Customer Service. Customer Care. Customer Experience.
Every company has its own term for customer service. What you call it isn’t important – what’s important is how your company does it. Every business has customers. (OK, I heard a collective “Duh” just now.) I know, that’s stating the obvious. A business won’t stay in business if it doesn’t have customers, but it’s amazing to me how often companies forget that little fact.
It’s Tuesday afternoon, around 3:00pm. You receive a phone call from one of your departments. The employee tells you that the department will be out of a critical component by end of day and they forgot to tell you so that you could order more. You immediately call your supplier.
You: “Hello. This is Suzy from Acme Construction. I am out of blue widgets – the department forgot to submit a requisition for them and we will have to shut down production without them. Can you get some to me by 9am tomorrow?”
CSR #1: “Hello Suzy. We do have blue widgets in stock, but our trucks only deliver to your area on Thursdays, so that would be the soonest I can get them to you.”
CSR #2: “I’m sorry, but we can’t meet that deadline.”
How often has that happened to you? It’s happened to me more times than I can count. If you’re like me, it makes you frustrated and very angry. Neither CSR even made an attempt to help you. Neither one could be bothered to step outside the official company policy. Neither one cared about your predicament. A simple solution would be:
CSR #3: “Suzy, the widgets won’t make it to you by 9am tomorrow on our trucks, but if you are willing to pay for expedited shipping, I can send them out this afternoon via UPS Overnight Early AM Delivery and you would have them by 10:30 tomorrow morning. The cost would be $95. Would you like to do that?”
CSR #4: “Suzy, the widgets won’t make it to you by 9am on our trucks, but I can have the order ready for pick up in about an hour if you would like to send someone to get it. Would you like to do that?”
Is your customer service department like CSR #1 or #2? How do you respond when your customers call you with an emergency? More importantly, how does your company respond to any customer service call? Exceptional customer service shouldn’t be saved for emergency situations – it should be given on each and every customer call. Every customer should be treated as if he or she is your only customer. Give the caller your undivided attention. Listen to what the customer is saying. (Listen and Silent have the same letters – coincidence?) Don’t put the caller on hold to talk to someone who just walked up to your desk. Don’t interrupt the caller when they’re trying to explain something to you. Think about how you felt when you were trying to order the blue widgets with CSR #1 or #2 – is that the way your customers feel when they call you? Do you give your customers personal attention or are they just an account number?
Customer service is the single most important thing in your company. Many employers fail to realize that. The customer service rep is, many times, the only contact the caller will have with your company. The person who does the ordering at your customer’s site isn’t normally the person in the receiving department who accepts the delivery from your driver or the person who speaks with your technician when he arrives to fix their broken air conditioning unit. But the person placing the order is normally the person who decides which supplier receives the order. It is imperative that your customer service staff is knowledgeable, friendly, and willing to go the extra mile for your customers.
It takes a certain type of person to be a good CSR. That being said, a company should not settle for a good CSR – it should insist on an outstanding CSR. An outstanding CSR is one that is creative and able to come up with solutions to seemingly tough situations (like the order for the widgets). One who cares about the customers and is dedicated to going above and beyond to satisfy them.
Years ago, a coworker of mine took a call from a customer who had an emergency – the caller needed an easel ASAP. Well, there weren’t any in stock at the time, so she walked into her manager’s office and informed him that she just sold his easel. She took the pad off the easel, took the easel out of his office, packaged it up, and put it on the truck. (Yes, she did tell the customer that it was used and she priced it accordingly.) Then she ordered a new one for the boss. Problem solved.
You might be inclined to think that outstanding CSRs are extroverts, but that isn’t always the case. A while back, the employees at OEX were given personality tests and some of the managers were surprised that the results on almost everyone in customer service came back as introverts. It seems like just the opposite of what you would need. When you think of a customer service position, you think of someone who deals with the public all day long and, therefore, would need to be at ease with public speaking. You think of someone who would be a social butterfly at gatherings – the one who walks up and just starts a conversation with a stranger. But some of the best customer service people are actually very quiet. I know I’m getting a little off track here, but I thought it was interesting.
Now don’t get me wrong – the customer service department isn’t the only place in the company that interacts with the customer or that needs customer service skills. I know I’ve been concentrating on phone calls for most of this article, but the same principles apply to in person customer service. Everyone in your company who speaks with a customer (Sales, Drivers, Accounting, etc.) needs those skills. Any contact that your customer has with you should be an exceptional experience. Show them that you care. Make sure that your sales staff is making regular contact with all of their customers, not just a select few. Too often, the customer thinks that the CSR they talk to every time they call is their account manager because they’ve never met the real account manager. Huge mistake. Huge.
Make life easy for your customers. At OEX, we won’t ask you for your account number when you call. We take the time to get to know our customers and, many times, we know your account number by heart. If you don’t know the item number for the thingamajig you ordered 2 months ago and need more of, we won’t hang up on you – we’ll find it! We know what kind of toner you order, where you want the driver to put the boxes when he arrives, and what your child’s name is. Our drivers know what kind of copy paper you order and which day of the week you normally order it. We know you. We believe in building relationships with our customers.
Our company philosophy is outlined in our 6 Core Values:
- Passion for customer needs
- Great at relationships - internal and external
- Going above and beyond
- Out-of-box problem solving
- Always learning
- Positive attitude
Every OEX employee lives by these values. We want you to be happy with every transaction you make with us. We’re big enough to compete; small enough to know your name. Call us – we’ll prove it to you.