Are Your Customer Service Practices Ruining Your Business?

Iris Hunter

Have you been shopping lately? On a scale from 1 to 10 how would you rate the customer service you received while shopping?

As we all know, a customer’s shopping experience is greatly affected by the type of customer service they receive while shopping. There are a plethora of businesses in the world today, however, many do not provide a satisfactory customer service experience, which affects the overall sales of that business. This is why it is important for business owners to constantly improve their service.

Customer Service: Satisfactory versus Exceptional

Micah Solomon, business conference keynote speaker, consultant, and author, is known for his ability to transform business results and build true customer engagement and loyalty, according to his website.

Nvate customer service, e-commerce and customer engagement, customer experience impact report Micah Solomon

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He stated that satisfactory customer service consists of a perfect product or service, the product or service being delivered in a caring, friendly manner, and the product or service being delivered on time with the backing of an effective problem-resolution process. The product is considered on time as defined by the customer and an effective problem resolution process is essential since the three elements of customer service may fail.

“Exceptional customer service is a step beyond satisfactory customer service,” said Solomon. “Exceptional customer service—the type of customer service most likely to build customer loyalty and advocacy for your brand—consists of what I call ‘anticipatory customer service,’ customer service which gives a customer what [they are] looking for even before [they] articulate [their] desire.”

The difference between satisfactory and exceptional customer service is easily recognizable, especially when compared to two different experiences. For example, let’s say a customer wants to buy a pair of shoes from a retail store. If a sales associate only provides satisfactory customer service then they would greet the customer as they entered the store. After about 15 minutes they would ask the customer if they needed help finding anything, check them out at the register and then thank them for visiting the store.

However, an associate who wants to provide exceptional customer service would have done a few extra things that would have really made a big difference. The associate would have done the same things as included in a satisfactory experience but they would have also informed the customer of any sales that were going on, asked them what they were shopping for and then pointed the customer in the right direction. After a few minutes they would approach the customer and ask if they needed help finding anything. When the customer was ready to be checked out, the cashier would ask if they had found everything OK.

There are many who don’t understand exactly how important customer service is when operating a business. “Most people in business have a good grasp of the technical, functional aspect of their business,” Solomon said, “but don’t realize how much the soft side matters.”

“To make matters worse, because they understand what is involved technically in their product or service, they ironically get an even less accurate view of what the customer’s experience is because the customer who is inevitably less knowledgeable about what is going on has a viewpoint so divergent from that of the business owner,” Solomon continued.

According to CBS News, the top 10 companies for customer service in 2011 included Amazon, Southwest Airlines, Apple, Costco, FedEx and UPS, among a few others.

Failing to Provide Quality Service

In this economy, businesses are struggling to compete and customer service could possibly be the only thing that sets them apart, which is why it is important that the best customer service is given to each and every customer.

According to the 2011 Customer Experience Impact, or CEI, Report, a report that explores the relationship between consumers and brands, 86 percent will pay more for a better customer experience, 89 percent of consumers began doing business with a competitor following a poor customer experience and 79 percent of consumers who shared complaints about poor customer experience online had their complaints ignored.

Based on these statistics, it is quite obvious that providing quality customer service is one major key to gaining satisfied customers, which can lead to a successful business and brand loyalty.

Failing to provide good service may have serious consequences. Have you ever wondered why an owner of a business or an employee would decide to provide the customer with less than acceptable customer service?

“Most every business wants to provide good customer service, or even great customer service, assuming it doesn’t take too much effort or thought or maintenance on their part,” Solomon said. “But they don’t in many cases for a variety of reasons: resources, lack of training, [and so on].”

“However the number one reason they don’t provide great customer service is that nobody in a position of power has made the decision to provide great customer service and to look into what is required to do that on an ongoing basis,” Solomon describes.

One way to find out if businesses are providing quality customer service is to rate the quality of the service provided. There are several ways that a business owner can measure quality. “Keep track of who is so delighted that they want to spread the word about your business,” Solomon said, and “also to who is extremely dissatisfied. Don’t pay as much attention to responses from customers where they say everything is ‘just fine.’”

E-Commerce Customer Service Practices

Business owners with online stores can still provide great customer service even though there is no face-to-face interaction with their customers. “Sometimes it makes it harder, sometimes it makes it easier,” Solomon said of operating an e-commerce store. “It depends on the customer and the situation.” 

Nvate customer service, e-commerce and customer engagement, customer experience impact report Micah Solomon

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“Some customers—especially, but certainly not limited to, millennial—prefer to not have direct person-to-person contact, and sometimes emails are clearer than a phone or in-person conversation,” Solomon continued. “However, when the situation becomes emotionally charged, [due to a product failure], it can escalate if it is not addressed voice-to-voice or face-to-face.”

There are several ways e-commerce business owners can provide great customer service.

“E-commerce is often dependent on a self-service model for the most part,” Solomon said. “Self-service, is at its heart customer service, which means it needs to follow the rules of great service design, or it risks alienating every customer who comes in contact with it. The main thing to remember is that anticipatory customer service is the ultimate goal.”

“You should strive for what I call anticipatory customer service. Anticipatory customer service is a level of customer service magic that actually binds customers to you and builds brand equity for your company,” Solomon continued. “In face-to-face service and self-service, this means anticipating customer requests before they even express them—or in some cases, are aware of them.”

He went on to say, “Aim for the classic goal the Ritz-Carlton articulated, to address ‘even the unexpressed wishes’ of its guests, and you’ll be on the right track. Happily, self-service is likely to be anticipatory by its nature because of its ability to accept unique, customized input from the customers themselves, and smart self-service design can further enhance this.”

“The most brilliantly implemented self-service helps suggest choices and behaviors in an intelligent manner,” Solomon continued. “Think of IBM’s technology in dressing rooms that suggests complementary ties based on the sportswear you’re trying on, or Amazon letting you know what customers like you ultimately ended up buying. Gmail warning you that you’re sending out an email that lacks an attachment, when you’ve typed in the body of the email, ‘attached is.’”

According to TheRichest.com, the top 10 Internet-based companies last year included Amazon, Google, Facebook, YouTube, Yahoo, eBay, Wikipedia, MSN, Liberty Media and PayPal.

There is no doubt that running a business is hard work, but no one wants their business to fail due to lack of good, quality customer service. There are numerous ways that a company can increase the quality of its customer service and taking the time to learn these ways could actually save their business from failing.

Solomon can be reached for keynote speaking, customer service consulting, and free chapters of his books at his website.

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