In a business world filled with hyper-competition and pricing pressure, differentiators are essential to getting a sales edge.

More companies would be wise to emphasize scoring with superlative customer service.

How not to do it

Let me share two recent, frustrating customer service experiences, which will serve as illustrations of what not to do:

Example 1

Under a tight deadline, a renowned (and expensive) stationer needed to produce more than five proofs to get an engraved invitation layout right, despite crystal clear instructions.

The problem was either an untrained designer or a complete lack of care. Some of the proofs were laughably bad. Evidently, there was no review process (or concern) for quality control.

On top of that, the company made it impossible to communicate with them directly. Any interaction required at least 24 hours between each proof, and had no mechanism to solve the problem when it continued.

To add insult to injury, once completed, the company sent the invitations to the wrong address!

Example 2

A well-known delivery company missed its shipment deadline on a fragile package. Heavy rain, which could have hurt the contents if left out for long, was forecast. As a result, it was important to get an idea of the revised delivery time.

Over a period of three days, three completely different answers were given for the anticipated day and time of delivery. None proved accurate, other than the last, which advised that I never should have been given the direction received in my first two calls.

The company did not have a clue as to where the package was or when delivery would actually occur, but that did not stop them from asserting they did. The incorrect information caused significant inconvenience, as I waited around to not receive the package.

How companies do it right

Some companies see a differentiating opportunity in providing outstanding customer service, and make it a priority.

Example 1

A nationally advertised printing company enables online layouts and immediate phone assistance for questions. The ease, expertise, and responsiveness are phenomenal, and my business card order was received ahead of time, perfectly executed.

Example 2

Another positive example involved a well-known fast-food restaurant, relatively new to my area. I was flabbergasted by the kind reception, fantastic lunch, and polite service, including offering to refill my drink and clearing wrappers from my table during my meal.

I told the manager how impressed I was, and she said, “We take a lot of pride in making sure our customers are happy.”

That’s the spirit!

What good customer service takes

When boiled down, good customer service relies on making it an important priority. These five steps can help with the rest:

  1. Develop a responsive customer service process
  2. Hire employees who care about the quality of their work
  3. Offer employees the direction, knowledge, and support to succeed
  4. Incent employees to maintain superior customer service performance
  5. Monitor customer feedback and satisfaction metrics to ensure that results are on track

When you experience bad customer service, blame company management, which ultimately controls all the levers. Successful customer service requires making it a continuing focus.

Great customer service engenders loyalty to the company, and makes the day better for customers. These are worthy pursuits and powerful differentiators in today’s business environment.