Customer Service Basics Are Timeless

Today’s new buzz words in the world of customer service are “customer engagement” and  “ customer centric”. The concepts are very valid and important to create a relationship with the customer. But as I read the articles I can’t help but think these are just new phrases for the same old stuff that has been around forever. It is all a reminder that we are in business for one reason – to service and sell the customer. The customer holds all the cards and the customer rules. Seems pretty basic.

You are most likely in a very competitive business with others offering the same products at about the same price. In this marketplace, your products and services can not be your difference, you must depend more and more on employees attitudes as a differentiation. Customers are more savvy, sophisticated, informed as well as picky and demanding. That means you must have a team of people who can deliver what customer’s want and handle the challenges of providing good customer service.

So what do customers want? I am sure the list could be quite extensive however here are my top four.

  1. Customers want you to listen. Show them respect. Hear their unique needs (even though it sounds like the other 22 you have already heard today).
  2. Customers want you to take responsibility. Walk them through the problem to a solution. In other words, own their concern and see it to a resolution.
  3. Customers want you to pay attention to the details. Use their name, call back when promised, choose your language carefully and create an experience because you are passionate about customer service!
  4. Customers want you to remember it is their time and money. You are not doing them a favor. They are doing you one -  don’t forget it.

Customer satisfaction is a combination of giving the customer what they want and delivering it from the right people. No customer wants to give money to someone they don’t like. So here are my top keys to the right team member.

  1. Hire likeable people. Would you want to be served by them?
  2. Hire the attitude. Herb Kelleher, retired CEO of Southwest Airlines, said it best, “People who can fly airplanes are a dime a dozen. Finding people with great attitudes aren’t.”  Use interview questions that uncover how this candidate thinks and acts in customer situations. Their attitude will be evident in the answers.
  3. Don’t oversell your company. Tell them the good, bad and the ugly of working for you. You might avoid “buyer’s remorse”  and the cost of turnover.
  4. Keep looking. If you can’t find the right person, don’t make the mistake of hiring just anyone. It is better to be short staffed than to be saddled with a bad fit for your team. Another option is to hire the right person even when you don’t need them. Figure out how to put them on the team. Good people are tough to find.

Customer satisfaction means relying on the basics. They work every time. The problem is we make it all too complicated. Yes, we need customer relationship management strategies, customer engagement and a customer centric focus. But we don’t have the right to go there until we deliver the basics first. I speak at many company meetings where the slogan for that gathering is something like – “The Year of the Customer”. I always wonder what year is not the Year of the Customer?

For more tips on providing consistently good service, read NewVoiceMedia's white paper Deliver positive customer experiences across every channel, every time.

Read more from Lisa Ford

Lisa Ford  is a speaker on customer service issues. She is the author of the book Exceptional Customer Service. More on Lisa’s work can be found at    770.394.4860.

Lisa Ford
Lisa Ford

Lisa is well known for her work on customer issues. Her ideas help companies create customer-focused cultures and keep customers loyal. She is a speaker and author with over 20 years of experience presenting to businesses, associations and government. Lisa is the author of ‘How to Give Exceptional Customer Service’, the #1 selling DVD series in the US for over 3 years.

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