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Delivering Great Customer Service

Delivering Great Customer Service

In light of some initiatives we’ve been engaged in for the past few months, I’d like to take the opportunity in this month’s musings to...

In light of some initiatives we’ve been engaged in for the past few months, I’d like to take the opportunity in this month’s musings to discuss the subject of Customer Service. We’ve all noticed the quality of Customer Service decline in recent years, and with that decline a corresponding erosion in the expectations of customers regarding the quality of it. In fact, the decline has been happening for decades. The reasons vary, but are mostly tied to a financial objective to reduce unit cost to deliver an product or service. Sadly, regardless of the reasons, the decline in quality has lowered the bar so far that today a good or great customer service experience is more a "pleasant surprise".


What We’ve Come to Expect

In general, today’s typical customer service has devolved into a disconnected experience designed to delay and defer customers to self-help resources, queue help requests for days and weeks, ridiculous call tree menus that take forever just to talk to a real human if you even can, and chatbots designed to make you help yourself. While the justification for these approaches is often sold as “help people help themselves”, it’s really about reducing labor costs pure and simple. Customer service experiences that involve humans are either “last resorts” in the customer service model, or exceptions when they are the cornerstone of the experience. We can all agree that today’s Customer Service is often a running joke.

We can all agree that today’s Customer Service is often a running joke.

What Should We Expect?

We should expect a level of service equal to the value of the service being provided. The term “value” here is subjective. Value is how important the thing we are buying is to us. Note the word “buying” here. Your expectations for support for “free stuff” should be lower that for stuff you pay for. That’s only fair and good business. If you are attaching an unrealistic value on “free stuff” services, you will mostly be disappointed in the Customer Service you get. This is a primary reason why running a business on “freemail” is a bad idea (see my March 2024 article on Freemail Pitfalls).

But if you are paying for a service that is important for you or your business, you expect Customer Service that ensures the service does what you need it to do. The more critical the service is to you, the higher your expectations should be. If you are not receiving the level of customer service you need, you will likely seek another provider for that service.

If you are not receiving the level of customer service you need, you will likely seek another provider for that service.

Fundamentals of Delivering Customer Service

The most basic measure of Customer Service is meeting expectations. This simply means that when delivering any form of Customer Service, the quality will be intuitively measured by the customer on whether or not you are meeting expectations. The technical term for this measurement is Service Level Expectation (SLE) which quantitively measures a level of service. One common way to collect this information is by using Customer Surveys which normalize the customers evaluation of their experience with your service. A good Customer Survey often measures more than one “metric” but should always include one for Customer Service. While many companies use reviews and testimonials to gauge customer satisfaction, it is important to note that such reviews and testimonials are isolated incidents and are qualitive in nature. While inarguably good for marketing purposes, they cannot provide an accurate picture of your customers satisfaction as a whole.


How to Improve Your Customer Service

If you are in business, you are providing some level of Customer Service. The question is, “are you meeting your customers’ expectations?” If not, you will have a hard time retaining customers, and as importantly, having customers reluctant to refer you to their associates and friends.

The question is, “are you meeting your customers’ expectations?”

Here are four things every business should do the ensure you are providing the Customer Service your clients expect:

1. Cultivate a “Customer First” Mindset

  • Make Customer Service the most important thing you do at your company
  • Communicate the principle and practices to your staff regularly
  • Define and measure performance

2. Provide a Single Point of Contact for Your Customer

  • Provide a person to act as the responsible party (POC) for you customer
  • Establish how the POC and customer will communicate
  • Establish how often communications should happen

3. Know What Your Clients Expect

This sounds obvious but you would be surprised. Sole proprietors are most susceptible to not knowing what their customers expect. And this is the first area of growth that need to be addressed if you want grow. Simply do these things:

  • Ask your customer when they need what you are providing
  • Be clear you understand the need
  • Ensure you can deliver the need when it is needed

4. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

  • Reiterate your understanding of the timeline
  • Delineate the service(s) you will deliver
  • Itemize any things you will need from the customer to deliver
  • Report Status until the delivery is complete.
  • Request feedback on the service

Wrapping it Up

The good news is that most customers have been beaten into submission in regard to their expectations of Customer Service. This means that providing a good or great experience will undoubtedly set you apart from your competition and ensure you retain the customers you value, both of which are key to growing your business. Customers will share their experiences with both good and bad Customer Service, make sure you are on the good side of the equation.

Customers will share their experiences with both good and bad Customer Service, make sure you are on the good side of the equation.

While there are tools and processes you could employ to ensure ongoing improvement to your deliver of quality Customer Service, it all starts with the mindset and commitment to make this a top priority at your company. Once you instill a “customer first” mindset in your culture, you will then have to tackle all that increased business, which is what we all strive for.


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