How Do You Define Outstanding Customer Service?


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Note: This post was originally published on the ICMI blog.

Last Fall, OneReach asked 63 thought leaders for their opinion on the best way to improve customer service.

They received 11 different answers.

OneReach published a report highlighting the various ideas. On one hand, it was intriguing to see so many different perspectives. On the other hand, it revealed that there’s no one right way to deliver outstanding customer service.

One thing really stood out. Only one of the 11 suggestions was absolutely essential to improving service. 

If you want your contact center to be great at customer service, you must first define what great service looks like. 

Why a Definition is Important

Customer service isn’t always the same.

You expect a different type of service at a fast food restaurant than you do when calling an online retailer. That’s why every company should create their own definition of outstanding customer service.

Great customer service organizations do this.

You’ll probably want to grab a burger at In-N-Out if you’re attending ICMI’s Contact Center Expo and Conference in Long Beach this May. (Here’s their location finder.)

In-N-Out is famous for their tasty burgers and outstanding customer service. They also have a clear definition of outstanding service:

“Quality, service, and cleanliness.”

You’ll see these words ring true in every location. Their food is fresh (never frozen), their employees are friendly and helpful, and they keep their stores very clean even when they’re busy.

Another example comes from the outdoor gear retailer REI. Here’s their definition of outstanding service:

“At REI, we inspire, educate and outfit for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship.”

Everything they do is geared towards helping people enjoy the outdoors. For example, REI offers one of the most generous return policies in retail because they want to make it easy for their customers to try out new equipment and clothing.

In-N-Out and REI both offer outstanding service, but they do it differently. The key is they chose a definition that works for them. Your contact center should too.

Hallmarks of Great Definition

Employees need a shared definition of outstanding customer service to guide their actions.

I like to call this definition a customer service vision because it helps employees see the future. Whenever they get stuck, it acts like a compass to point them in the right direction.

A good customer service vision has three key qualities:

  1. It’s simple and easily understood.
  2. It describes the type of service you want to achieve for your customers.
  3. It reflects both who you are now and who you aspire to be in the future.

Look back at the customer service visions for In-N-Out and REI. They’re both very different, but they both fit these three criteria.

Of course, the true challenge is making this a shared definition. It can’t be something you just hang on a wall and nobody pays attention to. Your agents need to know it and use it to guide the way they serve their customers.

You know you have a great customer service vision when you can ask any of your contact center agents to define outstanding service and they give you a consistent answer.

Creating Your Customer Service Vision

Here’s how you can create a customer service vision for your contact center.

Start by gathering input from everyone on the team. I like to ask, “What do you want customers to think about when they think about our service?”

Next, assemble 7 to 10 team members to help wordsmith a draft of the customer service vision. (More than 10 and you’ll find you have too many different ideas to stay focused.) 

Finally, share the finished product with everyone on your team to get their buy-in.

You can also download this Customer Service Vision worksheet and use it as a guide to help you.

Note from the editors: To learn more about delivering outstanding customer service, join Jeff at Contact Center Expo and Conference.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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