely concerned about providing remarkable service I would have kept his business cards and yes I would have sent people his way.

I know what you might be thinking, “He didn’t do badly”. I’d have to agree with you, but I am reminded of something Seth Godin, a leading marketing guru wrote in his book Free Prize Inside, “Being good is bad”. My sales rep was okay, he was “good”, but he wasn’t memorable or remarkable, and that’s just good enough to get my business – once. Seth also goes on to say, “There are two types of businesses: remarkable and invisible”. This sales rep and car dealership were not remarkable.

Here’s the crux of the issue: the sales rep wants me to think of my experience as memorable, if not remarkable, but he didn’t do anything or say to make me feel that. The dealership was even worse, since the transaction they’ve sent me two form emails and a letter in the mail thanking me for visiting the dealership and informing me that they want to sell me a car – this is AFTER I had already purchased one. One of the form emails was from a Sales Manager I never met, and the other one was from the Customer Relations Director. Funny, in this woman’s actual title are the words, “CUSTOMER RELATIONS”, and yet she sent out a form email saying, “I trust you had good service and I trust you had all of your questions answered” – pathetic. Instead of “trusting”, how about picking up the phone and ASKING? No such luck.

To be fair, what if I was in the sales rep’s position, what would I have done to be remarkable? How about:

  • Sending out a personal, hand-written card
  • Free car washes for a month
  • A photograph of me at the dealership with my new car
  • Special announcement cards I could send to friends and family to tell them about my new car

Is this just an opportunity to gripe? Well, yes…and no. I feel better after ranting, but my motivation was really to make sure you remember (as I was reminded of) what it’s like to be a customer versus a client that’s valued. What it feels like to be sold to rather than to buy from, and how easy it can be to be remarkable in an average business world. If you can remember this you’re ahead of the competition, if you can apply this to everyone you meet – you will have no competition.