Most people associate New Year’s resolutions with habits related to their personal lives, but this post is a challenge to make a New Year’s resolution for your business. Releasing bad habits and permanently adopting new good habits is difficult for individuals and businesses alike. The biggest difference is that failure to choose more celery, carrots and sit-ups, and fewer cookies, beers and Doritos, may result in a few extra pounds around the waist, while failure to incorporate good business habits will likely have much broader and more impactful negative consequences.
Obviously, there are countless tactics and habits that can be implemented to improve the health of a business, but among the most important is customer service. However, even within the customer service category, there are still countless tactics and habits that can be adopted to improve business outcomes – many that are specific to the type of business you’re running. So, in this post, we’re going to skip the specific customer service tactics – implementing those is actually the easy part. Instead, let’s explore some new ways of thinking about customer service – and making exceptional customer service an integral part of your company’s culture.
So, this is a challenge to make a New Year’s resolution that your business will take its customer service to a whole new level – and below are 5 tips to help your business achieve this lofty 2016 goal.
1. Aim high – really high
Years ago, I went to a fast food restaurant in my town; one which I had been to many times before. I had never associated this restaurant with particularly good or bad customer service – and typically I don’t go into fast food establishments with the expectation of exceptional service. But this place had hired a new manager; and the reason I know he must have been new is because he was unforgettable. With a huge, genuine smile on his face, he greeted customers like they were his best friends.
“Hello my brother,” he said enthusiastically as I stepped up to the register. “I hope you are having an amazing day! What can we get for you to eat today?”
Truth is… words could never properly explain the experience. That guy didn’t just do a great job taking my order; he made me feel better about humanity. He made me smile and inspired me to want to go out and be nicer to other people. The cynical part of me thought perhaps he was just in a good mood that day – maybe he just won the lottery. But every time I went back, he was lighting up the entire restaurant with his energy and positive attitude. On several occasions I mentioned my experience to friends and family, and every single time they knew immediately who I was talking about, and we all agreed that he must be the happiest man alive.
His service was infectious too. Not long after he arrived, every employee in that place started acting similarly. It was literally the nicest place in town to walk into and I promise you I went there sometimes more for the atmosphere and the experience than for the food. Less than a year later he was gone – and I found out it’s because the owner of a local upscale hotel had ordered lunch there and was so impressed by the guy that he hired him to come work at the hotel. Guess what his job was? To walk around the hotel and greet guests.
Here’s the thing, on my best day, I don’t think I could match this guy’s level of enthusiasm and service. And honestly, I don’t think he even has to make a conscious effort – it’s just the type of person he is. But there’s no doubt in mind that if businesses treated their customers half as good as this guy did, the results would be astonishing. Customer loyalty and retention would soar and would of mouth and reputation would drive new business. So, we may not all be capable of the saint-like service described here, but it’s good to realize that good customer service is not the same as incredible, unforgettable customer service.
What if your goal went from satisfying customers and receiving no complaints – to making customers eyes bug out and jaws hit the floor due to amazement and joy? Reaching the highest levels of customer service begins with an awareness of how extraordinary it could be, and then setting the bar high for your business.
2. Rename your customer service
Instead of telling your staff you want them to provide good customer service, or even great customer service, name it something more exciting as a reminder that the intention is to go beyond the ordinary and make a real impression on your customers. Here are a few suggestions:
- CFL Service (that’s Customer For Life)
- Raving mad customer service
- Outrageously unexpected customer care
- Jaw-dropping customer love
- Customer Amazement Service Hero (or CASH for short)
You get the idea – but own this and make it yours!
3. The golden rule works in business too
I realize this tip is similar to the first one, but it’s so important that it’s worth further examination. When we go to work day after day, it’s easy to get complacent about customer service. We often forget that the stranger across the counter, or on the other end of a call, is a human being with human emotions. The golden rule is awesome because it works in every aspect of life, and business is no exception. When you and your staff sincerely treat your customers the way you like to be treated when you are the customer, success is inevitable. Also, remember that word-of-mouth is very powerful and it goes both ways. One bad experience with one staff member can keep a customer from ever coming back and he or she is likely to share that bad experience with others. But one amazing experience can earn a lifetime customer and probably some positive endorsements. And with the power of social media these days – the effects of good or bad feedback can be greatly magnified.
4. Lead the way
It’s one thing to tell your staff to provide super duper customer service – it’s quite another to show them how’s it’s done. In a way, members of your staff are your internal customers. Treat them the way you would want to be treated if they were your bosses. Smile. Be nice. Share a laugh. If your employees enjoy coming to work your customers will sense that. It’s much easier for employees to act similar to the guy in tip #1 when they actually feel good. Don’t be a good boss – be the best boss your employees ever had. Nothing motivates employees to satisfy customers better than employee satisfaction. Also, let your staff see you engaging with customers directly and show them how to leave customers delightfully stunned.
5. Get creative
Have regular customer service meetings – but maybe treat them more like brainstorming pep rallies. Regular gatherings will keep customer service top of mind, stave off complacency and reinforce the fact that it’s a priority and part of the company culture. Encourage creativity. Have employees share some examples of ways they blew customers’ minds and also brainstorm new ideas for random acts of customer kindness. Smiling and sincerely helping people is contagious – once your staff gets a taste of it they will come to work with a new level of enthusiasm and it will be felt throughout your company and by all of customers.
Whether you were on the giving end or the receiving end, we’d love to hear about some of your extraordinary customer service experiences. Comment below!