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It's Customer Service Stupid: Delivering Customer Service Training That Sticks
"Society is always taken by surprise at any new example of common sense."
This Ralph Waldo Emerson quote opens one of the most impressive works on customer service: Michael LeBoeuf's book How To Win Customers and Keep Them For Life. I am a fan of the book, and of the man, who has become a good friend and mentor. What makes such a difference in Michael's writing is that, while written over ten years ago, it remains consistent and relevant to us today.
Teaching customer service should be easy. After all, it is common sense to treat customers as we would want to be treated. Developing or delivering a program that helps people understand that proves more difficult. That's because at the core of every customer service training initiative must be a clear understanding of the motives and purpose that drives us, accompanied by a clear strategy for delivering exceptional service that not only wins customers but also helps you keep them for life. Many companies have customer service program in place (or at least address the need for one). But most focus on practices rather than the principles that make them successful. Customer service training is often driven reactively by the need to solve immediate service problems. As a result, we fail to identify, promote, and train employees on the core components that drive service from the heart, not just the brain. No customer service program is complete until it addresses the integration of the following components:
Consistent performance is what customers want most. They want service they can depend on. More specifically this means that they want you to do what you say you are going to do... do it when you say you're going to do it... and do it right the first time. If you can also get it done on time, you are being reliable. A reliable individual is worthy of reliance or trust, and trust builds long-term relationships in personal and professional life.
In business, sports, or in any field of endeavor, consistent, high-level performance is the major difference between the runners and the champions. Teach people to be reliable and you are teaching them to be winners.
One thing customers will readily pay for is peace of mind. We want security, integrity, and the assurance that if there is a problem, it will be promptly handled at no extra cost. If we buy products, we want them to be safe and guaranteed. If we buy services, we want them to be free from danger, risk, or doubt and kept confidential. We don't want hidden agendas, hard-sell techniques, extra charges, and contracts with "fine print". Such is the nature of credibility, and it brings customers back. A credible person is worthy of confidence and a company that proves itself credible gains the respect of their customers, and often of their competitors. Teach people to be credible and you are teaching them respect.
Anything the customer sees, feels, touches, hears, or smells concerning your business is shaping their opinion of your service for better or worse. Appearances may be deceiving, but customers draw a lot of conclusions about the service quality on the basis of what they see. Look at the business through your customer's eyes, and make the effort to put forth a first-class image. Being attractive means to be pleasing to the eye as well as to the mind. It means having the power to attract. When you teach people to dress smart and maintain a pleasant work environment and appearance you are empowering them to provide great service.
Responsiveness has to do with more than the speed at which you provide a service. Being responsive means being accessible, available, and willing to help customers whenever they have a problem. A responsive individual is ready to respond and react to suggestions, influences, appeals, or efforts on behalf of the customer. Teach people to be responsive and you are preparing them to be flexible.
Customers should be treated as unique individuals, with their unique personalities, wants, and reasons to buy. If you treat them as such and solve their unique problems, they will continue to be your customer. Showing empathy means putting yourself in the customer's shoes. It means trying objectively to grasp their point of view, and feeling what they feel. It means listening intensely, asking the right questions, speaking their language, and tailoring your services to help them as best you can. When you show empathy you dig deeper into your own self and attribute part of you to your interactions with others. When you teach people empathy you are helping them to really care.
When these elements are in place you will see a change in the attitudes and behavior of your service providers. Start with these principles as a strong foundation for creating action-ready training programs and you will see incredible returns on your training investment. You will also win and keep the customers who ultimately pay the bill.
Julio Quintana is a writer and speaker based in Weston, Florida. He is the author of the companion training guide to the powerhouse classic, How to Win Customers & Keep Them for Life by Dr. Michael LeBoeuf. Learn more about his practice and The Merge Point Method at http://www.mergepoint.org.
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