Updated: Feb 17, 2019
Remember when you walked into a place of business and the store clerk or hostess greeted you with, “Hi, can I help you? or “Thank you for joining us tonight.”? Perhaps you can also recall an actual human being answering when you made a business call instead of an automated voice telling you to press 1 for English or 2 for Spanish, as you navigated their telephonic maze to complete your task. And most people will agree that the ultimate service related insult is hearing, “I am sorry, that’s our policy and there is nothing we can do.” when a product or service was subpar. Here’s a question for you. “Do you think customer service is dead or alive?”
New businesses pop up in our community often and soon there will be a new Town Center near me with new products and services seeking new customers. In my search for an answer to that question, I recently interviewed three local business owners and asked them to tell me what they are doing in their businesses to offer phenomenal customer service. I was particularly curious about the training they gave to their staff with the objective of providing phenomenal customer service.
The three businesses I interviewed were all owners/managers: Toadal Fitness Club (TFC), Ebrahimian Integrative Dentistry (EID) and PDNC Incorporated. I chose these businesses because I have used their services and witnessed them in action. They each are exceptional because their owners value their customers and understand that happy, satisfied customers are the key to longevity.
When digital technology advanced, many businesses replaced merchandise returns, broken part replacement, warranty questions, and frequently asked questions (FAQ) with automation instead of engaging with a live person to provide assistance. Perhaps only the boomer generation can truly appreciate this last statement because we depended on and expected ‘live’ customer service to conduct our business. While technology sped up the process of acquiring products and services on-demand, the return and replacement of them seems to have become more difficult. Service-oriented industries like hotels, restaurants, entertainment, and other business industries still require customer service departments, but the friendly “hello” and listening skills seem to have waned. The businesses I interviewed are leading the return to phenomenal customer service and I have made it one of my goals to help others achieve that as well.
Today’s savvy business owner understands that delivering phenomenal customer service increases positive word-of-mouth, ‘referral’ business. As I conducted my interviews, I asked the question, ”What is the value of having phenomenal customer service?” Tina Ebrahimian, of Ebrahimian Integrative Dentistry, said, “It separates you from the pack.” Think about that response for a minute. This means you have the advantage over other businesses by simply providing attentive, warm, welcoming service with a smile.
Phil Neuman, the owner of PDNC Inc. tech solutions and services, is in the process of refining the customer service program for his business. I experienced the product of Phil’s efforts when my computer froze. Although I was distraught when I entered, his staff greeted me positively. They helped educate me, detailing my options so that I could feel empowered and not ashamed because I didn’t understand what I did to create the technological mess I was in. I’m not sure I would have had that experience at one of the big box computer stores.
I recently posted a survey on Facebook, asking people what they considered to be great customer service. The respondents seemed to have a clear idea of what phenomenal customer service should look like, but many were stumped as to why we don’t have more of it.
Stephanie, manager of Toadal Fitness, understands the need to develop great customer service in order to keep customers. She told me a part of their training teaches staff coping skills so that when things go wrong in their everyday lives, they have the tools to not bring a bad situation into a customer’s interaction with them. The focus is on how to bring a pleasant attitude to their membership. Both Stephanie and Tina Ebrahimian, refer to their members and patients as ‘family’. Each has a philosophy that you treat your business patrons as well as you treat your guests in your home. Similarly, Phil Neuman treats his staff as team members, not as employees.
All three businesses have a system that monitors customer feedback. And if there is a customer complaint or misunderstanding, they are quick to listen first and work toward win-win outcomes. They demonstrate the importance of paying attention to online comments about the business if it deals with the public (which most do). Not taking the time to assess how customers feel about your services, may mean you are missing the mark and don’t know it.
As business owners, we depend on our customers. Our job is to provide a service that delivers and a positive outcome/experience for our customers. If something goes wrong, it is our job to figure out the problem and provide a solution that is beneficial to both parties. Try to get a computer to do that!
Here’s what I learned:
A genuine smile and interest in the customer creates a pleasant reaction and doesn’t cost a cent.Leadership sets the tone for the staff. If they see the owners offering phenomenal service, they tend to model it.Invest in providing staff training that promotes phenomenal customer service. Monitor your customer feedback and resolve issues quickly.Customers are the lifeblood of your business...make them feel special.