Creating an Exceptional Customer Experience
Deliver poor customer service and you’ll lose business. But you can improve the customer experience by committing to meaningful change across your enterprise.
1. Believe the customer is always right (even when wrong) to produce a Culture of Service. This is a difficult mindset, but is key to improving your customers’ experience and will guide your actions and reactions. The customer pays all your bills, and your business needs to be 100% focused on this. If you have bad or abusive customers, you can choose to no longer do business with them or price in a fee for the difficulty.
2. Follow the Golden Rule. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is key for customer service. How would you like to be treated if you were the customer? Treat your customers that way. How would you like to be treated by your employer? Treat your employees (and vendors) that way. This requires emotional intelligence and thoughtfulness, as well as the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Appreciated and engaged employees and vendors should treat your customers exceptionally.
3. Communicate proactively. Be ahead of your customer. We consider it a failure if the customer tells us there is a problem we should have known about. Proactively inform customers of issues and preemptively provide solutions when issues arise.
4. Leverage technology. Visibility is no longer optional. Your customer expects to know where the SKU, pallet, or truckload of frozen lobster is. Automated technologies improve your service offering.
5. Improve processes constantly. Ask team members and customers how you can improve service. Measure Net Promoter Scores with your customers. Commodities differentiate on price; value providers differentiate on service.
6. Set prices fairly. If you make fat margins on a customer, you are taking advantage of them, and preparing yourself to be undercut by your competition. Creating a partnership of trust and transparency transforms your relationship, builds customer stickiness and appreciation, and sets you apart from the competition.
7. Choose your words. Think about the language you use with customers. It is your business to serve your customers, so why would it be a "problem" to provide exceptional service? We never say "no problem." Instead, we say "my pleasure" or "I am happy to make that change." Find positive, service-oriented responses.
8. Follow the Zappos model. Zappos and its retired chief executive officer Tony Hsieh are masters of customer service. Their goal is to "wow" employees, vendors, and customers with their service. See how you can "wow" your customers.
9. Measure service. Use key performance indicators that measure and demonstrate the exceptional service you provide. Measure dollar savings and response time. Demonstrate reliable service through on-time and claims percentages. We often rely on customers to measure us; instead we should show them that we are measuring ourselves.
10. Accomplish what you said you would do, even if it hurts. Exceptional customer service is built on trust. Honor your commitment even if you lose money on the transaction. Be truthful, even when you screw up. Take responsibility. With trust, your customer will be a long-term partner and will view you as an indispensable extension of their business.
SOURCE: Rob Hooper, Chief Executive Officer, Atlantic Logistics