Sunday, January 9, 2011

3 Characteristics of Great Customer Service Companies

In January 2010, I posted about my sense that Customer Service become increasingly important as a differentiator—separating your business from the rest of the pack—especially with regard to customer loyalty and retention.

This January, I'm going to make a quick review of some of the characteristics that companies with great Customer Service appear to have in common.

First, a Culture of Customer Service. By that I mean a company culture infused with the thought that serving customers is a primary mission of the organization and its employees. This culture is not restricted to the Customer Service department (if there is one), but rather that each employee understands her/his contribution to the providing of good products or services as well as backing up the delivery of those products or services with excellent support. This culture recognizes the business fact that it is less expensive to retain customers than to gain customers, and encourages loyalty by focusing on getting customers what they need to have a long, happy and mutually beneficial relationship with the company.

SecondEmpowered Employees. This doesn't mean that employees can act unilaterally and impose their will on the company. It does mean that employees have a clear understanding of what they can do to help customers, and that they have been given the mission to provide great service. The employees' course of action is not defined by instructions telling them what they can't and shouldn't do, but rather what they can and should. Employees feel valued and respected, and make customers fell the same way.

Third, that there are Clear Feedback Channels. This means that customers have unobstructed ways to give the company their opinions, complaints and praise. There is little more frustrating than trying to give a company a compliment and having to jump through labyrinthine websites or phone trees to do so.

What do you think makes some companies—local, national, brick or click—real standouts on Customer Service? Drop me a comment.

Give it some thought.