The Rights of Customer Service

In an age when customers are frequently left to fend for themselves, there is a great opportunity for businesses to stand out from the crowd and attract those who will pay a little more for a lot more service.

Merchandising managers talk about the ‘Five Rights of Merchandising” as essential to success in their industry: the right product, right price, right place, right quantity at the right time. These represent only the starting point, the minimum for customer service. There are a number of other rights that, in today’s world can set you far apart from the competition.

Do it right consistently

Long ago a successful ad for Holiday Inns declared, “No surprises.” The slogan struck a chord with travellers who would put up with a mediocre product that was the same every time, before taking a risk of choosing one that was great most, but not all, of the time.

Have the right experience

Train your staff to be conscious of how they affect the feelings of customers who interact with them. Treating customers with respect is the minimum. Strive to make them feel like valued friends; that you are always helpful; that interaction with them is a pleasure; that it is easy to avail themselves of your goods and services. Showing empathy in every customer interaction helps them feel they are being understood at more than a superficial level.

The right communication

Everything that your employees say to customers needs to be clear and timely. They need to show that the service representatives are knowledgeable. Employees give better service when they learn about different interaction styles and how to make others comfortable in a discussion. Ask employees to reflect upon their body language and tone of voice when they talking with clients. They should not be pushy, condescending or demeaning to customers. The customer should be an equal partner in the discussion.

Employ the right people

Every job has a personality style that enables people to be more successful. Identify those who are the most successful in delivering quality customer service. Use a tool like PrevueTM to create a benchmark of the styles that work best. Then, use the tool to select individuals for those vital customer service positions.

Have the right difference

Explore how what you offer stands out in the marketplace. What makes your customer service different from others? Pay attention to how people make decisions about choosing service providers and how they make buying decisions. Identify the strategic advantages your organization has in delivering what customers want.

Cultivate the right image

The public’s image that your organization offers superior customer service is an advantage even before customers make contact. Think of the adjectives, like dependable, economical, dynamic, fashionable, leading-edge, expert, which customers use when choosing a supplier. Figure out what customers look for and showcase how your organization can fit these descriptions.

Serve the right customers

Focus on those you serve the best. Get to know them better than your competitors do and use this knowledge to provide superior service. If you serve a number of different types of customers, customize your products for each and help them easily figure out which products are best suited to their needs.

Serve the right constituents – supporters, founders, shareholders

It may be complex to identify your customers; for example, a not-for-profit may have important funders, but they are very different from your clientele. You need to provide a high level of service to clients in order to satisfy those funders. You also must help them understand how the work you do fulfills their wishes. Ask your funders what they want to have accomplished, and how well they want it done. Then, measure how you fulfil those criteria and report it regularly.

Make it right

When something does goes wrong use a problem-solving approach to discover the underlying cause and make correcting it the first priority. People don’t expect perfection. But, they can’t stand an organization that gets defensive when they point out an error. Train your people to listen with empathy, ask clear questions and identify the precise problem and its cause. Empower them to correct the problem and provide restitution.

Like a bright red rose in a bed of dull plants, your organization can stand out from all the others when the “right” customer service works. People, including the cohort of aging baby boomers, who are tired of fending for themselves will have you front and centre in their minds and pick you over your competitors.

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July 1, 2010

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