What Does True Customer Service Mean?

I needed to call a repair company the other day because my clothes dryer was not drying our clothes. Our dryer was purchased from a popular big box store and we had bought the extended warranty plan which would now come in handy as I dial the toll-free number listed for customer service. Forty-five minutes later, I am still on hold listening to an outdated medley of show tunes interrupted by promises that I am in line for the next available customer representative.

A few years ago, a survey by Genesys asked more than 9,000 consumers about what mattered to them most when it came to doing business with companies. What did the respondents mark as the improvement they’d like to see most among the companies they do business with? 67 percent of those surveyed answered with the following: better human service.

Why is this simple concept so incredibly valuable?

I believe when I get better service I become a better customer. I return to that place of business more often, I recommend it to friends, I spend more, and I typically sign up for whatever rewards program or loyalty program they are offering. I guess I am not alone because numerous studies have shown that happy customers buy more, more often and they tell their friends to buy too. When I get good service, I believe that I matter to that company.

So, let’s talk about approach

Did this appliance company make me feel like a person that mattered to them by keeping me on hold for most of my Saturday morning? Obviously not! When Dale Carnegie said that a “person’s name is the sweetest, most important sound in any language,” he may have been onto something. As it turns out, our names are so important to us that hearing them ignites a specific part of our brain. Research shows that using a customer’s name makes them like you more and makes the interaction more personal.

Secondly, knowing each customers history with your business is also a good thing! Last week there was some fraudulent activity on my bank debit card. I had to call the bank to request a new card. Right before the bank representative started to work on my issue she said to me, “thank you for being a customer since 2003.” That small interaction softened what was a frustrating situation. It let me know that she cared about my business. Again, treating a customer like they matter is key.

Personal touches aren’t just about knowing how long we have been doing business together. Knowing things about customers—outside of the business relationship—gives you big opportunities. Acknowledging a client’s child who might be graduating or participating in a sporting event, makes the business opportunity more personal and meaningful. Any personal touch is appreciated and makes a huge difference.

Some might say customer service is no longer necessary in today’s economy

Customer service can have lost meaning for many who live in a self-service, “just get me out of here as fast and as cheap as possible” world. But I believe customer service is still necessary and when done right, can be incredibly powerful. It can be the difference between a customer forgetting about you the minute the transaction is over, or that person returning to become a loyal customer. There is a difference between saying that you deliver good customer service—like the appliance company—
and actually doing it. And yes, I am still on hold.

A quick story: A few years ago, I was leading a company and we needed to find a travel agency to handle our commercial business. I interviewed three company’s and selected a local mom and pop firm rather than a national agency against the corporate purchasing managers advice. After several weeks of using the new company my boss called and during our conversation he asked how it was going with the new travel company.

My response, “I think we might be their only customer. When I call them on the phone they answer right away. We get ticketed immediately and they call all of our travelers with their itineraries right away.”

My boss replied, “You are wrong. You are not their only customer, but they make you feel like you are.”

And that my friends is true customer service. Customer service is about making the customer feel like they matter.

Hello… Hello… Yes, I am still holding.

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