By Sara Carter
In October 2011, April, a customer service advocate for a large cell phone provider, took a call that seemed like any other call. The customer wanted to make a payment to his cell phone bill. As April began processing the payment, the customer’s demeanor suddenly shifted, becoming confused and disoriented. April quickly took action, accessing the customer’s emergency contacts to alert a relative or neighbor, as well as the paramedics.
In the hour that it took for help to arrive and take the man to the hospital, April stayed on the phone with the customer – telling him jokes, singing to him, anything she could do to keep him calm and alert. A few weeks later, April received a call from a grateful family member who said that her knowledge, compassion, and proactive state of mind helped save the man’s life.
Remarkable: It’s a word that seems simple to define but is difficult to achieve. Remarkable is an experience memorable enough to make a customer want to tell others about their interaction. Not all remarkable customer experiences involve saving a life, but great customer service has the power to change someone’s day.
There are four crucial steps businesses must take to create remarkable experiences for their customers.
- Understand the why: Why are you in business? What is your purpose? Define what you believe in and communicate it clearly, over and over again. Are you in the call center business, or is it something more? Perhaps your purpose is to foster the relationship between the consumer and the brand. As Simon Sinek says in his book Start with Why, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.”
- Start with your employees: Attitude trumps experience in most situations. Get to know the personality of the potential team member first. Do they genuinely work well with others and look at the positive side of situations? Would they grow into a mentoring leader or a finger-pointing boss? Hire team members that are truly interested in your mission and are passionate to help you achieve it. Avoid hiring cultural detractors even if they do have the most experience.
- Remove roadblocks: Customer experience can easily be overwritten by financial goals, cost cutting, and fear of change. Everyone at your organization needs to be on board with the idea that the customer experience is always the top priority. Anything that hinders the quality of customer interaction should be evaluated immediately. This includes scripts and canned responses that don’t allow for personalized communication. Have team members ask themselves, “Does this allow for the very best customer experience?” If the answer is no, reevaluate and be vigilant about reinforcing your mission.
- Understand the consequences: No one can successfully compete on a product, service, or price alone. Customer service is the driver for loyalty. How do you think Starbucks and Zappos got so big? Their success came from word-of-mouth referrals by loyal customers based around the remarkable customer service they received.
Help your team members understand the consequences of not being remarkable.
- Sixty percent higher profits are reported by companies that prioritize the customer experience (see Emmett C. Murphy, PhD, and Mark A. Murphy, MBA, Leading on the Edge of Chaos, Prentice Hall Press, 2002).
- Eighty-nine percent of customers will take their business to a competitor following a poor customer experience (see 2011 Customer Experience Impact Report, Harris Interactive).
- After a poor customer experience, more than 26 percent posted negative complaints on social media (see the 2012 Oracle whitepaper, “Seven Power Lessons for Customer Experience Leaders”).
Being a leader in customer experience is a challenge, which is also why it is such a key differentiator. Use these four rules to create your road map for retaining loyal customers, increasing referrals, and growing profits.
Sara Carter is the VP of marketing at Dialogue Marketing.
[From Connection Magazine – December 2013]