Delivering Extraordinary Customer Service

In October 2011, April, a customer service advocate for a large cell phone provider, took a call that began like any other. The customer wanted to make a payment to his cell phone bill. As the advocate began processing the payment, the customer's demeanor suddenly started to shift; he seemed confused and disoriented. April quickly took action, accessing the customer's emergency contacts to alert a relative or neighbor, as well as paramedics. In the hour that it took for help to arrive, April stayed on the phone with the customer: telling him jokes, singing to him, anything she could do to keep him calm and alert. Help finally arrived and the man was taken to the hospital. A few weeks later, April received a call from a grateful family member telling April that her knowledge, compassion, and proactive state of mind helped save the man's life.

Remarkable. A word that seems so simple to define but difficult to achieve. We define a remarkable customer experience as one that is memorable enough to make a customer want to tell others about the interaction. Not all remarkable customer experiences require saving a life, but great customer service definitely has the power to change someone's day. Following are four crucial steps businesses must take to create remarkable experiences for their customers.

1. Understand the why. What is your purpose? Why are you in business? Define what you believe in and communicate it clearly, over and over again. As Simon Sinek says in the book Start with Why, people don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

2. Start with your employees. Attitude trumps experience in most situations. Get to know the personality of the potential team members first. Do they genuinely work well with others and look at the positive side of situations? Would they grow into a mentoring leader or a finger-pointing boss? Hire team members who are truly interested in your mission and are passionate about helping you achieve it. Avoid hiring cultural detractors, even if they do have the most experience.

3. Remove roadblocks. Customer experience can easily be overwritten by financial goals, cost cuts, and fear of change. Everyone at your organization needs to be on board with the idea that the customer experience is always the top priority. Anything that hinders the quality of the customer interaction should be immediately evaluated. This includes scripts and canned responses that don't allow for personalized communication. Have team members ask themselves "Does this allow for the very best customer experience?" If the answer is no, re-evaluate and be vigilant about reinforcing your mission.

4. Understand the consequences. No one can successfully compete on a product, service, or on price alone. Customer service is the driver for loyalty...how do you think Starbucks and Zappos got so big? Their success came from word-of-mouth referrals by loyal customers based around the remarkable customer service that they received. Help your team members understand the consequences of not being remarkable.

Keep in mind:

  •  Companies that prioritize the customer experience report profits that are 60 percent higher than those that don't.
  • *Eighty-nine percent of customers will take their business to a competitor following a poor customer experience.
  • *More than 26 percent of consumers have posted complaints on social media following a poor customer experience.

Being a leader in customer experience is a challenge, which is also why it is such a key differentiator. Take these four rules with you as you create your road map to retaining loyal customers, increasing referrals, and growing profits.

Sara Carter is the vice president of marketing at Dialogue Marketing.

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