Is Your Customer Service Good or Great?

At first glance, there is very little in common between the most successful consumer-oriented companies of the past century versus the Internet giants of today. Think Nordstrom, Ritz Carlton, and Southwest Airlines versus Amazon, Google, and Facebook. Although born in very different times, they all share one thing in common: A leadership philosophy that encourages and fosters a customer first environment and an uncanny ability to seemingly always know what customers want.

Let’s compare and contrast the companies of old to today’s top performers:

Top notch customer service at Nordstrom is almost legendary. In fact, some marketing experts have gone as far as to say that Nordstrom is often better known for its service than its merchandise.

But what exactly do they do that’s so unique that allows Nordstrom to make service of its strongest selling points? Here are just a few highlights:

– Salespeople are encouraged to walk your bags to you instead of just handing it over the sales counter.
– Salespeople usually not point or give directions. Instead, they graciously walk customers to the requested department or destination.
– There are almost no limits in the actions employees may take to help customers.

Amazon is also frequently recognized for its outstanding service. Almost everyone that who contacts their customer service team due – be it for a product issue or a return – ends the call happy and completely satisfied with the help received.

The founder and CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, is known to be incredibly passionate about customer service. In fact, company insiders have said that it’s common for Bezos to purposely leave an empty chair in his meetings to represent “the customer”. As part of his drive to build a customer centered organization, Bezos requires company managers to attend 2 days of call center training each year. This practice has resulted in managers having greater understanding and empathy of customer needs.

The Secret Formula

By now it’s probably fairly apparent that the secret formula shared by these past and current highly successful companies is a undeterred focus on customer service. The executives and leaders at these companies are committed to one thing… their customers.

It’s pretty obvious that customer service is Jeff Bezos’ top priority and his philosophy is reinforced in the company’s Leadership Principles statement:

“Customer Obsession – Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.”

Below are some simple questions you can ask yourself to help you better understand your customers and help refocus your company into a more customer centric organization.

What type of business are we in?

Is your company in the sales business or service business? Do you sell products or do you provide services? The lines are sometimes blurred but many companies fail to realize that they’re actually in the business of providing services to its customers. In fact, no matter what your company does, you are in one way or another providing a service. Create a list of everything your company does for its customers. You might be surprised to learn that you’re actually more of a service business than you ever realized.

Do I really understand my customers?

Think of the market segments and customer groups that your company interacts with. What do these various customer groups need? Why do they use your company’s products or services? Determining the needs of your customers is an important factor in helping you to identify potential areas of improvement. The better you are at understanding customer needs, the higher the odds of delivering the type of service that makes them happy and loyal customers.

How can I know what my customers want?

Start by creating an effective process to communicate with your customers. Not surprisingly, the easiest way to find out what customers want is to ask them. Implement solutions that make it easy for your customers to contact your company. One effective solution is to use help desk software to allow customers to easily communicate with your customer support team.

Are we doing the right things to “wow” our customers?

The old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” really fits here. Although resolving problems is a very important part of customer service, make sure you build a feedback loop that allows you to identify and learn from repeat issues. Nothing wows or delights customers more than a good experience especially as they realize that their experiences with your company are always positive.

If you equip your customer service team with the right systems and you implement a process of continuous improvement, you’ll soon be on the path to great customer service. With good leadership and tools in place, you too can someday become the next Nordstrom or Amazon.