When it comes to customer service principles, use of social media, and customer engagement, it’s easy to follow the crowd. There are a lot of people out there saying the same things and providing the same guidelines.
However, it may be that going in the opposite direction to what others are doing, and challenging orthodox thinking can yield better business results. In this article, originally published on The Customer Service Zone as “Eleven Pillars Of Radical Customer Service” we look at how to go about going against the flow, and standing out in a crowded business space. Linked titles will provide additional information on that item.
So long as you do what everyone is doing in customer service, you have no chance at using customer service as a competitive advantage. The basic principle behind radical customer service is simple, and applies to many other areas in business.
When you see everyone moving in one direction, and saying the same things, in all likelihood, the common knowledge it appears everyone agress with is either wrong, or sufficiently wrong to lead you in the wrong direction.
Consistent with this principle, here are ten tenets or pillars to help you make more effective decisions about your customer service strategies.
Forsake the “common and accepted wisdom” about customer behavior, or at least look at that wisdom with a critical eye. The important question to ask: Does this apply to OUR customers? That’s because most customer service wisdom is too generic to apply across the board.
2) Forsake ALL Customer Service Research Published By Major Research Companies
By the time you see the customer service research by major research compannies, it’s been spun, and distorted many times. Ignore the soundbytes about the research. Often this research is faulty, and without seeing the details of how the research was done, what questions were asked of consumers, you have no way of assessing its validity.
3) Understand The Say-Do Gap
Survey takers, and customers say many things about what they WILL do, but most times we don’t know what they actually do. We know enough from Psychology to know that there’s often huge gaps between what customers say they’ll do in hypothetical situations, and what they do in real life. This tends to overstate the importance of customer service to the bottom line.
4) Do Not Assume, Without Direct Evidence, That Investing In Better Customer Service Will Improve Your Bottom Line
Often the companies that are consistently rated as the worst companies for customer service are immensely profitable. Claims of the causal relationship between customer service quality and profits confuse correlation with cause. The reality is that the value of customer service to a business depends on the industry, niche, and above all, the expectations of their specific customers and potential customers.
5) Don’t Be Overly Concerned About Negative Comments About You On Social Media
The huge majority of social media posts receive NO responses from others, and that applies to Facebook, LinkedIn and blogs. It’s not a good thing to receive a lot of negative comments, but keep in mind two things. People pay far more attention to the opinions of those they know in “real”life, and much less attention to comments from strangers. Remember that responding to negative posts and tweets isn’t the answer, since it’s far more likely the readers of the original complaints will NEVER see, let alone read your attempts to address the complaints.
Good customer service is a people to people affair. It’s tempting to believe that social media, or the newest technology will improve service levels at little cost to the company. All it does is provide a scalable way to provide POOR customer service. In fact, if you deliver poor service on the phone, and in person, you’ll do the same on social media.
7) The More Customer Contact Channels You Use, The Worse Your Service Levels Will Be
It’s simple. If you cover more contact points, without adding more staff and resources, you spread your existing resources thinner. The result? Service that’s worse.
Your customers are on the Internet. So are you via your website, email, etc. The myth of being where the customers are in terms of social media comes from the old saying: “location, location, location”, which refers to the importance of CONVENIENCE in a physical world. On the Internet, you can’t be everywhere. There are hundreds of social media platforms where your customers are. They will find you if they want you. It’s trivial for a customer to go to your website, and they will do that. No need to be everywhere when you can already be contacted at the click of a mouse button.
9) Train And Empower (And Trust) Your Customer Service Staff
This is one of the few area where a lot of customer service experts and advocates have things right. It’s absolutely impossible to benefit from customer service strategies without empowering staff to make decisions ON THE SPOT when dealing with customers. Make their authority levels clear. Train them to understand the customer service principles that apply. If you don’t trust them to do the right thing, you are hiring the wrong people, or not paying them enough, or YOU are the problem.
Unless you are in the hospitality industry at the high luxury end, don’t worry about delighting your customers. Do it if you can when it costs nothing. Customer are desperate for top quality basic customer service. Do that, and do it well, and you’ll stand out. Besides, when you delight your customers, you simply raise their expectations. They get used to what you did last time and the time before to delight them, and it’s power to delight fades and disappears. It’s not a sustainable customer service strategy, UNLESS your clientele is the luxury market.
11) The Winners In The Customer Service Wars Will Be The Companies In Each Sector Or Niche That Focus On Doing ONE Customer Service Thing Really Really Well
Focus. For example, imagine the profit leverage a company will get if it decides to provide customer service JUST on the phone, BUT it guarantees a response time of two minutes, no holding, and resolves problems on first call? Get that kind of reputation about a single customer service channel or strategy and you differentiate yourself from all the competitors who are doing a lot of things badly.