What makes great customer service is a question asked in the boardrooms of all of the world's companies, large and small. Mission statements are written and charters are created to indoctrinate workers into the customer service rules chosen by managers.
To investigate the nature of great customer service I would like to share with you my three favourite customer service stories.
The first came back from holiday with a close friend. He had stayed at a luxury hotel which claimed a very high level of customer service. One morning he was reading his paper on the veranda outside the hotel and he asked for a pot of coffee.
The coffee arrived and my friend continued to read his newspaper for a couple of minutes. He poured a cup of coffee and took a sip, finding that it was not hot enough.
He reached out and put the palm of his hand against the coffee pot and at that moment a waiter appeared at his should to ask if the coffee was not hot enough and immediately offered to get a replacement. My friend was totally unaware that this person was in the vicinity. This is an example of empathetic customer service.
I heard the second example at a conference. Delegates were sharing stories of excellent customer service and I noted this one down. The delegate was explaining why, in the very competitive luxury car market, he felt that he did not have a choice of which brand he would choose.
Something had happened to make him very loyal to one brand and for that reason he was committed to it for life. He was generally very happy with the service that he was receiving, and one morning he arrived to book his car in for a service. The traffic was favourable and he arrived 15 minutes before the customer service desk opened and the only person there was a young lad cleaning the cars on the forecourt.
This young lad took him into the service centre, showed him to the comfortable chairs and asked him if he could get him a coffee. He showed him the selection of newspapers and magazines and how to work the controls on the television and satellite and generally made him feel welcome and comfortable.
One might expect to hear something different; to hear that the young lad carried on cleaning the cars and ignored him, feeling that he was someone else's problem. The customer was left thinking that if this is how the guy who cleans the cars feels about customers then the whole company really must have a customer centric focus.
The final story is my own experience. I took my wife for dinner at a five star hotel to celebrate her birthday. Again this is a venue renowned for its customer service. As we had drinks before dinner the waiter was chatting to us and I mentioned that it was my wife's birthday. It was a casual remark and I thought no more about it.
When it was time to be seated we were taken to the restaurant where the maitre d' wished my wife a happy birthday and on the table setting was a small box containing four luxury chocolates and a card wishing my wife many happy returns. It would be easy to think that this is a slick touch for a luxury hotel but it was done discreetly and naturally and it made the evening very special for us.
Great customer service is not in words, it is in actions. Typically these actions are not from the board of directors or even managers. They are from those who are often lowest in the organisation, those who may not earn much more than the minimum wage. The key is for managers to encourage these team members to adopt excellence because it is the right thing to do, not because they are told to do it.
It is tempting for managers to overlook the lower ranks in their company, to spend more time with their perceived equals. However, the clever manager will put a lot of time in those people who may be the face of the company when the customer arrives.
Progressive Resources run events which reward and motivate all levels within a company. Events can be themed to have a customer service theme, so that attendees not only have a great deal of fun but also come away with knowledge and experience which can be used back at work.