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Win the Customer
70 Simple Rules for Sensational Service
By Flavio Martins
AMACOMCopyright © 2016 Flavio Martins
All rights reserved.
BE PREPARED TO BREAK TRADITIONAL RULES
For a book all about rules to begin by suggesting that the rules should be broken seems somewhat ironic, doesn't it? The idea of breaking rules isn't that you literally should break every rule of thumb, but only that you should constantly evaluate every established rule or operating practice for its effectiveness and measure its ultimate result. The rules should become rules only as they are proven through their real effect and final results. No, we're not talking about doing anything illegal, unethical, or immoral. Some traditional rules are perfectly fine and should remain constants as you do business, but what we've come to know as best practices and rules of thumb should be reevaluated to ensure that they really deliver the results you want.
The one-size-fits-all theory of customer service is futile in today's world. Achieving consistently excellent customer service nowadays requires you to learn to tell your own story; step back and ask yourself what you have to offer and what you want to achieve; learn to say no to the traditional expectations of service; and learn that you have the courage to take the first step toward change and the resilience to stick with what your gut tells you is the right approach, even when others may say it's foolishness. Instead of constantly struggling to keep business and customer interests in balance, give up this eternal struggle and forge a new path by uniting your organization around interests that are good for your business and your customers.
Customer service in the modern age has become stale due to too many copy and paste service strategies. It's too much doing what others have done, and not enough boldly finding your own way to serve customers. Customers are fed up and frustrated. Except on rare occasions, customer service is just one disappointment after another. Too many businesses today run around copying each other, thinking they are doing things a bit better, when in fact there seems to be a disconnect between customer service policies and the customers a business serves. Don't think you're guilty of this? In today's competitive business landscape, organizations are falling all over themselves to try to attract and keep customers. They're using advertising, promotions, gifts, word of mouth, coupons, social media, and pretty much any avenue available in an effort to build a larger customer base.
For all of their efforts, however well-meaning and done with the best of intentions, too many organizations today ultimately miss the goal of engaging with customers in a positive and meaningful way that actually matters to them. No matter how enticing your offer may be, the truly great brands and organizations with massive customer loyalty know that something more is needed in order to really matter in the eyes of the customer. Without that level of connection, your organization will ultimately be stuck in the perpetual downward spiral of offering lower prices, while gaining equally lower customer loyalty and immensely larger customer acquisition costs.
Ask yourself, does your business route phone calls through a machine? Do you even include a phone number on your website? Is your contact information buried on some obscure page on your website? Do you force people to register online before they're able to connect with another human being? Do you have strict policies that seem to put your company goal above the needs of the customer when push comes to shove? Any of these practices — and more — are standard in many businesses. If you want to move beyond the stagnation of the average business, then it's time to break the rules of customer service.
FOCUS ON MAKING IT RIGHT
The reality is that customer service is hardly black-and-white. You have protocols, and those are good to have, but what do you do when a prospect or customer doesn't quite fit into a category? What happens when a problem isn't ordinary? What most businesses do, rather than shift their approach to helping the customer, is cram the customer into a predetermined category, hoping that what they've done will resolve the customer's issue to some degree.
On top of this, if customers aren't happy with how things were handled, they're usually fed cheap lines like, "We're sorry, sir, but there's nothing we can do," or, "It's company policy to not X, Y, or Z." The customer is not always right, but a customer is always a customer. Sometimes customer requests are unreasonable, but positioning your business in a way that will rise to the challenge and meet the customer's needs as best as you possibly can will determine whether you're a flourishing business or just another stopping point on the way to finding the next service provider.
BREAKING THE MOLD
So, what kind of experience do you ultimately want? Are you another "We apologize, but ..." operation? Or are you a paragon of customer service excellence that handles your customers with respect, dignity, and generosity? The choice is entirely up to you. If you're in this for the long term, then actually start thinking long-term. Yes, some people are difficult, some customers are rude, and sometimes nothing will make the truly unreasonable customers happy. This doesn't mean you should justify handling customers like so many of the other companies out there do. Most people can be helped, so try to help them. It's time to be different, because you can impress and surprise your customers by going the extra mile for them. If it means brightening your customer's day, break the rules sometimes.
If you're ready to really engage with customers and change them from thinking of your organization as little more than an afterthought, serving customers and crafting an exceptional experience are the blueprints to getting there. Taking service to the next level means tapping into the secret source of value that comes from truly listening, comprehending, and delivering the physical, emotional, and digital needs of customers today. Professionals who know how to engage and effectively serve customers outperform their peers. Organizations that know how to engage and effectively serve the needs of their customers outperform their competition.
Staying ahead today means reevaluating every rule, every process, every metric, and every decision to ensure that it's directly contributing toward your vision of connecting with and serving customers. Otherwise, you're stuck giving the same mediocre service that everyone else gives and you'll have to be content dealing with the constant plague of unloyal customers that everyone else does.CHAPTER 2
Create the Right Culture for Service
Every organization has a culture, but not all cultures are effective at driving the positive results that the organization ultimately wants. Corporations, nonprofits, government entities, schools, and religious institutions have cultures. Even gangs have cultures. Some cultures are more positive than others. Employees and customers experience your customer service culture in different ways, and it's the complex nature of culture that actually drives its power in transforming and inspiring people. One reason organizational culture does not make the priority list of most leaders is that it is hard to define. But developing the internal culture of your organization will have a critical impact on the way people carry out the overall vision of your customer service.
Culture isn't sushi. Culture isn't ping-pong tables. It's not team lunches or team activities. It's the vision, values, and behaviors that the individuals in organizations share that are the governing standard by which the organization will judge its members.
It's really the people that make Google the kind of company it is. We hire people who are smart and determined, and we favor ability over experience. Although Googlers share common goals and visions for the company, we hail from all walks of life and speak dozens of languages, reflecting the global audience that we serve. — Google Corporate Culture
Culture is squishy. It's complex. Sometimes culture is even contradictory. With all the other challenges your business faces, it's easy to see why culture takes a backseat. However, success today is often directly dependent on the people within the organization. It's their passion, dedication, skill, talents, and commitment to their cause that ultimately carry them through the challenges that every organization faces and allow them to capitalize on opportunities and achieve success.
In his service e-book, Culture That Works: How Getting Serious About Culture Unlocks New Performance, Jamie Notter sheds light on the often-misunderstood nature of culture. Notter says, "Organizational culture is the collection of words, actions, thoughts, and 'stuff ' that clarifies and reinforces what a company truly values." Look at those organizations that seem to get culture right. Culture is the behaviors, norms, thoughts, and actions expected of the members of your organization. It's what you hope people will aspire to be and the way they carry out those aspirations.
CAN YOU RECOGNIZE A CUSTOMER SERVICE CULTURE? DO YOU HAVE ONE ?
Many companies have a lengthy mission statement, but little of it is translated into everyday thoughts, words, and actions exhibited by the individuals in the organization. Most organizations claim to deliver good customer service or at least aspire to wow customers with their customer experience, but then go about doing the same thing that has been done in the past or that everyone else in the industry is doing, things that customers have expressed time and time again are not what they want. Having aspirations is not enough. Making declarations is meaningless. Going through the motions without the direction is wasteful.
Creating a customer service culture requires much more than simply saying that you have one. You have to connect thoughts, words, and deeds. Building a service culture requires clearly defining, developing, and delivering on that vision. It's in the actual doing of these things that your organization's culture will be established. A customer service culture isn't what you claim to be; it's what you are.
So, now I'll ask you to think about your culture. Take time out for a customer service culture assessment. Think about the words, thoughts, processes, rules, actions, and all of your organization's decisions and practices. Then evaluate them against what you truly want it to be. Does your customer service culture training cover the right material needed to clearly establish your culture to your organization? Would your customers agree that your customer service culture and mission are carried out in your words, thoughts, and actions? Can you clearly identify the right patterns and behaviors that individuals should follow to fit that ideal culture? Are you hiring based on people's ability to connect with and fit that mold? Does your culture clearly define the right outcomes to be expected from the actions performed by the people in your organization? Does your culture focus on the innate strengths of your people? Does your culture fit and support your vision for what you ultimately want your people and your customers to think and feel after interacting with your organization?
DEFINING THE RIGHT CULTURE
Creating the right culture is more than just selecting your office space, the type of computers you use, where you eat, or how often you have parties and social gatherings. Your culture largely depends on the type of people you enlist and the connection they create with others to support your cause.
The Right Culture Inspires
Culture isn't a mission statement; it's a statement of action. Culture isn't just an ideal you want to strive for, but the shared values, behaviors, and the proof that your actions support your ideals.
The Right Culture Fosters
When united in a common goal, people contribute to an environment where everybody willingly comes to work each day and pours their best efforts into doing what they believe will make the greatest difference.
The Right Culture Transforms
When working toward a higher purpose, the right culture has a real, positive effect on the work that is performed. It's expressed in the work with customers, the interaction between colleagues, the relationships that are established, and the connection to the ultimate purpose of the group.
Customers today crave that sense of connectedness to the people with whom they do business. In previous generations, it was easier to know who you were dealing with because you did business with the owner in your local community. Too many corporations today hide behind a faceless corporate image. Are you crafting a sterile and soulless corporate voice to communicate with customers because it seems like the professional thing to do given your company size?
STALE IS EASY; BLAND IS CHEAP
Customers today are smarter than that. They see right through it. They may not tell you, but the more stale the interaction, the less connection customers have with your organization the next time they have to make a product decision. A customer service culture is more than answering phones and replying to emails. It's more than answering questions and doing things for customers. Real customer service is connecting people with products and services that improve work and life. Great organizations and great cultures depend on great people. To attract great people, you have to invest in the frameworks to support them and then enable your people to go out and be great.
Your customers and the employees who serve them all experience your customer service culture in different ways. That complex nature of culture is what actually drives its power in transforming the customer relationship and inspiring people to go above and beyond in their service actions.CHAPTER 3
Learn How to Update Your Customer
Too often, excellent customer service is seen as just doing whatever the customer asks. It isn't. You won't always be able to give your customers everything they want whenever they want it. (Remember, the customer is not always right.) Some books will tell you to just do it; give the customers what they want; just make it happen — whatever they want. That's not realistic. You know it and I know it. But just because you can't do it, or because something won't happen right away, doesn't excuse you from continuing to build the customer service experience. Even in those moments when the customer is on hold or waiting for what is being worked on, customer service is still happening. Keeping your customers up-to-date on the events taking place is critical to ensuring that an exceptional experience happens even when customers can't get instant service.
Every organization can have exceptional customer service, even those working with the most complex customer processes, if they can provide effective status updates to the customer. (As you go through the following points, think of banks, mortgage companies, airlines, telecoms, and other service companies with traditionally bad customer service reputations.)
THE NEED FOR USEFUL, SPECIFIC STATUS UPDATES
Customers want to be able to track the status of their process/service/ product. They want to be able to get an update on that item when they contact your organization. Think about it: Have you ever had someone complain because you were too specific in your communication? Were any customers ever upset because you gave them too much information?
In a Harvard Business Review article, Scott Edinger points out that effective communication can be broken down to three specific components: credibility, emotion, and logic. This approach creates the base for building customer relationships and the foundation of positive customer experiences. Being credible with customers means having an understanding and background of the customer and the customer's concern. Giving status updates that take into consideration background information about the customer meets one of the essential criteria for positive communication.
Excerpted from Win the Customer by Flavio Martins. Copyright © 2016 Flavio Martins. 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.
Table of Contents
Rule 1 Be Prepared to Break Traditional Rules, 1,
Rule 2 Create the Right Culture for Service, 5,
Rule 3 Learn How to Update Your Customer, 9,
Rule 4 Serve People, Not Shareholders, 12,
Rule 5 Put the Right People in the Right Place at the Right Time Doing the Right Thing, 15,
Rule 6 Learn Something New Every Day, 19,
Rule 7 Compete Only Against Yourself, 22,
Rule 8 Stop Overthinking Customer Service, 25,
Rule 9 Ask Yourself These Two Critical Questions Every Day, 28,
Rule 10 Find a Way to Say Yes Even When the Answer Is No, 30,
Rule 11 Love Your Critics, 34,
Rule 12 Create Your Dos and Don'ts of Service, 38,
Rule 13 Exploit Your Customer's Pain Points, but Never Exploit Your Customers, 41,
Rule 14 Don't Be Zappos to Your Jack Welch Customers, 47,
Rule 15 Make Your Customer Service a Human Interaction, 50,
Rule 16 Micromanage Every Day, 53,
Rule 17 Do Customer Service on Day One of the Job, 57,
Rule 18 Be the Worst on Your Team, 61,
Rule 19 Forget the Golden Rule, 64,
Rule 20 Map a Clear Journey to Great Customer Service, 66,
Rule 21 Do a 60-Second Customer Experience Evaluation, 69,
Rule 22 Develop 20/20 Vision for Exceptional Customer Service, 73,
Rule 23 Accept That You Can't Please Everyone, 76,
Rule 24 See Yourself as a Customer Service Leader, 79,
Rule 25 Use Positive Words to Win Customers, 82,
Rule 26 Learn to Deal with Fulfillment Problems, 85,
Rule 27 Repeat, Repeat, Repeat, and Then Repeat Again, with Purpose, 88,
Rule 28 Eliminate Three Words from Your Vocabulary, 91,
Rule 29 Be Lovable to Your Customers, 93,
Rule 30 Cure Yourself of the "Between 11 and 5" Syndrome, 96,
Rule 31 Don't Rush Technology to Fix Service Problems, 99,
Rule 32 Embrace Your Service Imperfections, 101,
Rule 33 Customers Are Not Always Right, but They Are Always Customers, 104,
Rule 34 Change How You Think About Customer Service, 107,
Rule 35 Really Get to Know Your Customers, 110,
Rule 36 Teach Your People to Engage with Customers, 113,
Rule 37 Create a Manifesto for Service, 116,
Rule 38 Take Care of Employees so They'll Take Care of Customers, 119,
Rule 39 Make Data-Driven Customer Decisions and Take People-Centric Action, 122,
Rule 40 Customer Experience Is More Important than Advertising, 125,
Rule 41 Make Consistency a Critical Customer Metric, 128,
Rule 42 Make Sure Your People Take Care of Themselves, 131,
Rule 43 Dispel Customers' Fear of Customer Service, 135,
Rule 44 Learn How to Earn Your Customer's Loyalty, 137,
Rule 45 Forget Mission Statements; Create Action Statements, 140,
Rule 46 Get the CEO Interacting with Customers, 143,
Rule 47 Learn to Obsess over Customers, 146,
Rule 48 Define Customer Focus for Your Company, 149,
Rule 49 Let Data Drive More Informed Service, 153,
Rule 50 Focus on the Value of Great Service Experience, 156,
Rule 51 Make Customer Service a Daily Priority, 160,
Rule 52 Shift from Reactive to Proactive Service, 163,
Rule 53 Get Social and Personal with Customers, 166,
Rule 54 Stop Creating Conflicts for Customer Service, 169,
Rule 55 Build a Customer Experience Wonder of the World, 171,
Rule 56 Train Even When There's No Time to Train, 175,
Rule 57 Remember the Most Important Team Building Hour of the Day: Lunch Hour, 177,
Rule 58 Provide a Real Service to Your Customers, 179,
Rule 59 Don't Just Answer the Phone; Do the Right Thing, 184,
Rule 60 Take a Break, Wander Around, and Have Some Fun, 186,
Rule 61 Be a Force for Change, 189,
Rule 62 Keep Your Customer Relationships Fresh, 192,
Rule 63 Master the Art and Science of Customer Experience, 195,
Rule 64 Optimize Your Digital Experience, 198,
Rule 65 Get to Know a New Customer Every Day, 203,
Rule 66 Start Every New Employee in Customer Service, 205,
Rule 67 Allow for Random Acts of Wow, 208,
Rule 68 Get a Reality Check, 210,
Rule 69 Create Customer Experience Disruption, 213,
Rule 70 Stop Making Resolutions; Start Making Service Better Today, 216,
About the Author, 229,
Free Sample from Be Your Customer's Hero by Adam Toporek, 230,