4 Keys to Great Customer Service

Think of a time when you experienced truly excellent service. It may take you a few minutes—I don’t mind waiting.

Got it? Now compare that to a time when the service you received was just acceptable, but nothing special. Which organization do you want to do business with again? I’ll bet it’s the one where someone made you feel valued and cared for—someone who understood what great service really means.

What we know from working with companies of all sizes is that most organizations recognize that they need to offer great customer service—but few really get it right. They zero in on specific tactics or trendy catchphrases, or they provide training to a small number of people in customer service roles. They don’t understand that the best companies create a culture of Legendary Service—where taking care of customers is the responsibility of every person, not just people who work in the customer service department.

Organizations that have a true service culture look at customer service from three equally important perspectives:

  • Frontline service providers. Frontline people play a critical role because they are the ones who have direct contact with the customer. To the customer, these people are the company. If frontliners don’t know how to behave with a customer or how to answer a question or solve a problem, it can reflect badly on the organization in the customer’s eyes. On the other hand, if they serve customers with care, answer their questions, and solve problems on the spot, customers will happily return.
  • Managers. Managers in a true service culture empower frontline people to provide exemplary service. They also act as role models as they demonstrate service excellence to both internal customers—the people who work in the company—and external customers—the folks who use the company’s products and services.
  • Senior leaders. Top executives must fully embrace the service vision and communicate desired behaviors to the entire organization. Their goal is to create an environment where every person in the company feels cared for as a valued internal customer of the organization. Those folks, in turn, make sure external customers also feel cared for and valued.

You can see how, at an organizational level, creating loyal external customers begins by caring for internal customers—people who are empowered to create that loyalty with every direct contact they have with an external customer.

We use the CARE model to show the four qualities present in every Legendary Service provider: Committed, Attentive, Responsive, and Empowered. We’ve found that the lessons of this simple model, when applied, will have a profound impact on the service experience your customers—both internal and external—will receive. Here are descriptors for each quality:

  1. Committed: Being Committed to customers means living the customer service vision by knowing and understanding the impact of poor service on your organization; acting on the belief that service is important; performing tasks with the customer in mind; and having goals and metrics for providing great service.
  2. Attentive: Being Attentive to customers means listening to identify customer needs and wants by paying attention to customers’ verbal and nonverbal cues; being aware of surroundings and ignoring distractions; asking open-ended questions to draw information from the customer; acknowledging the customer’s needs; treating internal customers as if they are paying customers; and doing analysis on both internal and external customers.
  3. Responsive: Being Responsive to customers means taking action that shows you care, such as listening actively to gain understanding; acknowledging feelings; offering solutions within your authority; gaining agreement; and expressing appreciation.
  4. Empowered: Being Empowered for customers means unleashing the full extent of your power by practicing good self-care habits; being aware of the power you have to serve customers; continuing to increase your knowledge about your job; knowing your company’s policies and procedures; and personally handling all customer situations you may encounter.

I’ve always said profit is the applause you get for creating a motivating environment for your people so they will take good care of your customers. A true service culture creates an environment where people feel involved, appreciated, and cared for at work.

If you empower your internal customers, train them well, and care for them, they will take care of your external customers. Those people then tell their friends about you and become raving fans and part of your sales force. That takes care of the company shareholders or owners as well as the bottom line. And that’s how Legendary Service leads to great relationships and great results.

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