What did the local barber know about customer service that today’s digital powerhouses don’t know? They knew how to keep customers by building relationships, give great customer service, and get new customers through personal referrals. At least this is what Richard White said in his guest post Forbes.com article, “The Future of Customer Service: Lessons From Your Barber.” The corner barber, beautician or mom-and-pop grocery store knew that personal interaction and conversation kept customers coming back and generated referrals. It’s the old “Cheers” phenomenon. A place where, "…everybody knows your name.” A friendly place that is interested in you and wants the best for you.
There are three components to giving great customer service.
1. The commitment to providing great customer service and identifying what that is from the customer’s point of view. It’s one thing to design an efficient, self-service customer service process. The article points out that companies designed for the Internet from the beginning are good at this. Since they didn’t start out as brick-and-mortar companies with traditional processes, they didn’t have to make the transition. Everything is set up for online transactions, from browsing, analyzing, purchasing and customer service. Those companies who didn’t start out on the web have a more difficult transition. Customers may not have what they need online to get the service they need, or know how to navigate a website created to simulate personal service.
2. Empowering customer service reps to make decisions. Nothing is more frustrating to a customer than having to wait while a service rep checks with a supervisor to make a decision. And it has to be embarrassing and demoralizing for a customer service rep to admit to a customer that they don’t have the least bit of authority to make a service decision. After all, isn’t that what they are hired to do? If not, why don’t the supervisors answer the phones or emails in the first place? It doesn’t take long to track those “exceptions” that are routinely approved. Set guidelines and then let service reps make decisions on service requests. The result? Fewer call backs, fewer supervisor interventions, faster service call resolutions and more time for supervisors to do other work.
3. Celebrate their work. What could be more worthy of celebration than turning an angry customer into a happy one? It’s not just the interaction, but what it represents. A loyal customer. A retained customer—one that is going to continue to do business with you and recommend your products or services to others. Retaining a customer who is unhappy takes more than a discount coupon or a free stay. It takes a tremendous amount of listening, understanding, empathy, conversational skills, and negotiating with the customer to come to a mutually agreeable resolution. It takes skill, caring and some finesse. Companies that celebrate the work service reps do on a daily basis know that appreciation and recognition are the two best ways to motivate and encourage excellent performance.
Digital customer service processes on the web are a reality. Whether you started online or offline in a brick-and-mortar location, customer service will only be excellent to the extent that customers understand how to navigate the system to get results. If a customer has to sort through FAQs without finding anything close to his situation, the system fails. If the question entered into a search comes up without a solution, the customer is frustrated. Online or real people, the system has to understand the customer and be friendly enough for the customer to get the result they need. Anything less is poor customer service.
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