- 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’s service chops
- And more
(In case you missed part one, you can check it out HERE.)
9) Always Be Looking for Moments To Surprise and Delight Your Clients
Once you’ve nailed the basic expectations and created a personalized experience, you’ll want to be on the lookout for opportunities to “wow” your clients.
While most people are familiar with the concept of creating “wow,” there’s a nuance that’s often missed; by definition, these kind of experiences can’t be codified and systematized.
The first time you bring in hats and sing happy birthday to a cherished client, it will create a “wow” moment. Your client was touched, and the moment (rightfully) receives lots of social media attention. Sounds good, right?
But let’s say you’re so happy with their response, you decide to make it a standard. You now start doing it for ALL birthdays. This is a perfectly valid response, and there’s nothing wrong with systematizing celebrating your customers. But at this point, it’s no longer a “wow” moment. It’s become an expectation. This means it no longer surprises your clients, and in fact, you may upset people who don’t get hats and a song.
This is why a great customer service organization will always require creativity. To continue to “wow” your clients year after year will require a never-ending commitment to setting and raising the bar.
10) Be A Real Live Human. People Prefer Humans Over “Businesses”
If there’s one HUGE opportunity for most businesses, it’s being professional while still being a human.
Make sure your automated emails and website copy sound like they’re written by a human, for a human. If you make a mistake (and you will, see Point 16!), don’t be afraid to sincerely apologize. Do your best to rid your business of any “industry jargon” that may put off prospects. Encourage your team to bring their full selves to their job.
And for the love of all that’s holy, professionalism and fun are NOT mutually exclusive. Particularly if your industry isn’t inherently enjoyable or known for being “human,” you have an even bigger opportunity to leverage this to your advantage.
People may have a contract with a business for a transaction. But they can only have a relationship with a human.
11) Don’t Hire Misanthropes For Customer Service Roles
It’s very difficult for someone to be good at customer service if they genuinely dislike humans.
When someone has a core belief that humans mostly suck, they will be a disaster in a customer-facing position. They will struggle to assume the best of clients. They will often feel the client isn’t being fair to them. They will always be on the lookout for someone trying to take advantage of the business. In tense encounters, they will often subconsciously dig their heels in and try to “win,” rather than looking to acknowledge and validate the client’s concerns.
When you’re hiring for customer service roles, look for someone that feels a calling to this work. Ideally, customer service should be an expression of their innate desire to serve humanity. And at the least, avoid hiring cynics who don’t like people.
12) Make Role-playing A Foundation Of Your Training
One of the most important ways to set your team up for success is to consistently role-play your service standards. While this can be expensive and time consuming, if you want to be world-class, this has to be prioritized.
“Amateurs practice till they get it right. Pros practice until they can’t get it wrong.”
Although there are a number of different uses for role-playing, at the very least, you’ll want to train your team on how to handle complaints. The more passionate your clients are about your business, the more likely they are to become very heated when they perceive a missed expectation. We owe it to our teams to get them practice handling these encounters in a safe space.
Not only does role-playing make sure their approach is in line with your standards, but you’re helping them practice these skills before they need to use them with an actual client. Since it’s unlikely they’ll be great at handling complaints without practice, role-playing is an invaluable way to get them up to speed.
13) Never Use Emails When Feelings Are Involved
When an upset client emails you, it’s always best to move the conversation to a phone call (or even better, an in-person chat). Of course, this won’t always be possible. But when it is, you’ll see an immediate deescalation. Particularly if the conversation is approached with curiosity and genuine compassion for the client in question.
Client aside, it’s only natural for you or your team to also experience feelings from time to time. After all, we’re just human. And upset clients don’t always communicate with kindness or concern for the person at the receiving end of a complaint. Even an incredibly patient and compassionate customer service professional will find themselves getting frustrated from time to time.
This is perfectly normal and perfectly OK. But writing an email while in an emotional state will almost never lead to a good outcome. It may feel like a detached way to avoid conflict, but nine times out of ten, it will only inflame the situation. Write a draft if you must, but do NOT hit send until you’ve cooled off. And if at all possible, move the conversation over to the phone.
14) Create A “Customer Service Clunkers” List
Words matter in customer service. Even well-intentioned customer service professionals can put off clients with poorly chosen words and phrases.
To make this even more of a challenge, most customer service your team receives is also poor. In their attempts to model “professionalism” as they’ve experienced it, they may parrot less-than-client-friendly phrases.
To help your team succeed, consider creating a list of the terms and phrases that are the customer service equivalent of nails on the chalkboard:
- “That’s our policy.”
- “No, we can’t do that.”
- “Well I don’t know who told you that, but they were wrong.”
- “I don’t know. You’ll have to call back later.”
You can use role-playing (Point 12) to solidify both the list AND alternative responses. This allows them to practice in a safe space, and for you to clarify your expectations. You may even go so far as to develop some specific “if-then” options. For instance, instead of saying “I don’t know, you’ll have to call back later,” train your team to respond “I don’t know, let’s find that out together right now.”
15) Your Team Can’t Give Better Service Than They Get
Not everyone you hire will have experience with world-class customer service. It’s our job as leaders to show them what that looks like.
One way to help them learn about great service is by facilitating opportunities for them to experience great customer service brands. Additionally, you can teach your team to look at every service encounter as an opportunity to learn, even if it’s by learning what NOT to do.
But beyond their experience as customers, clients, and guests, you have an opportunity as their leader to model great customer service behaviors with your team. Your team simply can’t give great service if they don’t feel supported by leadership.
Great leadership teams create and execute “internal customer” service standards. These standards could include:
- Getting to know your team as humans
- Investing in their personal goals and education
- Taking their concerns seriously when they’re upset
- Always promptly responding to emails
- “Closing the loop” after they’ve made a suggestion or offered feedback
- Writing them handwritten cards to express gratitude for their work
- Looking for opportunities to “wow” them with personalized surprises
Your team is committing to you and your organization’s goals and mission. And customer service can be hard work. It’s important to take care of your team and give them service at or above the level you expect them to give your clients.
16) Expect Mistakes and Mishaps
Over my years running Mark Fisher Fitness, this has been the hardest pill for me to swallow.
On balance, my high standards and expectations of myself and our team have served MFF’s development. But it took me a few years to accept that we’re only human. I used to have tremendous anxiety any time we dropped a ball. But over time, I learned to accept that mistakes will happen from time to time.
Michael Keeler, my non-sexual life partner and business partner in MFF and BFU, spent years working at The Four Seasons. The Four Seasons is one of the world’s greatest hospitality brands. And according to Keeler, even here, a large part of his job was endlessly making up for the inevitable missteps and missed expectations.
If we become adept at handling mistakes well, we actually have an opportunity to use the experience to deepen our relationship with our clients. People understand that businesses are not perfect, so they don’t expect perfection.
But they DO expect an appropriate and timely resolution when they bring a misstep to our attention.
I look at customer service as a spiritual vocation. At its best, customer service can be an expression of your love for humanity and your desire to leave the world better than you found it.
Now I know this probably sounds corny and a bit grandiose when we’re talking about bringing someone a hamburger or checking out a hair appointment. But think about it like this; our modern lives are impacted by multiple micro-encounters with customer service professionals every day. What would it be like if every time you had one of these encounters you were greeted by name? What if you were greeted warmly by someone who was well-trained and responsive to your explicit and implicit needs in that moment? What if their actions made it crystal clear they genuinely care about your well-being?
If we cultivate the the skills and mindset of service, we have the opportunity to impact the people we work with beyond the transaction. We can actively contribute to a kinder world.
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.