Required Reading: Tips to Keep Customers from Going Away
In Ignore Your Customers (and They’ll Go Away): the Simple Playbook for Delivering the Ultimate Customer Service Experience, customer service expert Micah Solomon provides a practical guide to crafting a customer service culture and experience that drives brand loyalty and increases the bottom line. CRM editor Leonard Klie caught up with Solomon to find out what it takes to turn a ho-hum customer interaction into one that drives customer engagement and lifelong loyalty.
CRM: How are companies ignoring their customers?
Solomon: I am often hired by companies whose connection with customers has worn away over time. As they’ve grown, they’ve dispensed with the niceties, the true personalizations that used to delight customers. This can be managers hiding in their offices rather than helping on a challenging call, blanket-emailing good customers as if they were generic prospects, or understaffing the contact center. There are many opportunities to ignore your customers, and happily, many opportunities to improve.
If customers do “go away,” as you suggest, are they gone forever? How can companies win them back?
Companies need to stop thinking of customers as an endless resource, something that sales and marketing teams can continue to supply indefinitely. It’s time to realize that every customer who leaves is very likely gone forever. And in our hyper-social world, they might bring their friends and online contacts with them.
You mention a few companies that consistently provide exceptional customer service. What makes them stand out?
USAA indoctrinates employees into what it means to be a customer (member), from onboarding onward, and then invites employees to innovate wherever they see the need to serve members better.
Nextiva, a business communications company, has grown by handling every customer inquiry in-house and going the extra mile in assistance to customers via every channel.
MOD Pizza does a remarkable job involving second-chance employees (former prisoners, etc.) in creating a unique and positive customer experience.
At, Nordstrom, “no” is almost never the answer, and they go many extra miles to get to “yes” with customers.
Zappos is a master of what I call “everyday wow,” striving to make a connection with every customer on every phone call.
And the Ritz-Carlton Hotel thrives by empowering employees to create larger, unique “wow moments” that create “wow stories” that stick out and are likely to be shared by guests.
What do you see as the hallmarks of exceptional customer service?
Satisfactory customer service has four elements: a reliable product; friendly delivery; timeliness (a good product delivered late is a defect); and a customer service recovery framework for when things go wrong.
To take customer service from satisfactory to exceptional, you need to offer truly anticipatory customer service: serving the unexpressed as well as the expressed wishes of customers. This requires hiring the right employees and training and inspiring them to provide truly personal and empathetic service. Systems and technologies need to be designed intelligently and personally for the needs of every customer.
How important is technology in the new era of customer service?
It’s obviously extremely important. But there is a correct way and an incorrect way to deploy it. The best way to think of AI or any other advanced automated technology in customer service is the triangular model. At one vertex is the customer, at the second is the agent, at the third is the AI. Customers can work solely with AI or with AI and the agent. Agents can work solely with the customer or have their work enhanced by AI.
Why is customer service so important right now?
Customer service is the new marketing. In the Mad Men era, brilliant marketers like Don Draper’s real-life analogs could convince customers of most anything. Today, customers are most interested in their own customer experience and the experiences of those to whom they listen online and offline. If you get those right, they are also interested in your traditional marketing. If you don’t, they either ignore your traditional marketing or take it ironically.