Based on your industry, customer service can take many forms. It can be an expertly prepared and served meal. It can be a thoughtfully curated travel experience. It can simply be a warm and personal greeting from a stranger when you walk in the door. At its best, customer service is the opportunity to bring some kindness into someone’s life; to help someone feel seen, and cared for, and important.
After all, it can be tough to be a human some days. At any given moment, someone who comes into your business may be dealing with a broken heart, a job they hate, a serious health scare, a challenging family issue, or any other number of “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” Customer services affords us the opportunity to meet people where they’re at, and hopefully leave them a bit better off for our encounter.
In this two part article, I’m going to give you sixteen quick thoughts on how to improve customer service in your organization. As you read those over (and TAKE ACTION!), let’s remember that these tips and tactics will not only lead to more revenue. They’ll contribute to developing a business that makes the world a better place.
1) “Naivete Is Better Than Paranoia”
Many organizations create all sorts of policies to prevent a very small percentage of customers or clients from potentially taking advantage of them.
This impulse makes perfect sense. When you’re working hard to build a business, it can feel deeply personal when you perceive someone to be trying to pull a fast one.
But in reality, this is rarely ever happening. Don’t create byzantine policies that punish all of your current and prospective clients because a small handful may take advantage. Give human beings the benefit of the doubt.
2) Constantly Be Looking For Feedback
Feedback is the lifeblood of any business. It’s how you improve your services and standards over time. It’s also how you ensure you’re meeting and exceeding your clients’ expectations in each and every experience.
Make it easy for your clients to give you feedback. Give them multiple options, like physical suggestion boxes and email surveys. Allow them to be anonymous if they like.
And when you do ask for feedback, remember they’re doing you a favor by taking time out of their day to share their thoughts with you. Don’t bog them down with an onerous form. Keep it simple.
3) Always Thank Your Clients For Critical Feedback
You won’t usually hear when something goes wrong. So when you do find out, make sure your client knows how much you appreciate them telling you. After all, the easier thing for them to do is simply walk away. It may not feel like it, but they’re doing you a favor.
If it was a discrete service encounter that went awry, make it up to them. Quickly! Speed matters here.
If it’s more global critical feedback about your business at large, be sure to “close the loop” and follow up with them after you’ve looked into addressing the issue. No matter the final outcome, be sure your clients never feel like they’re giving feedback into a vacuum.
4) The Customer Isn’t Always Right… But They’re Always Perfect
Perhaps the most insipid phrase in all of customer service is “The Customer Is Always Right.”
Sometimes the customer is factually and objectively incorrect. Furthermore, sometimes they are not only wrong, they’re also careless and hurtful.
However, they are 100% correct in that they are accurately describing their feelings and their experience. When we get into arguments with customers, we never “win.” Even if there are some points you believe to be incorrect, we can still deal acknowledge their frustration with empathy. Even if they’re not able to manage their frustration and communicate with kindness, you can still genuinely care that they’re upset.
5) Your Self Care Matters
If you’re not in a good place physically, mentally, or emotionally, it’s very hard to take care of other people. If you work in customer service, you will have to develop the ability to put yourself in the right mindset to serve, even if you’re having an off-day.
But this will be infinitely easier to do if you’re taking care of yourself. This means everything from getting proper sleep, to learning how to manage your own stress, to practicing difficult conversations (see point 12).
Furthermore, while the customer is always perfect… so are you! While we don’t ever “win” by viewing our clients the enemy, it’s also important we create spaces and tools to effectively process our own hurt and frustration.
6) Study Customer Service Best Practices Outside Your Industry
Every single encounter you have as a customer or a client is a learning opportunity. Every time you order a coffee, or sit down at a restaurant, or check into a hotel, you have the chance to observe and assess a customer service professional as the customer.
Consider doing a quick flash-ranking of 1-10 every time you have an experience as a customer. Where was the individual successful? Where could they have been more effective? Was it clear what behaviors were being asked of you as a customer? Did they seem to be using a script of some kind?
In addition to direct experience, be sure to read books on customer service standards from different industries. Some of my favorites include:
- Setting the Table – Danny Meyer
- The Zingerman’s Guide to Giving Great Service – Ari Weinzweig
- Secret Service – John R DiJulius III
- Never Lose A Customer Again – Joey Coleman
- Be Our Guest – Theodore Kinni
- Customer Service Revolution – John R DiJulius III
7) Use Names. Make It A Standard
One of the most important elements of good customer service is personalization. While it may seem a small thing, using the names of your clients and customers is a subtle way to help them feel “seen.” Using names demonstrates your respect for the individual as a human being with whom you have relationship, not just a number and a transaction.
There’s a reason Dale Carnegie makes such a big deal about using names in the classic book How to Win Friends and Influence People. In a business climate where it’s easy to be transactional, using names is one more way to add more humanity to your services.
8) Write Handwritten Thank You Cards
Related to the above point, written thank you cards are an obvious indicator of “giving a shit.” By definition, written notes are more labor intensive than emails. They also provide your clients with a physical keepsake of your personal care and appreciation.
In addition to expressing gratitude for your clients, you can also use handwritten cards to congratulate, commiserate, and celebrate important life events.
Consider making this a weekly discipline.
There you have your first eight ways to improve your customer service. Check back soon for part 2 in our series, where I’ll cover topics ranging from:
- The perils of standardizing “wow” moments
- How to stand out by actually being a real live human
- The biggest hiring mistake in all of customer service
- The missing ingredient in developing your team
- And more
Go here NOW to read Part 2.
If you like the content in these articles and want help up-leveling your organization’s approach to customer service, check out Business for Unicorn’s course Clients for Life: Grow Your Business Through Customer Service, Community, and Culture, being held May 18th-19th in New York City.