“Customers. Can’t live with ‘em; can’t live without ‘em.”
These words came from my very first boss, many years ago. And I’ve never forgotten them.
It struck me as odd at the time.
WHY can’t you live with them? Our customers back then were all lovely (to me, anyway). And why would you want to live without them?
As I grew up, I came to realise – of course – that not all customers are created equally.
But I never lost my deeply-held belief that without them, we are nothing. We have nothing. No business, no income, no-one to serve with our purpose or vision.
And yet SO many companies just don’t seem to give a damn about the reality of their customer experience.
We’re told they do, but marketing has become all the more wearisome for it. It feels emotionally manipulative (like the Lloyds Bank campaigns with the black horses & weepy vocals. We may be told the bank are here to support their customers at every stage of life’s journey – but in reality, 24 minutes on hold to speak to anyone does NOT feel massively supportive).
The truth is that – as paying customers – we all want to feel valued. We want to feel like we matter to the business we’re buying from. We want our expectations to be met; our needs to be served & it all to happen in a quick, simple way.
Well – nope. But we all have blind spots in our businesses. And it IS possible to take affordable but effective steps, to help make your customer service stronger & stronger.
Here’s what we’ve learnt, from working with thousands of business over the last decade…
1. Consistency, consistency, consistency.
This may seem like an odd place to start, to improve your customer service.
BUT people’s expectations are based on the experience they had last time they bought.
Let’s say you find a new garage. You’re welcomed by the owner, who shakes your hand warmly. The phone rings but he leaves it & keeps talking to you, about the knocking noise coming from underneath your car. He runs through what will happen next – and shows you the video cameras in each bay, that you can choose to sit & watch from the waiting area. He tells you who’ll be working on your car & when it will be ready.
3 hours later, you get an email. Your car’s up on the ramp & the garage owner’s sent you a 30 second video. You can see exactly what the problem is & he zooms in on the new parts they’ve fitted. You go to collect it & discover your car has been valeted from top to bottom, with a new cherry air freshener dangling from your mirror.
You pay your bill – it’s more than you expected, but what amazing service! – and head on your merry way.
You tell everyone you know about the garage. What a great place.
6 months later & your exhaust starts making a racket (it’s an older car, after all!). So you cheerfully call that great garage you found.
They don’t answer & you can’t leave a message. But they’re SO good, it’s no wonder they’re busy. You try another few times & eventually manage to get through.
This time though, when you drop the car off, there’s no owner there to greet you – but a young guy, probably in his late teens. He doesn’t shake your hand or explain what will happen, but after a cursory conversation, takes your keys & disappears.
You’re a bit disappointed.
This time, there’s no video. There’s not even a call. You call them at 4pm, to be told it’s been a non-stop day & they’re waiting on parts.
And now you’re REALLY fed up.
Would you be so annoyed if you hadn’t had such a great experience first time?
Probably not. But that first visit – and the service you experienced – set your expectations for the second.
This is why consistency is SO important, for great customer service.
And systems are the key to building consistency into your business…
2. Create systems to deliver a consistent experience for your customers.
If you deliver great stuff, put the systems in place to make sure it happens Every. Single. Time. Don’t leave it to chance or the whims of your staff (like the garage did).
Now – this doesn’t have to be expensive. With SO many free & inexpensive tools out there (from Trello & Asana to Mailchimp), building systems is easier than ever.
And it starts with the basics…
• Do your front-line staff have a system for answering the phone? Or do your customers ever get frustrated when their calls go unanswered? HOW should they talk to your customers? What should they say? How should they relay messages, to ensure they’re dealt with promptly? How do you make sure no customer or prospect feels dissatisfied or disappointed?
• What happens when a customer comes in to your business? What do your staff say to them? Is their hand shaken warmly? Are they greeted kindly, with a smile? OR is there a risk that customers get ignored? Because your staff are busy or on the phone (that blind spot again)?
• Do you have robust systems for delivering your product or service? Where are the blind spots where your customer can feel let-down or underwhelmed? Where are the little touch-points in your customer journey, where you can add more value to delight or surprise them – in a systemised, cost-effective way?
It’s NOT enough to assume that what you think happens for your customers, actually happens, every time. We need systems to make sure it does.
3. Better Communication = Happier Customers.
“I wouldn’t mind if they’d just TOLD me”…
How many times have you heard (or said) that? We’re all a LOT more forgiving when things do go wrong (and they will!), if we’re kept in the loop.
The worst customer service of my life was with Vodafone.
We tried to move our home broadband from Sky. Vodafone disconnected us before establishing whether they could actually supply us. One month later, we STILL had no internet.
It wasn’t the lack of wi-fi (although after a month, that was bad enough) – but the complete & utter lack of communication. They never called when they said they would. Engineers didn’t turn up. It took hours on hold to speak to anyone & when we did, no-one had a clue what was going on.
BUT it was a true lesson in the power of communication to improve our customer service.
And it goes back to (inexpensive) systems again.
• What systems do YOU have in place to communicate with your customers? How do you stay in touch, at each stage of their buying journey with you? Who calls them if there’s a delay? What do they say? How do your team handle complaints & problems? What exactly do they say - and what is left to chance (or the whims of our staff)?
• If someone has a problem and calls YOU – how long does it take, to talk to someone who can help? Are they left waiting? Do their calls even get answered? Do voicemails get returned? Are they left feeling better for making the call – or worse for it?
It’s something we’re working on, all of the time – our customer journey here at AMP. We’re far from perfect & we sometimes get it wrong. BUT we’re constantly striving to build & improve our systems, to meet our customer’s expectations as best we can, at every single point.
And if we can help you with your systems, then do get in touch.
Our award-winning call answering can help improve YOUR customer service by:
• Ensuring a high-level, consistent service for your customers, whenever they call your business;
• Removing the frustration of their calls not being answered;
• Fully systemising HOW your phones should be answered & what should be said;
• Relaying your messages fast + accurately, to remove customer dissatisfaction when things get missed;
• Ensuring every caller gets 100% full attention & commitment to serving them / resolving their problems;
• Keeping your customers in the loop & enhancing your communications;
• And much more!
And given the massive impact it can have on your customer service, it’s hugely affordable too (from just £79 per month + VAT).
Get in touch now, to see if our 2-Week FREE Trial might be right for you.
You can reach me personally on firstname.lastname@example.org or 02920 695999.
We’d love to help.
And very good luck on your customer service journey!
Until next time
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