26 May Gaining a Competitive Edge Through Customer Service
How to develop pro customers attitude to win both internal and external customers all the time
Whether you’re an individual, team, or organization, you will never succeed in any endeavor without using customer service as one of your competitive advantages.
Your great products, services, ideas, and competencies alone cannot help you accomplish your mission and meet your goals without meeting the needs and expectations of your internal and external customers; without having world-class customer service…
A lousy attitude is too expensive
Depending on your industry, there may be many factors to excel in your customer service. However, there is one mandatory and foundational factor that makes or breaks…
Most customers may put up with lousy skills for a good attitude. On the other hand, no world-class customer service processes, skills, and technologies substitute for a bad attitude.
Customers may stay loyal to an average product or service if your customer service is outstanding. On the contrary, no superstar product or service gives you an edge if your customer service stinks.
The world has changed. You, too, must change. Customers have become more and more assertive KINGs/QUEENs with so many expectations, some of which may seem unfair, even irrational, and illogical to you…
Facilitated a one-day webinar on Customer service
Last week, I facilitated a full-day webinar on customer service. We covered a lot of ground.
Participants, many of whom lead a customer service team, gained many:
- Latest insights,
- Tools, and
- Strategies that enable them to tap into and leverage customer service as a competitive advantage.
I don’t have space to share all of them here. However, let me share with you the key difference maker that sets you apart and gives you a competitive edge to succeed in your efforts to provide world-class customer service: Having the right pro-customer mindset.
Lack of pro customer service attitude is costly
First thing first. We all have customers we must answer to, and our success- at least in the long run- depends on how we master ‘serving’ our customers. The notion that customer service providers are those who only interact with buyers and external stakeholders is absolute.
It is an illusion for anyone, regardless of industry and leadership position, to think for a second that we all are outside the customer service business.
At home, in the neighborhood, in the city hall, on the street, for that matter, everywhere, if you pay enough attention, there are people who serve your needs. Likewise, there are ‘customers’ wherever you’re, and everywhere you go that rely on you to achieve their goals. These are your customers, and your attitude toward them determines your success.
Audit and scale yourself (your team)
Let me ask you:
- Who are your (the team’s) internal and external customers at home, in your neighborhood, at work, and in the marketplace?
- From 1 to 10, 1 being lousy and 10 being superior, how do you rate your (the team’s) customer service to each one of the customers you recognized above?
If you or your team scored below 7, keep reading…
One of the most likely reasons someone may score very low on the customer service spectrum is that they don’t consciously believe they’re in the customer service business.
Obviously, if one doesn’t believe they have customers to serve on a consistent basis, chances are, it’s unlikely they intentionally develop and refine their customer service skills and invest in it. They don’t see the ROI.
What should you do to elevate your customer service mindset?
I hope you’re already convinced that you’re in the customer service business before reading this blog. Or, at least, you’ve seen a couple of merits of taking customer service seriously as you read this blog. If that is the case, here are a couple of things you should do next, if you haven’t yet, that don’t cost you that much but give you a competitive edge EVERY TIME and QUICKLY:
- Recognize ALL your CUSTOMERS, Prioritize your top CUSTOMERS. Identify ALL potential customers, even the unlikely ones, who may determine your success, promotion, and advance directly or indirectly. Once you recognize them, enlist them in order of priority. You can’t serve all with equal attention and intensity without having unlimited time, energy, and resources. And you and I know that no one has indefinite time and limitless resources, and you and your team/organization aren’t exceptional.
You should at least attempt to meet and even exceed the expectations of the top on the list if you desire an immediate result. Remember the 80/20 rule. 20% of your customers use 80% of your products and services. That means they’re responsible for at least 80% of your results, positioning you to succeed in what you do right away. That is why they deserve to be on top of your list.
2. Identify their EXPECTATIONS. What do your internal and external customers want from you and your team? Don’t assume that you know for sure what they want. What is more? Don’t assume that what you expect from your customer service providers is the same as everyone else. We all are different with diverse expectations. Stop reading and audit to see if you’re clear about your customers’ needs. If you’re not sure of their expectations, ASK!
3. Meet their NEEDS and Expectations. Again, we live in the real world. You may not be able to meet, let alone exceed, the expectations of ALL of your customers. You must be strategic.
Your top customers deserve 80% of your (your team’s) undivided attention, time, energy, and resources. Of course, you should attempt to meet the needs and expectations of your other customers using the remaining 20%.
I must be honest with you. With good intentions, some of my clients push back and say: “We cannot discriminate against any of our customers!” “All of our customers are equal; we don’t show favoritism!” I hope you’re more realistic and grounded than these good customer service professionals.
It is naïve to think that all women (men) are equal to your girlfriend or boyfriend (spouse). Yes, you treat all persons with dignity and respect. You may try your best to serve their needs as much as possible. But if you start to put your spouse on equal footing with everyone else, you will quickly find yourself out of a relationship.
Of course, it is beyond the scope of this blog. Otherwise, there are some advanced ways to avoid the dilemma. Just one quick tip for now: Tailor, market, and provide your products and services for only your 20%. That way, you can give 100 % of your time, energy, and resources to meet the needs and expectations of your 100% IDEAL Customers. It’s a win-win.
- Show RESPECT to all your customers ALL the time. Sometimes, you face rude and ungrateful customers. If you closely review, many of these types of customers fall under the bottom of your list. Those that are within the 80% customers that deliver 20% results we talked about earlier. Regardless of whether they’re your favorite customers on the top of the list or not, you must develop the habit of treating people with respect all the time.
Respect doesn’t go wrong anywhere. The good news is that it doesn’t cost that much. Give them some slack and treat them with dignity. That doesn’t mean you become a pushover. If they step out of line and become aggressive, you kindly and professionally correct their attitude. In the webinar, I gave them some strategies and tactics on how to handle difficult customers without disrespecting and damaging the relationship.
- Be HONEST as much as possible. No one is perfect. At a given point in time, we may lack something that may not allow us to provide world-class customer service for all our customers and address all their issues. Here is the deal. Customers understand if you don’t know what you’re doing. Tell them honestly that you can’t do it and find someone in your organization who can. Let them know if your authority, a policy, or a regulation doesn’t allow you to do what they are asking you to perform.
Of course, as I shared in the webinar, you can refine your communication skill to excel in saying NO without appearing antagonistic, offending people, and damaging important relationships. When you master this competency, you don’t need an emphatic NO and phrases like: ‘I cannot or won’t do it’ all the time. You know how to push back tactically and diplomatically while being honest and maintaining relationships.
Let me ask you:
- Which of these do you already have?
- For each, how do you scale yourself and your team?
- What should you do next to improve the score?
In conclusion, your team should take customer service seriously. You should audit your team’s attitude toward your customers. Revisit also your customer service protocols, system, and processes. If necessary, finetune them until they enable you to provide world-class customer service and gain a competitive edge. You should also continuously empower your people to develop the essential skill sets to excel in providing excellent service to your customers.
If there is anything we do to help your team fine-tune your processes, systems, and train your team, reach out via [email protected]