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To the Customer, You Are the Company
"Customer relations is an integral part of your job—not an extension of it."
—William B. Martin
Quality Customer Service
Customers don't distinguish between you and the organization you work for. Nor should they. To your customer's way of thinking, you are the company.
Customers don't know how things get done behind doors or from the ends of the fingers that send company Tweets, Facebook posts, or e-mails. They don't know your areas of responsibility, your job description, or what you personally can and cannot do for them. And they don't care. To customers, those things are your business, not theirs.
Their attitude and focus is clear and straightforward: "Help me with this purchase, please." "Serve me my meal." "Solve my problem." "Process my order, now." Whether customers' feelings about the company are good or bad often relates directly to their experience with you and the way you help them meet their needs.
Each interaction between a customer and a service professional is one moment in the chain of the customer's experience. If you're a service person, and you get it wrong at your link in the chain, you are very likely erasing from the customer's mind all the memories of good treatment he or she may have had up to that moment. But if you get it right, you have a chance to undo all the wrongs that may have happened before the customer got to you. And, in today's world, the faster you do it, the happier they are.
Consider this small example from a trip to Walt Disney World—the land where magical service abounds! A friend of ours was there recently, enjoying a hot, summer day at the Magic Kingdom. After waiting in line for about 20 minutes for an ice cream cone, she started off down Main Street USA, licking intently. She glanced away for a second, and when she looked back, found herself staring dumbfounded at an empty cone! What had happened? An uninvited sea gull had swooped down and scooped the ice cream right out of the cone. She was stunned, but continued her walk down Main Street more than a little miffed at the situation. Seconds later, a young man carrying a broom and dust pan, approached her: "Excuse me, Ma'am, I saw that bird dive at your ice cream. Unfortunately, I see that fairly frequently. Disney's sea gulls pretty much know no fear. May I escort you back to get you another cone? That was cookies and cream, wasn't it?" Our friend was thunderstruck. What could have been a negative moment turned full circle and is now a favorite Disney World memory; one she loves to share with others.
Just like that Disney employee, you can make or break the chain of great service and memorable experiences. Is it fair that so much can depend upon you? Nope. But fair has nothing to do with it.
When your job involves serving customers and dealing with the public, how good a job you do with and for them—for the nice and the nasty, the smart and the dumb, the people you'd like to take home to mother, and those you really wish had never been born—determines how successful your company will be. In short:
You Are The Company.
TIP: Use I instead of they or we. To a customer, the company begins and ends with you. Using I shows that you understand and accept that: "I'm sorry you had to look so long to find the dress department. May I help you find anything else?"
Being the Company: It's Everything You Do
Some of the things you do to provide Knock Your Socks Off Service are relatively simple and easy, such as choosing your language carefully.
Other actions you take are more complex. Customers expect you to make the organization work for them. They expect you to understand the big picture and to be able to answer their questions, solve their problems, and refer them to just the right people for just the right things.
TIP: Saying "the policy is...." or "they won't allow...." tells customers you are just a clerk. If that's the way you feel, you won't ever be able to help them—and could easily be replaced by a machine or walked on like so much carpet. Verbally separating yourself from the company in the customer's mind can take you off the hot seat with unhappy customers, but it plants a seed of doubt in the customer's mind. It says "you may not be able to trust me to help you."
What your customers want and need is changing constantly. So is your company, and so are you. How can you possibly keep up? Let the following three questions guide your personal-service efforts. Don't just ask them once. Ask them all the time. Use the information they provide to choose actions that will Knock the Socks Off your customers.
1. What do my customers want from me, and from my company? Think about what your customers need and what your customers expect. If you don't know—ask around. The seasoned senior associates will have a pretty good idea.
2. How do support areas—for example, billing or shipping—work to serve my customers? Consider your role in helping the different areas of your company work in harmony for your customer. Who do you need in your corner to help you help your customers?
3. What are the details—little things—that make a big difference in my customers' satisfaction? Knock Your Socks Off Service means paying attention to what's important in your customers' eyes. Do you know what counts for your customers?
Being the company to your customers is what makes the work you do both challenging and rewarding. In your one-on-one interaction with customers, the once vague, impersonal company takes on shape and substance. In your hands is the power to make that contact magical and memorable. In your hands is the power to keep customers coming back.
From this moment forward, make this your pledge:
"Customers perceive service in their own unique, idiosyncratic, emotional, irrational, end-of-the-day, and totally human terms. Perception is all there is!" —Tom Peters Management guru
Customers are demanding. And they have every right to be. Today's customers have more options—and less time—than ever before. If your organization doesn't offer what they want or need, if you don't interact with them in a manner that meets or exceeds their expectations, or if you aren't quick about it, they will just walk on down the street—or let their fingers surf the 'net—and do business with one of your competitors.
And if you don't have customers, you don't have a job!
Researchers consistently find that it costs five times more to attract a new customer than it does to keep one you already have. But many businesses think only of making the sale instead of developing long-term customer relationships. Even more disturbing, researchers also find that at any given time, as many as one customer in four is dissatisfied enough to start doing business with someone else—if he or she can find someone else who promises to do the same thing that you do but in a slightly more satisfying way. That's as many as twenty-five out of every one hundred people your organization does business with.
Most disturbing of all is the finding that only one of those twenty-five dissatisfied customers will ever tell you that he or she is dissatisfied. Today's customers are more likely to put a review on a web site (Yelp, City Search, Twitter, Facebook) that could have significant impact on your business. In fact, you've probably noticed from your own experience how rare it is to deal with customers who can do a really good job of telling you what they want. More often, they just expect you to know—and are disappointed when you don't.
That's why companies spend a lot of time and money these days observing customers as they shop—trolling the Internet, monitoring web sites, talking to them on the phone, and meeting them face-to-face. Like miners working a claim for the gold they know is there, today's businesses collect and sort customer comments, looking for the complaints and the compliments that provide clues about what people want today—and how their needs may change tomorrow.
As a customer service professional, you frequently draw on the knowledge your company has acquired about customers. But you have another, equally important source of information: your own day-to-day contact with your customers. From personal experience, you know quite a lot about what your customers want: which actions meet their expectations, which exceed them—and which disappoint them. You are the "listening post" for your organization.
That's your own special edge, the foundation on which to build your own unique way of providing Knock Your Socks Off Service.
Getting Yourself Organized: The RATER Factors
It's helpful to have a framework that captures the multiple service factors that determine the quality of a customer's experience with your company. The framework we like a lot was invented by Texas A&M researcher Dr. Leonard Berry and his colleagues at Texas A&M University. They have found that customers evaluate service quality on five factors:
1. Reliability. The ability to provide what was promised, dependably and accurately.
2. Assurance. The knowledge and courtesy you show to customers and your ability to convey trust, competence, and confidence.
3. Tangibles. The physical facilities and equipment and your own (and others') appearance.
4. Empathy. The degree of caring and individual attention you show customers.
5. Responsiveness. The willingness to help customers promptly.
Chances are, almost everything you do to and for your customers falls into one of these categories. Consider these common examples:
When you fulfill a customer order on time, you show reliability.
When you smile and tell a customer, "I can help you with that"—and do—you build assurance.
When you take the time to make yourself and your work area presentable, you are paying attention to the tangibles.
When you are sensitive to an individual customer's needs when solving a problem, you show empathy.
When you notice a customer puzzling over a product and offer help and information, you show responsiveness.
All five factors are important to your customers. In the next five chapters, we'll look at each of these pieces of the customer service puzzle in more detail to see how they combine to create people-pleasing Knock Your Socks Off Service.
TIP: Combining the first letter of each factor—Reliability, Assurance, Tangibles, Empathy, Responsiveness, spells the word RATER. It is a handy way to remember these important attributes. Try organizing what you know about clients using RATER. Example: In Mr. Smith's file, next to Responsiveness, you could have a note that reminds you of his responsiveness preferences. Something like "Customer is sensitive to call backs. Return all his calls ASAP."
"Customer expectations of service organizations are loud and clear: look good, be responsive, be reassuring through courtesy and competence, be empathetic but, most of all, be reliable. Do what you said you would do. Keep the service promise." —Dr. Leonard Berry Researcher, Texas A&M University
"Undertake not what you cannot perform and be careful to keep your promise." —George Washington
As commander-in-chief of the Continental forces in the American Revolution, George Washington was well aware that the lives of thousands of men and the fate of an emerging nation rested on his ability to know what could and could not be accomplished. He had to deliver on his commitments. There was no room for misjudging the situation.
As a service professional, you are part of another kind of revolution: the service revolution. And while lives are seldom on the line, a little piece of the future of your company is—every time you face a customer. That's where reliability comes in.
The Service Promise
Reliability means keeping the service promise—doing what you say you will do for the customer. To the customer, the service promise has three distinct parts: Organizational commitments, common expectations, and personal promises.
Organizational Commitments: Organizations make direct promises to customers through advertising, on their Web sites and marketing materials, in company correspondence and contracts, and in service guarantees and policies published for everyone to see. In addition to these, customers will hold the company to indirect commitments—promises that customers believe are implied in the way the company talks about itself, its products, and its services. Or customers may hold organizations to commitments that they believe are "standard" for the industry.
Consider customer expectations about overnight delivery services. FedEx Corporation, an international overnight delivery service, promises and provides moment-by-moment package tracing. If you want to confirm that your package will arrive on time, simply tap into FedEx's computer tracking system to learn that your package is in a truck on the corner of Maple and Vine, expected to reach its destination within 15 minutes. Other shipping companies should not be surprised when customers demand, "What do you mean you can't tell me exactly where my package is? You're in the overnight shipping business so you have to be able to do that!" Fair or not, FedEx set a standard others are being held to. What standards has your competition set for you?
Common Expectations: Your customers bring additional expectations with them to every service transaction. Based on their past experiences with you and with other service providers, customers make assumptions about what you can and can't do for them. Failing to meet a customer expectation, whether you knew about it or not—even whether you helped to shape it or not—has the same impact as breaking any other promise.
For example, many restaurants routinely post a sign warning that they "cannot be responsible for items left in the cloak room." However, when customers hand their items directly to an attendant, most assume that the belongings will be guarded. Having a staffed coat check rather than an isolated coat rack creates an expectation of security, even if there is a clear warning to the contrary.
Personal Promises: The majority of customer service promises come from you. These are the promises you make when you tell a customer, "I'll get right back to you with that information" or "You should expect to receive that package in two weeks," or "I understand the problem you are having with your computer, and this software support download will solve it." You are underwriting those promises, and customers will hold you accountable to them.
Knowing what your customers expect is the first step to creating Knock Your Socks Off Service. By asking questions of your customers and your colleagues, and really listening, you'll be able to discover the details of the Service Promise your customers expect you to fulfill.
The service promise can and should be managed. Once you know what your customers do and don't expect—the promise they want you to make—you are in a position to shape your customers' expectations to match what you actually can and will do for them. When you do that well, customers judge you and your organization to be reliable.
Excerpted from Delivering Knock Your Socks Off Service Copyright © 2012 by Performance Research Associates, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of AMACOM. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted April 10, 2010
I love this book. I haven't completely finished it. I am taking a slow read and trying to implement some of the things as I go along. The book starts out with a little bit of explanation on how and why it happened to come into being. It is written with a certain amount of lightheartedness that kind of gives you a nice break.
"Delivering Knock Your Socks Off Service" is written in such a manner as to get you thinking about everything that you do as a service based company, a retail store or even a warehouse or supply house, it really doesn't matter. It will effect the way you look at everything in your business.
This book makes you think about your business and gives you the ideas and allows you to make the necessary adjustments to fit those ideas into your daily practice, and change the way you deal with every one of your customers, employees and vendors.
I hope that you enjoy it and notice the difference that it will make for you.
Posted February 20, 2010
In such a competitive business environment, it behooves us all to take note of what we can possibly do better. Our group has decided to use this book as a tool in our growth. We will read a weekly lesson and have a 10-15 minute discussion at weeks end. So far...so good. I believe this will help us all better understand how to serve beyond the call of duty.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 11, 2004
In Delivering Knock Your Socks Off Service, Performance Research Associates ¿ with some editorial help from Ron Zemke ¿ highlight the main principles and techniques involved in providing great customer service and resolving customer problems. This lively book features many short chapters, cartoons, bulleted axioms and what-to-do examples. However, much of the information seems very familiar, like a juiced-up version of hints, tips and advice that have appeared in many other customer service books. Thus, it has a kind of déjà vu quality. While someone who is experienced in this field may find the information here too familiar, we recommend this accessible volume as a great introduction to customer service.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 23, 2009
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Posted July 15, 2010
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Posted November 19, 2009
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Posted October 19, 2008
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