Tag Archives: customer service

Raised Your Service Standards Lately?

Professionalism materializes in client service, client satisfaction, and client results.

How would you characterize the standards by which you work and that define your brand?

Are they average? Above average? High? Very high? Exemplary? Top of the field?

How do you know which category your standards fall into?

Did you design services to fit your standards or did services evolve by chance? How do you monitor them? Are you sure you are measuring the right things?

How will you know when your standards and, therefore, your brand need improvement?

  • Ask most professionals and business owners about their business standards and they’ll tell you their standards are high or very high. I know because I’ve interviewed hundreds and hundreds of professionals, entrepreneurs, executives, business owners, and advisors. No one identified their standards as less than “high.”
  • Ask clients who observe these professionals up close how service could be improved and the clients have a lot of suggestions. They always insist they’d share these ideas with the professionals if they were asked. I’ve interviewed hundreds and hundreds of these clients, and asked them what could be done to improve service and returns—and they willingly told me.

Raising your standards essentially means competing with yourself because you know you can always do more, be better.

When you already feel successful, this is a greater challenge as complacency may override constructive curiosity, particularly when you perceive the competition as already “left in the dust.”

When it comes to service, what may be a small thing to you can be a symptom of an attitude which communicates to clients a lack of service:

  • If you don’t listen to a client, why should they listen to you? If you don’t respect a client’s opinion, why should they respect your’s? Even if they stay with you, will they follow your suggestions? Will you receive all their business? Will they refer you?
  • Clients who don’t believe that the professionals they hire respect them, may not be as open about their concerns and extenuating circumstances. They may also hold back on disclosing how well-off they are for fear of being charged more. What they don’t tell the professional could compromise results. They may make only token referrals unless they receive benefits they value, which may be genuine respect.
  • If you are not from the same generation as your clients, ageism may be a factor as well. The “too young to know” and “too old to know” cross-generation reactions associated with ageism can accentuate differences of opinion and value systems. These reactions may be compounded by cultural differences and language challenges:
  1. Not listening to an idea may be an ageist brush-off or may be perceived as such even if it is not.
  2. Offering suggestions may be ageist criticism or may be perceived as such.

Recognizing exactly what you are doing and not doing, and all the implications of both, is often difficult.

That’s the invisibility of the box. Unless you hire a professional to critique you regularly, this is a task you have, consciously or unconsciously, decided to take care of yourself. How good at it are you? Mediocrity can creep in through sloppiness, poor time management skills, bad habits, insecurity, sensitivity to criticism, inflated ego, stress, and weak powers of observation.

Extreme Excellence: The New Service Model
Experience confirms that excellence in client service is simple, but that simple is not always easy.

  • You simply need to raise client expectations and, thereby, differentiate your business and services from industry stereotypes and from the competition.
  • Then, simply, unfailingly, deliver on more than clients expect, in ways that clients value, whatever happens—no excuses.

Your knowledge and experience enable you to fully envision what “excellence in client service” involves from the target clients’ point of view, online and off.

You’ve observed first-hand why constructive persistence is essential to consistently achieve high levels of excellence in a continually changing world. How do you put this awareness into action for clients?

Working to make yourself and services indispensable—making it all about you—so clients remain dependent on you for problem solving, leaves clients considering these services as an ongoing cost and the problems they address an ongoing worry. Clients don’t feel freed from the problem. They’ve just added the necessity of dealing with you. This fairly typical business approach could lead them to search out less expensive alternatives or worry-free service providers.

In contrast, the ultimate goal in 21st-Century Extreme Service Excellence should be to solve the problem so completely that you and your services are no longer necessary. Concentrate on doing such a thorough job for clients that you theoretically put yourself out of work, and you’ve hit excellence. That’s what your brand should consistently embody.

Aim to create independence for clients and you’ll make yourself invaluable to them. Your introduction of empowering choice for clients will make them committed to you and your services by choice:

  • Their comfort with you and your services will be greater than the clients’ determination to adopt do-it-myself solutions.
  • Clients feel no need to take on new responsibility and manage the situation or the problem because they have confidence in you.
  • They don’t want the job of training to anticipate the problem and stopping it before it takes hold—they’ve got you.
  • Clients take on some responsibility and work to reduce the problem, but they’re comfortable relying on you to fully resolve the situation and bring them peace of mind.

[Excerpt from “What’s Your Point? Cut The Crap, Hit The Mark & Stick!” — Chapter 10 Constructive Persistence & Branding]

Eliminate “Two-Faced” Customer Service Experiences

Two-faced customer service

Two-faced customer experiences must go!

Even the most reputable company can create “two-faced” customer service experiences.

If face-to-face service creates a customer experience vastly different from the online shopping or call-center customer experience, customers can be left with a “two-faced” impression of the business.

  • One face, the pleasant, inviting marketing brand we have all seen
  • The other face, a negative reality which may appear as disinterest, dishonesty or deception.

“Two faced” may seem an overly-strong adjective since it smacks of deceit, but it’s not. Personal and emotional customer reactions are involved when services and products are bought and delivered, so customer perceptions define reality. Inconsistencies in service delivery may leave the perception of disinterest in customers or of dishonesty or deception.

Example: My Starbucks “two-faced” customer experience could have undermined years of “Grande decaf” loyalty.

Starbucks provides a globally-consistent example of extremely-responsive face-to-face service excellence. However, even this can be undermined by online or call center experiences that contradict the branded customer-centric experience of good-natured coffee delivery.

When you walk into a Starbucks or text ahead, you know exactly what to expect. The attentive all-about-you staff seem happy to see everyone who wanders in. This is such a predictable reaction that I often give Starbucks gift cards as thank-yous: A positive experience in exchange for the positives I received.

Then in one afternoon, I discovered this reliable positive brand could be undermined in this customer’s mind by a disagreeable online experience followed by a more frustrating, dismissive call-center conversation. Years of positive impressions dissolved into experiences of being dismissed and of not being valued. I felt fooled into thinking the frontline experience penetrated right through the corporate body, so that everyone I encountered would perpetuate Starbucks customer excellence.

My attempt at “just takes a few minutes” online registration of my card turned into a frustrating experience that took more than an hour. Since loss of my time ranks as a number one crime against this customer, I was beyond disappointed.

No preamble diminished the sense of intrusion brought on by the depth of personal details required by this impersonal online registration form. Finally, an account was created.

A few minutes later, I decided to log into my new Starbucks account. The login told me firmly I had no account. Wasted time sucked as much as not being valued.

Finding Starbucks humans to talk to seemed to be the solution. Finally dug out a phone number and connected with a Starbucks voice. I explained what had happened. My questions?

  • Where did my personal information go?
  • What happened to the account I created?

Now, I’m into hour two on this “just takes a few minutes” project.

The Starbucks phone voice told me to be patient. Curt and unsympathetic, the voice said it would take care of everything. More information required. Long wait on hold. I was informed there was no account on record. No answer was given to my queries regarding the information I input or how this could happen. The offered solution: Go back to the Starbucks store and get my money back. No apologies for inconvenience. No alternatives. No warm Starbucks fuzzies there.

An indifferent or bad online experience followed by a worse call-center experience may be enough to overshadow even the best face-to-face experience.

Returning to my local Starbucks #16896 reminded me how pleasant picking up my favorite coffee is.

  • When I handed in the gift card and asked for my money back, the cashier was puzzled, but immediately obliging.
  • The manager, ever watchful of workplace flow, noticed our exchange. He offered a new card which I declined saying only that the negative experience had turned me off and I’d had enough of that. He offered to make my current order complimentary to ensure today’s experience was a pleasant one.
  • Seamlessly, pleasantly, and without debate, he and the staff set about deliberately counteracting my negative Starbucks experience.

Act on Your Brand Definition to Achieve Extreme Service Excellence.

Are your main service delivery methods consistently strong enough to overcome negative experiences with your other service delivery methods?
Question: If I were a customer or client, displeased with any two of your company’s online, call-center, or face-to-face experiences, would the third delivery method be consistently terrific enough to erase the bad feeling generated by the two negative experiences?

Answer: If you say “Yes,” how sure are you? Assumptions are dangerous.

  • When was the last time you made a mystery visit, call or email to test out the actual customer experience for each of your delivery methods?
  • Are the nice service delivery people in your company counting on nice customers who will forgive them for making mistakes at the customer’s expense?
  • If redesigning your service model is practical and essential, where is the best place to start on the evolution to Extreme Service Excellence?
  1. How will you create a process that innovatively aligns with your style, brand, and the challenges your business considers top priority?
  2. Experiment with key variables for your industry and related industries since client needs rarely fall in one industry to the exclusion of all others. Overlaps between industries and niches can offer more opportunities since these may be areas ineffectively covered by everyone.
  3. Whether this is a creative thinking exercise or a practical evaluation, experiment before you finalize your process and begin making widespread changes.
  4. Don’t rush this process or turn it into a marathon. Work through a few ideas and then let things percolate. Haven’t you found that your subconscious keeps processing, even while you’re working on something else?

Whisper in the Ear: Experiment with service variations. Involve target clients in evaluation and valuation of new services and products rather than assuming you understand everything.

  • How will you monitor effectiveness?
  • How will you let participating clients know how much you value their insight and suggestions?

P. S. My Starbucks experience has left me less likely to give Starbucks gift cards as gifts to people whom I really want to thank. The possibility that they could have a “two-faced” experience similar to mine, has me hesitating. Still a great fan of the brand and I remain hooked on my Grande Decaf coffee, so I’ll keep showing up for more.

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