Monday, February 14, 2011

Customer Service is all in "the promise"...

We've talked about how Customer Service is really about managing customer's expectations and Simon Sinek, author of "Start with Why", had an interesting post on his blog recently that gave a good example...
Simon Sinek, author of "Start with Why"
I was on a business trip recently and my host was so wonderful. He was polite, he offered to carry my luggage.  He offered me a drink and offered to get me something to eat if I was hungry. What wonderful service.

Sitting in the car, I expressed concern that the weather in New York would cause problems with my flight home. “Don’t worry,” he said, “we’ll get you home.” Then he went on, “we’ve never not gotten someone home, we’ll make sure you get home.” 

I appreciated his optimism but unless he controlled the weather and the airlines, there was nothing he could do to guarantee his promise.

Sometimes, in an effort to offer great customer service, a rep or an agent will say yes to everything, not because the answer is yes, but because they are trying so hard to please. This is not actually good customer service, this is just being nice. Excessively nice. In some cases, they will give answers that they are not qualified to give or make offers they are not qualified to make…all in the name of customer service. And how often do we hear stories of a salesman or account manager making promises to a client without checking with manufacturing or the people who have to do the work to see if the promise is even possible? The result in all these cases is always the same: bad customer service.
Simon's example provides some clues as to how great customer service can be delivered.
First, don't over-promise... or at least explain claims that seem unrealistic.  In Simon's case, the person may have been trying to say that they will provide a hotel if his flight is delayed or take him to another airport if that is what will get him home on time.  Without an explanation, the guarantee sounds hollow and is not believed.  [Note: If the customer does not believe you and you don't get a chance to prove it to them, you have created a disappointed customer ... or at least a skeptical one.]

Second, know your organization.  Perhaps the person in Simon's case knew that his organization had a private plane or a limo service that would absolutely get him home to NY.  More likely is that the person was assuming that the airlines would eventually get Simon home and his role would be to get him to the airport on time.  As Simon points out... don't make claims that your organization can't deliver (or won't deliver 100%).

Finally, and most importantly, be careful when "joking around" with the customer.  When I read Simon's story I got the impression that the person was very comfortable around Simon and was being a little "flippant" (joking around) with him.  He probably assumed that Simon knew that "he did not control the weather" and he meant to say that "he would do everything humanly possible to make sure he got home on time".  Again, this is a case of assumptions getting in the way of expectations.

In Summary...
I was going to sum up this article by saying something like, "Don't Overpromise ... or else", but I remembered that simply saying to not do something doesn't give you any actions to replace the one you stopped.  You can only replace habits ... not remove them.  They leave a vacuum that will inevitably be filled.  It is like someone saying "Don't eat chocolate"... without realizing that the craving won't go away and may be replaced by something even worse ... hmmm, they didn't say "No cake" !

So here are some ways to Avoid the Overpromise...
1)   Be aware of all promises you are making.  Any time you predict the future for the customer, you are setting an expectation that will either help your business or hurt it.  Stay on the side of the line where you can deliver on your promises at all times.
2) Hold some things back so you can over-deliver.  This means knowing what the customer expects at a) the minimal level, b) at a satisfactory level and c) what would be "above and beyond".  Never hold back (a) or (b) and be sure to do your research to find out what specifically falls into the "above and beyond" category.  If the customer does not want a bottle of champagne to take home on his flight (and it would cause a problem going through security), don't give it to him.  Find out what you can do that will be appreciated and be sure that you can "over-deliver" consistently.
3) Share your attitude with the customer... to a point.  It is important to keep a positive, upbeat attitude ... while being aware of becoming "too comfortable" with the customer.  While it may seem like they are just like all your other friends or even family ... they laugh at your jokes, they smile when you smile... it is important to remember that the time you spend with customers is typically not enough to assume they "get you".  You want to have a good attitude that doesn't step over the line by being "too familar".  Remember, you want the customer to have an enjoyable business experience with you and your company... just remember that it is still business.

Thanks to Simon Sinek for the customer service story he posted in his blog and best of luck to all of you who work with customers on a daily basis.

Have Fun ... And Get It Done !

d.Mark "Dave" Wheeler

Friday, February 4, 2011

A bad time to look for a job...

... but a great time to create your own business ! 
Sign up today as a Helper on !

Special Thanks to Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert !