Making Our List


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If you are around kids at all dur­ing the hol­i­days, you may be notic­ing their lists being made for Santa. This got us think­ing … what would an adult list for Santa look like? Since we hap­pen to work in the world of cus­tomer ser­vice, we thought, why not put together our own lit­tle list? We’ll call it the “ulti­mate list of cus­tomer ser­vice skills”; it’s a wish-list of sorts, for Santa, or whomever that mag­i­cal per­son is that can help make our hol­i­day dreams come true.

Our ulti­mate list of cus­tomer ser­vice skills includes some of the top skills used by some of the most renowned cus­tomer ser­vice com­pa­nies. If you can help your com­pany achieve all of the items on this list, you will indeed have won­der­ful cus­tomer expe­ri­ence await­ing your cus­tomers – dur­ing the hol­i­days, and beyond.

There are no shortcuts

In cus­tomer ser­vice, con­sis­tency is key. As L.L. Bean’s CEO, Chris McCormick says, “it’s the day-in, day-out, ongo­ing, never-ending, per­se­ver­ing, com­pas­sion­ate kind of activ­ity” that defines con­sis­tent cus­tomer ser­vice. Great cus­tomer ser­vice doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily need to be flashy – but it needs to be present, in every inter­ac­tion, every day, every week, and every month. Build­ing a world-class ser­vice cus­tomer ser­vice brand is a marathon, not a sprint, and it hap­pens by mak­ing sure your team is com­mit­ted to cus­tomer ser­vice at every touch­point. So first on our list, Santa? We’d like to add “con­sis­tency and no short­cuts” to our ulti­mate list of cus­tomer ser­vice skills. Thanks, L.L. Bean for lead­ing the way with this example.

Let employ­ees exer­cise good judgment

When you make a men­tal list of com­pa­nies leg­endary for their cus­tomer ser­vice, Nord­strom comes to mind, right? The depart­ment store has been con­sis­tently listed as one of the top cus­tomer ser­vice brands, and for good rea­son – their employ­ees are fre­quently cited as being exam­ples of fan­tas­tic cham­pi­ons for their shop­pers. What is it, exactly, that Nord­strom does to train their employ­ees? One of the main themes is they encour­age their employ­ees to “exer­cise good judg­ment.” In fact, this is the #1 qual­ity that Nord­strom looks for when hir­ing employ­ees. Nord­strom has an exten­sive guide­book for employ­ees, which stresses attention-to-details, but by far, the over­ar­ch­ing theme is Nordstrom’s faith in its employ­ees to use sound judg­ment when deal­ing with shoppers.

Fast cus­tomer ser­vice isn’t nec­es­sar­ily good cus­tomer service

Okay. You knew it was com­ing. What list of cus­tomer ser­vice skills would be com­plete with­out men­tion­ing Zap­pos? Like Nord­stroms, Zap­pos is known for cus­tomer ser­vice (in fact, this asso­ci­a­tion is often higher for peo­ple than “shoes”). One of Zap­pos’ hall­mark cus­tomer ser­vice train­ing par­a­digms is to not rush cus­tomer ser­vice. Zap­pos threw out the whole notion of fast ticket times and devel­oped its own sys­tem, called the “Hap­pi­ness Expe­ri­ence Form,” which is based on mak­ing an emo­tional con­nec­tion with a cus­tomer, rather than solv­ing the prob­lem as quickly as pos­si­ble and mov­ing on to the next cus­tomer call. Zap­pos’ sys­tem helped them reach a 5% increase on its Net Pro­moter Score, and it’s a big part of the rea­son that 70 – 75% of pur­chases come from return­ing customers.

Learn the art of “if/then” cus­tomer service

Our final item on our ulti­mate list of cus­tomer ser­vice skills is cour­tesy of Ritz-Carlton. At the Ritz, the man­age­ment under­stands that mis­takes are inevitable, and that there will be times when cus­tomers are left wait­ing or become upset. To lessen cus­tomer frus­tra­tions, Ritz-Carlton stresses “if/then” plan­ning, which they call imple­men­ta­tion inten­tions. For exam­ple, if a customer’s food order is delayed in the kitchen, the wait staff can choose to re-focus the customer’s impa­tience by bring­ing out a com­pli­men­tary appe­tizer. “If” the food is delayed, “then” alle­vi­ate cus­tomer frus­tra­tion by offer­ing a free snack to hold them over. The tac­tic also works well to help the hotel chain go the extra mile to please cus­tomers. For exam­ple, “if” a cus­tomer has a really early morn­ing check out, “then” offer to bring up com­pli­men­tary cof­fee before the guest departs.

The Ritz-Carlton’s phi­los­o­phy that cus­tomer ser­vice should be proac­tive, based on chang­ing cir­cum­stances, mis­takes, acci­dents, and cus­tomer needs, has helped set them apart from other lux­ury hotel chains.

And one more thing for your ulti­mate list of cus­tomer ser­vice skills …

The one thing we didn’t men­tion on our ulti­mate list of cus­tomer ser­vice skills? Train­ing! Make sure you invest in the proper cus­tomer ser­vice train­ing for your employ­ees – after all, a list is great, but with­out the tools to imple­ment the train­ing, you likely won’t see the desired skills come to fruition.


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