Customer service used to be a hotline for complaints. It used to be a reception desk for special requests, and the occasional raffle or the lost child at the mall.
But as we all now know, customer service has evolved. Avis is most remembered for its 1962 campaign, “We Try Harder” (which, by the way, has just been retired! After 50 years!). Yes, this was an advertising line. But what they did was to put the customer in the middle of their marketing efforts to show how strongly they wanted you to go with them instead of the #1 rental company. Does anyone even remember who their bigger competitor was?
Idea #1: Make your customer service your brand
Starbucks personalized their service. T.G.I.Fridays made celebrating in their restaurant something to look forward to. American Express has the black card, which can be used to the limits of human imagination, and all you have to do is call in your request to a representative over the phone.
Customer service doesn’t have to come from a booklet or an instructional video. It should be derived from the essence of your brand. “Familiarity,” “Celebration,” “Power.” These words described the brands I mentioned earlier, and they are seen and felt in their customer service, not simply in a tagline.
Idea #2: Distinguish your brand from the rest
Don’t follow the herd. When you add touches that clue customers in to what you are about, you’re putting surprise in their way. You make your store different, and your shoppers feel different as well. If you instruct your bookstore employees to say ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ in a different language every week, you position your store as international, and your customers feel international as well.
Idea #3: Infect your employees
Save yourself the money and skip the motivational posters taped to the employee room door. If you have strong feelings about customer service, then live out your feelings during meetings and training. Infect your employees by treating them the way you want them to treat the customers. When they experience your passion and standards, they will understand and empathize, and extend your energy, your heart, and your vision towards your customers.
Idea #4: Satisfy the craving
Your customers have a craving that you haven’t tapped yet. Find out what that is, whether it’s a break from the outside bustle, or strictly a need to eat-and-run, or the latest gadget reviews from the most popular tech websites. Once you find that out, eliminate all barriers to satisfying that craving and get your staff on board. Get them to understand the customers’ desire, so that when your customers get that pang for peace, a quick bite, or a chat about a new OS or hardware, they know where to find it.
Idea #5: At all times, have eyes and ears open
The most valuable asset to your company is your front line. They are the people in the store all the time, interacting with the buyers and clients, suppliers and delivery guys. Teach them to be sensitive to regular customers (and suppliers!). Have them visualize their day and describe it in detail, and see if they can recognize service bottlenecks. Teach them to take note of returning customers and their favorite products. Make it their mission to change customer attitudes for the better, by noticing facial expressions before, during, and after purchases.
Customer service must be exciting, world-class, and differentiating for your brand. Dig deeper into your company’s ethos. Know the character and personalities of your brand, your employees, your suppliers, and your customers before you start the customer service training, and find solutions that are inclusive, memorable, and most importantly, human.