Sunday, September 27, 2009

Customer Service Week: What Makes Great Service?

From time to time, we are struck by the quality of service we experience at a particular store, restaurant, or from the support folks associated with a Web site or company. As we approach Customer Service Week, which starts on October 5 this year, let's examine the particular things that make us say, "That was great service."

By great service, I mean the kind of service that makes us change our mind about a purchase or item; it's the kind that not only makes us feel good, but makes us want to tell people about the business, to spread the word, to become an advocate for that business. Anyone in marketing will tell you that this is the most valuable kind of advertising—and they can't get it from an agency.

  • Personal - No one will feel that they have received great service if they do not feel that they were treated like a real person, rather than the recipient of some scripted interaction. On the other hand, making a fleeting, great, personal connection on a customer service (CS) call or at a point of sale can change a day, a week, a whole attitude.
  • Empathetic - If you are calling about a problem, you expect the person on the other end of the phone or Web form to have at least a rudimentary grasp of the source of your frustration or complaint or question. The most exasperating customer service interactions are those in which the representative has no clue why you might have an issue.
  • Available - When you call for customer service, you'd like some attention now. Navigating complicated phone trees and waiting on hold are always mentioned as annoyances. Typing "I hate phone trees" into Google generates about 845,000 returns. "I hate waiting on hold" gets about 2,000,000.
  • Empowered - The last thing you want to hear from any customer service rep any time anywhere is "I can't do anything for you, but thanks for calling." A company generates detractors when it does not have either clear policies about what CS reps can, should, and must do to try to satisfy customers, or a clear escalation path.
  • Professional - We expect a trained, knowledgeable person who can give us the answer to our question, or who can point us to someone who can. Many reps forget about this part, or were not introduced to the concept when they were introduced to the company.
  • Dependable - If you tell me you are going to email me a helpful link, email me the link, and make sure it's helpful and relevant.
What do you think are the elements that made you change your mind about a business or purchase? What makes customer service great for you? Please comment - I'd love to hear what you have to say.

Give it some thought.

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