Ultimately, a “brand” is a promise of an experience. And the experience Americans crave is customer service.
But they aren't getting it.
These days, customers are often happy when they can get even 80 percent of what they want — whether that’s help returning a product or simply picking a paint color.
Against that dismal backdrop, it’s easy to see that there’s never been a better time to excel at delighting customers. Here’s how:
Make it part of your culture. Perennial customer-favorite Southwest Airlines puts it this way on its corporate website: “We like to think of ourselves as a Customer Service company that happens to fly airplanes (on schedule, with personality and perks along the way).”
Say the words that customers love. In addition to its clever “Eat Mor Chikin” cow campaign, Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A creates raving fans when friendly team members fulfill customer requests with a simple and heartfelt, “My pleasure!” Other words you can use to take customers to their happy place include, "I'll be happy to," "Here's what we will do" and “Can I do anything else for you?"
Solve problems. When customers bring their problems to you, you should have two goals: to solve their problem and make them feel good for having asked you to solve it. Apple’s Genius Bar is a great example because customers know they are dealing with an expert.
Give a little more than customers expect. In his book Delivering Legendary Customer Service, Richard Gallagher drills down to a very simple philosophy: When your customers have a reasonable expectation to a certain level of service, give them what they expect — plus a little bit more. He calls this the 105% Principle. For example, if you need to refer a customer to someone else, instead of telling the customer to call Mr. Smith, offer to arrange for Mr. Smith to call the customer.
When things go wrong, own it. Customer service screw-ups are opportunities, not outcomes. The vast majority of customers are willing to forgive and forget — and give brands a second chance — if they handle fumbles well.
Surprise your customers. While the shipping policy of online retailer Zappos states the item will be delivered in "3-4 days," the incredibly successful shoe company automatically upgrades all customers to priority shipping — without mentioning it. The result: unsolicited, authentic customer testimonials that have helped the retailer build a stellar brand image.
In the end, great customer service doesn’t involve a lot of extra work. Typically, it requires small, incremental efforts that may add only a few extra seconds to a customer interaction. But the payoff can continue for years as superior customer service becomes your brand.
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