If you know customer service is your only long-term competitive advantage, then you must own these customer service tips.
These 25 customer service tips are some of my favorites because they can help an entrepreneur turn the corner toward success.
Customer Service Tip 1 – Not SEXY. This tip is not sexy at all, but it is often missed by business owners. You must have written service standards. Notice the word “written.” The standards can’t be in someone’s mind or, even worse, a “hope.” They need to be simple, memorable and easy to remember.
Customer Service Tip 2 – Lead by example. If you want to create a culture of service excellence, you need to model that behavior at all times. This means you need to treat your team members the same as your best customer. Also, your customer service needs to be exactly the way you want your team to deliver it.
Customer Service Tip 3 – Cultures take time … start today! I’ve been asked for years how we go about creating a culture of service excellence and my answer has always been exactly the same: start immediately, have awesome customer service training and never stop! Think about how long it took to create the Grand Canyon.
Customer Service Tip 4 – Awesome training is the cornerstone of service excellence. I don’t mean some mind-numbing lecture. Training needs to be fun, memorable and consistent.
Customer Service Tip 5 – No spray-and-pray training! All too often, a business will decide it needs to improve service, so it will have a day of “customer service training” and hope that will improve service. This simply doesn’t work. Remember, it takes 28 days to build a habit. Service excellence is a habit that also takes a high level of repetition.
Customer Service Tip 6 – Smiles go many miles. I’m shocked at how many businesses I enter and the people working there look like they hate their job. I know every day is not awesome, but team members need to smile and make customers feel special.
Customer Service Tip 7 – Guest or customer. This may sound like a very small point, but you never know. If you have a restaurant, do you have customers or guests? When you invite people to your home, are they guests or customers? Sometimes taking the view that customers are invited guests helps change our view of service.
Customer Service Tip 8 – Catch people doing service right. As a rule, most people are very good at catching people doing it wrong. The challenge is if we want to create new service behaviors, when employees do it right, it needs to be publicly recognized.
Customer Service Tip 9 – Mystery shoppers are a great way to get a real look at your business. You give the mystery shoppers your service standards (see Tip 1), define how they will score the shop and have them report what they find. We are fans of yes-or-no scoring. So either the team member met the standard or he or she didn’t.
Customer Service Tip 10 – Satisfaction surveys are a waste of time and money. Research out of Harvard and the London School of Economics found zero correlation between satisfaction and future growth.
Customer Service Tip 11 – Social sabotage is a HUGE problem these days. Yelp, Yahoo and Google make customer “reviews” an integral part of your online reputation. The challenge is that these are often not reviews but people who just want to rant about an experience they had. Social sabotage is a real problem and needs to be taken seriously.
Customer Service Tip 12 – No comment cards! Just throw them away. The only people who use them are “lovers” or “haters” and, worse yet, it takes weeks or months to even tabulate the data. Lastly, by the time the card is entered into the “system,” the service recovery opportunity is gone.
Customer Service Tip 13 – Reward and recognize. It’s really important for team members to know they are doing the right things when it comes to customer service. All too often they think they are doing it right but don’t really know. Set up a simple and consistent reward-and-recognition program that tells people when they are providing exceptional customer service and that you appreciate it.
Customer Service Tip 14 – Make it FUN. For some reason, customer service is often seen through the lens of complaints and frustrated customers. Customer service should be fun. After all, you are given the opportunity to make someone’s day. Find ways to put some FUN in your service today.
Customer Service Tip 15 – Less is more. When it comes to giving customers a great experience, less is often more. What I mean is that fewer rules and regulations create a better and more memorable experience. Keep it simple and you’ll have more success.
Customer Service Tip 16 – Measure advocates. An advocate is a person who will risk their reputation and recommend a business. This is critical because when they risk their reputation, they have skin in the game. You want to ask people this simple question: would they risk their reputation and recommend your business to family and friends?
Customer Service Tip 17 – It’s not a department. When it comes to creating an amazing experience, it’s not done by a single person or department. It takes an awesome team that understands there is no business without customers.
Customer Service Tip 18 – First, do no harm! This may sound very simple, but it’s amazing how many times it’s overlooked. If a customer has a problem, you want to listen and offer several different solutions. Don’t argue or try to be the one in the right. That is a battle you will never win.
Customer Service Tip 19 – Have an attitude of gratitude. Encourage your team to be thankful for all that they have, including your customers. When we are thankful, we find the good in people and situations and that makes the days go much better.
Customer Service Tip 20 – Handwritten thank-you card. Too often these days we text, tweet and email, but if we want to make a lasting impression, a simple handwritten thank-you card really stands out and can create a lasting memory.
Customer Service Tip 21 – Treat the customer the way you would want your favorite person in the world treated. If that’s your wife, mom, grandfather or just an old friend, so be it. If you treat people like they are special and important, chances are they will have a great experience.
Customer Service Tip 22 – Listen. All too often people are doing things too fast. They don’t take the needed time to really understand what the customer wants or needs. By taking time and focusing on the guest and listening, you might be surprised at all the wonderful things you learn.
Customer Service Tip 23 – Visit your competition. I’m a huge fan of field trips. Take your team over several days to visit your competition. See the level of service they are providing. What can your team take away from the visit to improve your service?
Customer Service Tip 24 – Complaints are a good thing! I mentioned social sabotage earlier (tip 11). Well, it’s much better to have customers venting frustrations directly with you or your team rather than pasting them all over the Internet for the world to see forever. Work with your team so they handle challenges in a quick and professional manner. Customers will come back if the problem was resolved quickly.
Customer Service Tip 25 – Set the bar higher. I love the Disney quote, “It’s fun to do the impossible.” See what your team can do if they are challenged to provide exceptional customer service. Not good service but positively awesome, memorable service. Customer experiences that turn everyone into advocates for your business.
Bonus Customer Service Tip – I love Louisiana where I learned about lagniappe. In simple terms, lagniappe means the little bit extra. If you order a dozen shrimp, you get 13 just because. When it comes to customer service, doing that little bit extra can make all the difference in the world. What can you do today to give your customers an unexpected small bonus?
Please note recent research found that by 2020, “service” will be more important to consumers than price or product. You have a short time to implement all of these customer service tips and be ready for the wave of customer service expectations.
Marty Baird is a customer service training expert, consultant and author who has helped tens of thousands of people in the area of customer service. Baird launched CustomerServiceTrainingTips.com as a way to share his passion for customer service training with the world. His site includes customer service tips, articles and proven tools. For more than 20 years, Baird has helped leaders in the highly competitive “hospitality” industry – including the resort, restaurant and casino markets. Baird recently posted his favorite 75 Customer Service Quotes. Baird can be reached at customerservicetrainingtips.com