It’s On My Heart: Great Customer Service
by Jim Hinshaw
So I do hope you had a great Christmas and New Year’s celebration, probably ate more than you expected, but many of you worked out more so the scale is even. Sorta. But now the new year is the current year, we have started a new page, new month, call it whatever you want, but we are now back to work. And the bar has been raised.
Just exactly what do you mean, bar has been raised? Well, for one thing, the consumer is smarter than ever before. They know your cost on most things you sell, and if not sure, they can jump on the internet and do their homework. There is also a move toward better customer service today; many companies are working hard to develop those emotional connections that are so important to survival in this economic climate. I have the benefit of the 30,000 foot view, and here is what I see from my perch.
The successful companies are working hard to equip their front line (or field) personnel to take action immediately to solve a problem, even if it takes some money off the table. So you may not hear: “let me call my manager…”, you may hear: “I can do this, will that work for you?” Just had an incident with my ipad that illustrates that very well. By the way, if you have not read the bio of Steve Jobs, spend some of that holiday cash and get a copy, it is well worth the time spent. Steve obsessed over all the details, to make the purchase of an Apple item an event, down to the windows in the stores. They all look alike, and when you enter, you are greeted by a young, smiling, knowledgeable representative. Every time I have gone into an Apple store, they knew the product that I was asking about: iphone, ipad, Apple TV, Mac book pro or air, they know the details and how they work.
So May and I are on a shopping trip in Phoenix, end up at the Apple store. I had brought in my ipad because it was locking up, could not re-set it manually. Of course when we arrived, it worked just fine. The young man said if it happened again, they would give me a new one. More facts, he did not ask for a receipt, guess he could have looked it up by serial number, but did not see him do anything like that. Didn’t ever ask me how old it was, or if I had purchased it there. The reality was it was only 4 months old, got it for my birthday, bought a refurbished one from Apple. Full warranty.
Move forward 2 months. It misfires again. Cannot get it to open, screen was locked, this time I am at home, took it down to Boulder to the Apple store. Walked in, again it worked fine. Lady said it may need a full re-boot, told her that had been done. She said if it happened again, they would replace it. I said it just did happen again, guy in Phoenix told me the same thing. She said: Are you ready for a new one? I said yes, and she brought out a new one. That simple. So that is excellent customer service. When there is a problem, even if you cannot see it for yourself, it is really nice to be able to make that problem go away. That is how you get customers for life.
My message this month is this: equip your people to make decisions to handle those occasional customer opportunities. Give them the freedom to offer something to make the customer want to stay with your company. Let it happen without them having to go to the service manager, office manager, owner, President, or any one of the other titles that we sometimes hid behind. One thing the customer hates to hear these days: Our policy is… They would much rather hear: here is what can be done, here is what I can do for you, will this work for you?
The second part of my message is to micro-manage the customer interaction, from the call into your store to cashing their check. Make sure everyone is on their game, calls are answered quickly, no one is left on hold, you get back to the customer with answers fast, and when you said you would, the technicians are polite, clean, and address the customers correctly. They not only look correct with clean shirts and jackets, but they smell good too, breath mints are part of the package. You as the owner/manager should randomly call every 10 or 20th customer to see how everything went. That would be a couple of calls a day. Ask about all the details, how long they waited for the tech, did he call them by name, can they read his paperwork, did he explain exactly what he was going to do, did he offer any other services or solutions to their home comfort system? What can we do to improve our process?
Then keep notes for the next service meeting. Make the comments anonymous, but share your findings with the entire team, for purposes of raising the bar, not to publically embarrass anyone. Make this a regular part of your monthly meetings, share what happened last month, and the steps the company is taking to be sure it won’t happen again next month. It will pay dividends. Some may say, we didn’t do this in the past. That was then, this is the new now. We must do it today. Or maybe not, survival is not mandatory. Thanks for listening, we’ll talk later.