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I’m talking about customer service that is.  When everything clicks and you’re delivering service that your customers expect you don’t know how good or bad you are.  You only know that you’re not getting complaints.

On the other hand, when you screw things up you’ll get a dose of real world feedback.   You might get an angry phone call, that is if you’re lucky.  Or, you just might find that your sales start falling off.  That’s a tough one.  It’ll take longer to figure out and is much more dangerous.

To keep either of these from happening, ask yourself the following 5 questions:

How do you know your service is any good?

I know, you think your service is great.  Your customers should feel honored that they get to do business with your company.  If this is what you really think, you’re probably already in trouble.

Andy Grove from Intel would often say that to be successful in business you have to be really paranoid.  In fact, he had a book that was titled Only the Paranoid Survive.  Think about this for a second.  If one of the most successful business managers of all times thinks this is true, why would you think differently?

Do you test how well your business runs?  When was the last time you did a promise audit….you know where you test to see if you actually do what you say?  You can’t just ask the people who work in your company.  You have to make sure you ask those customers who have just fired your company.  Do an exit interview and find out what you could have done to keep that ex-customer from leaving.  Then, have a really honest conversation about what you learned with your management team.

Do you really look for people who are unhappy?

This is where emotionally intelligence is important.  You can’t listen to what people say.  You have to watch their actions.  If you find that a good customer is buying less or not returning your phone calls promptly, find out why.  When they tell you there are things that you could be doing better really listen.  Ask questions to learn what you could do differently.  And, whatever you do, don’t make excuses for why things are the way they are.

You’re job here is to learn where your firm is failing.  You want to see all the warts come out.  When you look for unhappy people you have a chance to fix the problem and save your company.

When was the last time you called your office?

I often wonder if many companies ever try to use their customer service lines.  I know you’ve probably had this experience.  You call a company and get shunted off to voice mail.  You try one extension and it doesn’t work.  You try another extension and that doesn’t work either.  Then, finally you get disconnected.  You call back and guess what, the same thing happens all over again.

If you’ve had that experience with other companies are you sure that your company isn’t doing the very same thing?  Call your company, pretend you’re a customer and see what happens.  If you know you’re going to be recognized, have someone no one will recognize do it for you.  Don’t wait, do this now.

Do you use secret shoppers?

This is a variation on the phone game.  Of course when you walk in your store or sit down with a client everyone will be on their best behavior.  Have someone who they don’t know do some shopping.  After the experience ask detailed questions that will allow you to figure out whether the experience was a good or bad one.  If it wasn’t what you would want, change what you’re doing.  If you don’t change, you know what the outcome will be, don’t you?

Do you really want to see your warts?

Here’s the big question.  Looking at things that are wrong in your company is painful.  After all, your company is a reflection on who you are as a person.  I know that I never enjoy it when someone tells me my company has fallen down on the job.  We never like it when we have to correct mistakes. 

Here’s a secret for you.  If you do the hard work and you admit your mistakes your clients will love you.  I know that in my own case the companies I’m the most loyal to are the ones that have made mistakes and then corrected them.  That can also be true with you.  If your company needs to improve, be transparent.  Admit what you did wrong and let your customers know what you intend to do to improve.  Then…..make sure you do it.  You’ll earn customers for life.  And, isn’t that what you want?

Think about this.  If you want to have great customer service you need to have great employees.  Do you have a system for hiring the best?  If not, think about our case study on hiring for unique abilities.

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Topics: Customer Service, repeat customers, customer delight

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