One of the questions I’m asked frequently by people in various organization is: What is customer service? We seem to know some of the actions many customer service people perform, but have a difficult time actually defining what great customer service really is. The problem is that without an accurate understanding of the essence of great service, it’s extremely difficult to replicate it. We may sometimes stumble onto great service, but have a difficult time putting it into practice consistently.
Great service comes down to some essencial traits that can be developed anywhere. I want to cover 5 traits of great customer service. No matter what type of organization you are, no matter what service you perform, if you serve customers, focus on these 5 basic traits of great customer service and you’ll be on the track to provide great customer service.
1. Great Customer Service Is Passion
Passion is the most basic trait to great customer service people and organizations. It’s often referred to as the “it” factor. Passion separates the individuals and organizations who excel and those who just do enough to get by. Passion drives people or teams to push the extra mile or two to make a different. Passion is translated into great customer service when organizations make their business decisions centered around customers, customer needs, and the customer experience.
Passionate people are motivated. Passionate people feel satisfaction from the work they do, because they care about it. Passion in service, makes the act of service the reward for great service. Monetary compensation, though important (don’t kid yourself that it isn’t), is never the ultimate driver. Passionate customer service individuals need to connect, not just get a paycheck. Great service comes naturally as a consequence of passion and the satisfaction of making others happy.
2. Great Customer Service Is Hard Work
You aren’t born knowing how to speak, read, write, program, or provide great customer service. Great customer service requires effort. Customer service isn’t bliss 100% of the time (don’t fall for those who say it is). Customers are wrong sometimes, a bad day can be vented to the customer service person on the other end of the conversation, people can be petty, needy, demanding…but that’s ok, it’s part of the challenge of the customer.
Working with customers is one of the great mysteries of the business world. Think about it, when you are programming, you have your function want the computer to perform and you give it the commands needed to perform it. That’s it. It’s done. But customer service is harder than programming. Every customer is unique, every customer’s positive connection comes a different way. Some want things fast, others want you to show you’re willing to take the time. Some customers want to chat, others just want to get down to business. Not all customers are the same.
3. Great Customer Service Is Persistence (5 Years of Practice)
Malcom Gladwell’s book, Outliers, discusses the theory that it takes individuals 10,000 hours to master a subject. The 10,000 hours principle applies to any expertise. Unfortunately, customer service hasn’t been an area of business where individuals invest the necessary time for mastery. It’s an entry-level, bottom of the organization role that people enter and leave as quickly as possible. Without the time, it can’t be mastered.
As customer service managers and organization managers and executives, we can cultivate the need and importance of customer service professionals, and create the long-term career opportunities in the customer service field for our employees. Applying the 10,000 hour rule, it would take an individual who is working 40 hours per week 5 years to master great customer service! How many customer service people in your organization have 5 years of expertise? Do you see any of your current customer service people still in this role 5 years from now?
4. Great Customer Service Is Focused (Customer Focused)
Customer focus isn’t just about taking care of customers. Effective great customer service also involved on appropriate focus on who are your customers. What type of customers you have, and how you can progress your customers along the customer brand evangelist ladder.
The customer brand evangelist ladder involves gradually progressing customers from one-time purchasers to eventually become your customer advocate or brand evangelist.
One-time Customer > Occasional Customer > Frequent Customer > Loyal Customer, Advocate, Brand Evangelist.
5. Great Customer Service is Culture (Building a Service-minded Culture)
Don’t just enforce procedures and shouting instructions to get things done. Make your culture one that serves something of real value. Encourage your employees to connect with people by communicating with everybody from customers, employees, business partners and even with you as their employer. Get your employee to communicate with the aim to delight and not to antagonist people. Accept and encourage feedback be it criticism, complaints or compliments. Encourage learning via mistakes for only through mistakes can your employees grow, learn and improve. Customer service isn’t a policy, it’s a individual and organization mission.