As I am both a service provider and a consumer, I’m quite comfortable saying I believe good customer service is essential to maintaining or growing your business. Excellent customer service is what begins to separate one from the crowd. So, it stands to reason that, regardless of how great your service or product is, poor customer service will eventually bring your business to its knees.4 Elements of Customer ServiceManage Expectations: Whatever your service or product may be, ensure you consistently deliver on your service promises. If your company promotes that it guarantees a maximum 24-hour turn around on services, make sure that’s what you deliver…every time.Communicate Expectations: Let the customer or client know what they can expect from you and what you’re going to do to ensure they get it. Ensure everyone on your team is aware of the customer service standards you’ve set for your company. They should understand how important consistent delivery of superior service quality is to your bottom line.Exceed Expectations: Once you’ve set the standard for your customer service, try and find ways to deliver above and beyond. Your client is already expecting what you’ve promised; now knock their socks off by taking it a step further.Follow Up: Particularly in the professional service industry the golden rule is “Follow up, Follow up and then, Follow up some more.” Never leave a client wondering where things stand. Make certain you have a communication plan in place to always keep clients updated on progress during the project as well as maintaining continued success upon completion.Too often companies can make the mistake of putting most of their effort into getting new clients and not enough into delivering on the services they’ve promised. I firmly believe that customer satisfaction from your current clients is the most valuable resource for attracting new customers.Most clients won’t complain about poor customer service, especially when it’s the 2nd or 3rd time, they’ll just go elsewhere. And, these days, they’ll share their bad experience with their network of connections in person and through Twitter, Facebook, as well as various other online business review services. Local business reviews through Google serve as a very public platform for customers to easily comment on the businesses found in their directory. Here’s where the impact of bad customer service can begin to drastically impact your bottom line.Superior customer service is one of the most important tools left that seldom costs money and creates the most impact. It’s more costly to attract and secure new clients than it is to keep the ones you’ve got satisfied.Customers and clients are not only interested in the service or product you’re offering; it’s the additional elements of service that create loyalty.
I don’t understand why more businesses aren’t marketing good customer service.Good customer service, not to mention great customer service, is difficult to come by these days. Think about every business, product or service you come into contact with on a daily basis. Then think about whether or not you are receiving truly good CS. I would argue that most often, you probably “settle” for average customer service and are rarely exposed to truly strong customer service. You probably don’t even realize it sometimes.Two very different examples of CS came into play just yesterday for me, and there is a lesson that relates to marketing.First, I tried to rent a car with one of the leading (or at least one of the most well-known) car rental companies. I have given a lot of business to this particular company, and have earned their highest status after renting cars from them for well over 10 years. Well, without getting too far into the details of what actually happened, there was a mix-up with my reservation. I wasn’t getting anywhere with anyone in person. So I made calls and emails to try and get some help to straighten it all out, but I wasn’t getting anywhere there either. No one took responsibility for situation. After all of my years of devotion to this one particular company, when push came to shove, my “status” hadn’t earned me a damn thing in the eyes of these particular customer service representatives. In fact, I wasted close to three hours of my time trying to get everything straightened out. That is not good customer service.Second, almost immediately after I got the car rental episode straightened out, I stopped by my bank of choice to make a deposit. I walked up to the window and was immediately greeted cheerfully. The CS representative said her name, and earnestly asked “how can I help you today?” It was like a breath of fresh air. I provided the check, deposit slip and my ID, and from that point forward was called by name by the bank’s employees. I was even thanked for my loyalty for the last seven years. Even the teller next to the one I was talking to asked how my day was going. I chuckled and said “pretty shitty until now”. They laughed too. When I was done with the transaction, the customer service representative smiled again, asked me if there was anything else I needed, and wished me well. That is good customer service.It got me thinking, oddly, about marketing.Experience number one is likely what most of us come into contact with every day without maybe even realizing it; sub-par customer service, and sub-par CS even when there is years of loyalty built up.Experience number two is likely what most of us do not come into contact with very often; good customer service by people who genuinely are there to help solve problems and make your experience a great one.With my bank example, I recalled all of the marketing and advertising I’d seen from that particular bank in the past. I couldn’t once recall anything from their material about good customer service. When you think of the banking industry, there aren’t too many differentiators. Sure, there are different types of accounts, fee structures, percentage returns and small differences related to the tangible things. These are the things you see most often in marketing materials. “Do business with our bank and enjoy no fees!” “Do business with our bank and you’ll earn X% on your money market.”You get the picture.But one could argue for people like me that the intangibles are much more important and impactful. If this bank’s Chief Marketing Officer were smart, he or she would literally film the experience I had yesterday and use it as a commercial. Great CS is the one of the true differentiators in an industry where most businesses look very much alike.So why not market that? I don’t really care if I save a couple pennies a year on account fees or transaction fees. I do care about doing business with companies who provide great service and are willing to go above and beyond for my business. Unfortunately for us as consumers, these companies are the exception to the rule. Fortunately for this particular bank, they have a huge marketing asset at their fingertips in good customer service.Think hard about what you or your company does. Do you provide great customer service? Do your competitors? If you do and your competitors don’t, you need to market that. Good customer service goes such a long way in earning loyalty and it sticks out like a sore thumb especially in a highly-competitive or “me-too” industry.I know two things from my experience yesterday. I will not choose to do business again with that particular car rental company despite my “status”. I will not choose to do business with a different bank from now on, I’m sticking to this one main bank. Two major decisions for me (and for the winning and losing companies) that were entirely based on customer service and my experience, and had little to do with the actual product or service.The bank didn’t have to market their good customer service to me, because I happened to experience it first hand. But the lesson here is that they should have marketed it to me. Not only is good customer service the exception to the rule, marketing good customer service is an even bigger exception to the rule.The moral of the story is that marketers really should tout good customer service more than they do. Why? Because customer service really does matter.