Too often, “customer service” is incorrectly viewed as two things:
1. a necessary evil
As a ‘necessary evil’, customer service is often viewed as that annoying relative that you HAVE to invite over, just because…well, like Mount Everest: that relative is THERE. That’s why — even today — customer service can be relegated very low on the priority scale, barely getting the attention, budgets, training and support that it deserves. Viewing something as a necessary evil will do this.
As a ‘remedial’ thing, customer service is often viewed as corrective mechanism: something to do in order to get back to the beginning. This is tricky to describe in a blog, but easy to understand from your own personal experience. Ever bought a TV, a vacuum cleaner, a blender, a car, or anything else that didn’t work the way you expected it to? What do you do? If possible, you take it back to the seller and get it fixed (or you get another one). Technically, your problem is solved: your thing (blender/car/whatever) is working. But what about all the crap in between!? What about your stress, your hassle, your inconvenience, and possibly, your expense? All of this is utterly ignored when customer service policies are remedial.
Now, here’s the thing to remember: while companies (unfortunately) may view customer service as a necessary evil and remedial, customers DON’T! Customers have VERY different scales that they use to measure customer service — and they aren’t neat, tidy, logical scales, either. They’re subjective scales — and they *punish* companies who view customer service as a necessary evil, and as remedial.
How do they punish them? Easy: they understandably start to dislike the company itself. And that dislike grows, naturally, into resistance…which grows into doing business with someone else. You will lose.
It sounds too simple to be true, but remember: the truth is ALWAYS simple. And this is no exception.
Stop viewing customer service as a necessary evil, or as remedial. Your hyper-rational bean counting executives may see that doing things this way “makes perfect business sense”, but your human being, subjective, emotional customers could not care LESS about what YOU think; what they FEEL is what determines whether customer service is good or not.
So what can you do? View customer service as a positive opportunity to improve the customer experience. Don’t just “go back to even” — go BEYOND it. If your customer expected 10, and your product/service delivered 7, then don’t just add 3 and cross them off some list. Add 4 or more. Give them MORE than they initially expected — because they deserve it, and because this gives you a ridiculously good opportunity to convert them into long-term customers who sing your praises for years and years.
You cannot ‘wow’ a customer simply by meeting their expectations; only exceeding them does this. And customer service is THE NUMBER ONE WAY to exceed expectations. It’s where the opportunities open up. If normal selling is an overcast sky, then customer service ‘issues’ are the little rays of light that break through. Instead of viewing them as necessary evils or remedial, view them as they actually are: opportunities to deliver customer service.
Quick example that inspired this post: I needed a new tire. Went on a Saturday to get it, and found out they ordered the wrong one. Irritating? Yes — not just for me, but for them, too. It was just an inconvenient human error. These happen.
Now, this company could have viewed this as a necessary evil/remedial, and simply said: we’re sorry, we ordered the wrong tire. Can you come back later?
They COULD have said that — but they didn’t. They didn’t view customer service in a negative light; they obviously saw it as an opportunity to achieve customer loyalty and wow me. And they accomplished this when they gave me a loaner (really fancy, too) and CAME TO MY HOUSE later on, with my car (and its proper new tire), and then just trade cars.
This company turned a potential customer service problem into something amazing — and that’s why they have my future business.