Is Good Customer Service a Given?

This article is written from the perspective of a small business IT services provider, but good customer service is certainly not industry specific.

By definition (from Wikipedia) – Customer service is the provision of service to customers before, during, and after a purchase. That definition shouldn’t require an adjective should it? Unfortunately, for too many service providers it isn’t a given that the service provided is “good.”

The interesting thing is we’ve all been on the receiving end of poor customer service at some point. It doesn’t take much effort to identify service that could only be identified as lacking right? Why then, does that not translate into doing it better ourselves?

I believe the answer is that we either never knew or have forgotten the golden rule. There are numerous articles that detail the 8 or 10 simple rules for good customer service. What if it was even simpler? What if there is only 1 rule you need to know. One rule that would govern everything you say and do in the course of providing service to your customers?

What if “treat others the way you want to be treated” really worked?

News flash – IT DOES!

Let’s break it down.

Before the sale – do I want to be pushed into purchasing something that benefits the seller more than the buyer? Do I want to pay more than necessary for an item? Do I like high pressure? Do I enjoy being misled?

During the sale – do I like it when people don’t show up when they say they will? Do surprises that cost me more just make my day? Should it be an anomaly when things actually work?

After the sale – is the disappearing provider trick one of my favorites? Should I have to pay twice for something that didn’t work the first time?

I realize these are all negative examples but really, do we need a list of the correct way to treat others? In the small business realm, often the customer has a single point of contact with your company. If that point of contact is you, then ultimately the product you’re selling is you. You’ve heard the phrase – the buck stops here? A customer’s entire experience with your company starts and stops with you. If that statement brings shame or regret, please refer back to the golden rule. It’s not too late to make “good” customer service a given.

What about those customers who haven’t read the golden rule? It’s inevitable that we come across those at some point. My practice has been to view everything in terms of relationship. Some relationships are great with very little effort. Some take a lot of work, and some are just not meant to be. I have turned away work when I became convinced that it wasn’t going to end well. Let’s face it. Some people are just not going to be happy. In that scenario, you have still treated them the way you want to be treated. You have their best interest in mind, and they typically are grateful for your honesty. If not, perhaps the best thing is for them to be referred to your competition.

One of the things I enjoy hearing is “you’re the first person we’ve had that actually knows what they’re doing.” While that statement is good for my business, it’s a bad sign for the state of the service industry. This article is writte

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Good Customer Service Is a Numbers Game

Good customer service is fundamental to the long term success of any business. It is expensive to attract new customers and the task only gets larger with time because a small amount of growth is required each year by the business in order to offset the rising cost of living. This means that if customers are not being retained and enticed to return then the expensive task of attracting new clients will become larger year after year.

But what exactly is good customer service? Is it a matter of bending over backward to cater to the customer’s every need? Well, maybe. Strict definitions aside, it is a fair bet to say that good customer service occurs when expectations are met or exceeded.

The level of service that is expected by customers is subjective and varies between industries. In industries where the standard is very high such as hospitality then it takes a greater effort on the service provider’s part just to make par. And that is where experience shines. Understanding the standards set within your own industry means that you can provide good customer service in the most efficient manner possible.

Objective self reflection is also an important part of your service delivery model. Business owners can tend to excuse their company’s flaws because they understand the challenges or cost of correcting them. This is a serious trap for business owners and one that can impede the delivery of good customer service.

For this reason, it is important for businesses to have processes in place to assess the real customer experience. For best long term results the assessment should be quantitative so that trends can be identified. A simple score out of 10 for courtesy, speed of service, quality of the product, feedback or any other relevant metric can help to numerically describe the level of service at any given time.

But it is the collection of many assessments over time that will provide the real insight into the level of customer service. Not only does the information help you to assess the business performance in terms of customer experience, but it also helps to provide solid information on how to better distribute limited capital funds into areas that can make the most difference.

Lastly, good customer service takes effort, knowledge, self reflection and honesty. Without these attributes one can easily skew the results of the analysis. But skewed results will not help the customer or the business. Conversely, an honest appraisal can highlight strengths and help the businesses to mitigate weaknesses. And that in turn can have outstanding results for everybody.

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