There's never been a time when great customer service mattered more than it does now. The economy is recovering, but consumer confidence is still down, and the customers who are buying have scores of choices of where and how to buy. And now almost every product and service out there has been "commoditized" (that is, by one definition, evolved to its lowest common denominator), so it's hard to determine who offers the best value; therefore many people shop based on price alone.
It's more important than ever for companies to differentiate themselves from all the others. It's critical to make sure that the whole value proposition is clear and is consistently delivered in a way that delights and even surprises customers.
This gets done two ways. The first is through a positive, customer-focused company culture that values, supports and nurtures relationships. The second is from the personal commitment and determination of the people that take care of the customers every day. When customer-facing people choose in every interaction to provide a level of care that is exquisite, they build big "emotional bank accounts" with customers that keep them connected to the company (even if they can't buy as much today as they did yesterday.)
While customer care is everyone's business and should be part of everyone's job description, the customer facing people have the primary responsibility to "be the company" in the eyes of the customer.
Since it's especially critical in these challenging times to take exquisite care of the customers a company already has, here are seven things every customer-facing person needs to know in order to do an outstanding job:
- Show up and be fully present to the job. That's in the best interest of both the customer and the customer-facing employee. Set an intention every day to be the best one can be at one's craft. Make it a point to learn about how to get better at it every day. One gets better the more one practices. Find joy in doing the job well. Recognize and acknowledge one's self for all the "wins" during the day. (Even if, and especially if, the boss doesn't notice often enough.)
- Be proud of what one does. Each customer-facing employee plays an important role in the company's success. The experiences one provides for the customer could make or break the customer's relationship with the company. Even if parts of the process are broken, the wait times are long,the customer is upset about some aspect of the company, a great experience with a customer-facing person can make up for a lot. One has the opportunity to make deposits in the customer's emotional bank account and keep those customers happy, coming back and referring friends.
- Exercise one's emotional genius. Being good at customer service requires a great deal of emotional intelligence. In fact, in a customer-facing job, EQ is as important - and often more important - than IQ. Being in a people-oriented position gives one the unique opportunity to practice and even perfect those EQ skills. That will help one in every relationship one has in one's life. As one gets better at one's job, one gets better at one's life. That's a bonus.
- The customer isn't always right. Even if the motto on the little card from the corporate office says otherwise. Sometimes customers are wrong; sometimes they are mean; sometimes they lie; sometimes they drive one crazy. But being right or wrong isn't the point. One's job is to be so skillful that even if customers are wrong, angry, nasty or just having a bad day, one has the ability to turn a bad situation into a better one. A highly skilled customer-facing person is a magician, able to transform and defuse difficult situations into good ones.
- The customer-facing person works in the performing arts. Service isn't like a manufactured good. It can't be made ahead of time and put in the shelf. It happens in the moment, as needed, and it's all about performance. That makes the customer-facing employee the performer. Just as for an actor, there will be days when one just doesn't feel up to it, and one will have to act as if one were. Here's where good training comes in. Rehearsal and visualization work to help one prepare for a great performance every time. Think improv artist.
- Customer-facing is stressful, but how much stress one takes home is up to the individual. How one views one's job is just as important as how one does one's job. If one allows one's self to overdramatize, "catastrophize," get defensive, and take everything personally, one is in for a tough time. One's body reacts to the perception of danger with primal instincts to fight or flee - both involving a cascade of stress chemicals that can damage one's body. One has the power to change how one views any situation - including one's job. Find a "frame" that makes it less stressful and more enjoyable.
- One has the opportunity to make the world a better place every day. Whether one deals with 10 customers or 200 customers a day, one has the power to create positive experiences for all of them. When one makes one's best effort to add sincere care and appreciation to each interaction, one is infusing it with positive energy and vibration. When the customer leaves the interaction with one feeling good, the customer is likely to spread that positive emotion. Emotions are contagious - negative ones as well as positive ones.
One has the power to spread positivity and make the world a better place. Everyone knows how important that contribution is these days. Take it seriously, and one can make a serious difference in the lives of one's customers and everyone they touch. Allow one's self to see the ripples of goodwill and well-being one is sending out into the world. Spread happiness and appreciation, and one will feel energized and build one's own good health. Optimists live seven to nine years longer than pessimists.
Use this list of "Seven Things" to start a lively dialog in one's organization. Spread the article around. Discuss each of the points, adding a few of one's own. Reflect on the good points of being in a customer-facing job. Appreciate the power and opportunity that rest in one's hands. Make the commitment to be the best one can be. Have fun and do good work.
Adapted from an article by JoAnna Brandt of http://www.customercarecoach.com/.