Everyone agrees that customer service is a huge differentiator. But customer service usually isn't something huge, it's a set of little things. Or it may even be just one little thing. So how do you know if you're really doing a good job with your customer service?
You've probably heard things like, "Our customer service is what sets us apart from the competition." The only issue I have with that is that the competition is likely saying the same thing! They can't both be right!
Chances are, your customer service isn't as good as you think. It's not because you're doing the big things wrong. It's the little things that are tripping you up! And it's how those little things line up with people's expectations.
Let's look at an experience I ran into years ago while doing customer training, the take-aways from that experience about the true cost of bad customer service, why the little things matter, then I'll share some resources.
A costly roofing customer service mistake
My team and I often do customer service training for clients. A number of years ago, I was talking with a team about good service versus bad service. As I often do in customer service training, I asked the group two questions:
- When you think of good customer service, who comes to mind?
- When you think of bad customer service, who comes to mind?
When I posed the questions that time, a lady piped up immediately. You could see the emotions spilling out of her!
She shared that she had her house re-roofed the year before. The experience was so bad that she had to have the city come out multiple times to tell the contractor what to do.
Now, this was a roofing company that had been in business for a while. They had billboards all over the city. They were very well-known!
Not only did they have to get the city inspector involved, but the crew left nails all over the yard. The nails that the lady collected filled two one-gallon buckets. That's a lot of nails. Talk about a lot of little things!
There was so much negative emotion behind the story that someone in the audience asked who the roofing company was, so they didn't accidentally hire them. When she shared the name, everyone immediately wrote down the name of the company.
A costly home building customer service mistake
As soon as the first lady was done sharing, another lady in the group spoke up with an example in the home building industry.
About eight years prior, she had set out to build a new home with a company. The company kept goofing things up and delaying the home. Finally, the lady ended up getting out of the agreement.
It turns out it wasn't about the delays, it was all about how the company handled it! It was the little things that ended the agreement.
The lady was so caught up in the negative emotions when she told the story that she immediately volunteered the name of the home builder! In fact, I found out later she went home after our training session and called friends of hers over the weekend, just to warn them not to use the company!
The true cost of bad customer service
Both ladies at that training had a negative experience. The emotional connection is unbelievable when there's a negative experience like that. It brings up a lot of emotion that doesn't go away. With the home building experience, it had been eight years! And she still couldn't wait to tell people not to do business with that company.
That's pretty powerful stuff! The bad experiences didn't stop with those individuals. The companies involved didn't just lose all future jobs with those two ladies, they lost a lot of future jobs as well. And they probably didn't even realize it!
Think that's ever happened with your company? Sure, sometimes you'll hear from the people who have a bad experience. But other times you won't. And in both cases, if there's negative emotions involved, chances are good that your client shared the experience with others.
People that have negative experiences are much more likely to share that experience with others.
Sweat the small stuff
Let's look at the other question I asked. When you think about a company that has great customer service, most likely it's not something huge that stands out. It's much more likely that it's a set of little things or even one little thing.
Why are those little things so important?
When you look at the little things that make a huge difference—both negative and positive—they really all have to do with expectations. And when it comes down to it, expectations stem from past experiences.
When you have experiences, you keep a mental recording. And from that point forward, you're always comparing against similar situations. That's how you come up with your expectations.
If you've experienced really good customer service, that can become your expectation with a particular business or even an entire industry. And if you have a bad experience the same thing can happen.
Depending on what you do, your clients may or may not have any past experiences with your company or even your industry. But does that mean they won't have expectations?
Of course not! They'll still be based on experiences, but it will either be stories others told them or something they experienced that they believe is similar.
You may have been out to eat at a restaurant for the first time and you were blown away by the great service. What were you comparing it to?
If you go to a high-end steak house, you are probably expecting a different level of service than you would at a fast food restaurant. But if you go to a restaurant with similar prices to the high-end steak house, you do probably expect the same level of service.
Start by paying attention to what your clients say and how they act. Then don't make assumptions, ask questions instead! Ask them why they said something or asked something or did something. Ask about their experiences!
When you ask those questions, you can change some of the small things that will make a difference for them.
Good customer service is essential to retaining your clients. Bad customer service can cause all your hard sales work to be undone! Fortunately, we've written several articles over the years related to customer service.
Most organizations view customer service as a department, or a person, or a job duty. Is this mindset behind customer service hurting your business or holding you back in some way? Learn what you should do instead in this video.
Our book Customer Care The Sandler Way, 48 Rules for Strategic Customer Care gives you the guidelines you need to make intelligent strategic investments in customer care. The book covers good hiring practices, proper training, a seamless customer-friendly process, clearly communicated expectations, and more.
You can read more and even download a free sample here:
Finally, you may want us to help you or your team get better at customer service. We help our clients improve through a number of methods including a classroom environment, one-on-one coaching, and custom group training.
If any of those sound like they're worth a conversation, you can call us at (405) 844-1700 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.