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Upping Your Customer Service Game

NOTE: This customer service article is a bit different. I had the wonderful opportunity to work on this article with Alyson Stone of Assistly, a customer service software company that helps companies create and deliver amazing service and support. We both have similar customer service philosophies and have merged a few of our concepts together to create an article that I hope you will enjoy and learn from. You may even recognize some quotes from past blog posts. They are timeless. The customer. Their expectations shape your strategies. Their needs govern your road map. They speak; you listen (or eavesdrop). The quality of their experience is the most important goal of your business. Assistly calls it “Customer Wow.” It’s my call to action – my mantra – which is to “Always Be Amazing.” Either way, it’s all about putting the customer at the center of your business, and we are both in fierce agreement that companies will gain a distinct competitive advantage by doing so. We also agree that companies who elevate the customer and connect every employee to the process of service and support can gain a disruptive advantage because they will increase loyalty, retain more of their existing customers, and create strong advocates. In the spirit of shared philosophy and mission, we have prepared this Top Ten List and are co-branding and co-publishing it. We hope that our readers embrace these tenets because to do so leads to an almost magical ability to generate excitement and loyalty. From the mom-and-pop grocery store with the Facebook fan page to the largest corporation, companies are seeing the effects.

The Top 10 Reasons to Up Your Customer Service Game

1. Outstanding customer service builds brand awareness and brand confidence. Customer service builds trust. When a customer expects a reliable, repeatable, pleasurable experience with a brand, their loyalty increases.  Customers have good role models for excellent customer service and their expectations continue to rise.
“Amazing customer service means taking ownership of a service issue and seeing the issue through to resolution.  This creates a continuity of service for the client that builds confidence, corporate knowledge and responsibility for the client service representative.” — Steve Silver, Royal Banks of Missouri.
2. An emphasis on customer service reduces personnel costs and makes for happier employees. Since Happy Employees = Happy Customers, progressive companies emphasizing customer service and customer experience are more likely to have a career path for customer representatives. This means lower employee “churn” and lower staff costs.
“Great customer service creates an environment for employees to be proud of their work, thereby resulting in employee retention.” — Ted Guhr, Director of Business Development, Tarlton Corporation
3. Devotion to customer service is a business driver. Spectacular customer service takes service and support out of the “cost center” category and turns it toward “business driver.”
“The social customer’s ascendancy means that customer service is at the core of all business—be it sales, or even marketing and of course, customer support.  Customers are turning to the people that they trust at companies to take care of issues or even queries, not necessarily the formal customer service representative.  Customer service is a wrapper around all business operations and especially those that regard human interactions.  Great customer service means a great company in the eyes of the customer—and it shows later on your bottom line.” — Paul Greenberg, CRM thought leader and author of CRM at the Speed of Light (4th edition)
4. The customer service experience is more important than price. Customer service is more important than price to 10% of buyers, which makes it a revenue enhancer.
“Service standards keep rising. As competitors render better and better service, customers become more demanding. Their expectations grow. When every company’s service is shoddy, doing a few things well can earn you a reputation as the customer’s savior. But when a competitor emerges from the pack as a service leader, you have to do a lot of things right. Suddenly achieving service leadership costs more and takes longer. It may even be impossible if the competition has too much of a head start. The longer you wait, the harder it is to produce outstanding service.” – William H. Davidow, Partner Mohr, Davidow Ventures
5. Strategic customer service reduces friction and breaks down barriers. Customer service insights acted upon make processes and messages more efficient, encouraging self-service and friction-free transactions. Friction-free service and support are now known to be the main drivers of the Customer Experience Score. The point isn’t just whether an issue is resolved but whether the customer’s effort to get to a resolution was acceptable.
Statistic: 90% of North American firms consider customer experience important or critical to 2010 plans. 80% of the firms would like to use customer experience as a form of differentiation. — Forrester’s “The State of Customer Experience, 2010”
6. Amazing customer service is a disruptive and sustainable competitive advantage—companies can rise to great heights on Customer Wow.
“America is ripe for a service revolution.”-Harvey Mackay, author of Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive: Outsell, Outmanage, Outmotivate, and Outnegotiate Your Competition
7. Well-executed customer service encourages “customers for life.” Customer service can help make it easier and more graceful to cross-sell, up-sell, and migrate customers within the product/service line, making them “customers for life.” Customers for life have lasting value.
“Amazing customer service allows better communication with your customers to get feedback and improve products and services, therefore protecting future growth.” —  Kevin Baum, Founder, inCenturgy
8. Outstanding customer service can help the marketing and sales budget. It costs less to keep existing customers than it does to create new ones.
“Companies can boost profits by almost 100 percent by retaining just five percent more of their customers, whether you are a Big Six accounting firm, Microsoft, or Olga’s Blintz and Borscht Parlor.” – Frederick Reichheld and Earl Sasser, management consultants.
9. Thoughtful customer service encourages advocacy and evangelism, which act as turbo boosters on social networks and other non-traditional channels. Advocacy and evangelism elevate the Voice of the Customer and lead to referrals. Advocates and evangelists are unpaid members of the marketing team.
“A dissatisfied customer, who feels that you made things right, will be one of the most powerful customer evangelists you could have. They will be telling their friends, family, and associates how you fixed their problem when they were expecting the worst possible outcome.  In contrast, a dissatisfied customer will spend at least as much effort to discredit your company. — Perry Jarlsberg, Superior Services Solutions, Inc.
10. Great customer service recognizes the new, powerful role of the customer. Today the customer has never been more powerful regarding the ability to offer opinions reaching anyone on the planet. Customer service amplifies positive word of mouth. Over 50% of people will not do business with a company with poor customer service. This decision, even in a poor economy, is based on service, not price.
“Rule 1: The customer is always right. Rule 2: If the customer is ever wrong, re-read Rule 1.” — Stew Leonard
The role of the customer has changed dramatically. We can’t wait to see what the future has in store for companies with access to knowledge and tools, permitting them to compete on the same marketing level as mega-corporations. Shep Hyken is a customer service/CX expert, award-winning keynote speaker, and New York Times bestselling author. Learn more about Shep’s customer service and customer experience keynote speeches and his customer service training workshops at Connect with Shep on LinkedIn. (Copyright ©MMXI, Shep Hyken)

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