Extreme Customer Service – an Olympic Sport

By Paul Mac Donald

While there are many extreme sports that are showcased in the Olympics, Customer Service is not one of them. Customer service is the cornerstone of building a successful business. The easiest, fastest and most profitable way to grow your business is through “great” service. Extreme customer service is about exceeding expectations and wowing your customers, creating relationships that will create brand loyalty.

Rules of Extreme Customer Service:

1.    First Impressions Count

All relationships start with a greeting that conveys a first impression, either in your shop or over the telephone.  Chaos in your shop or a snarly greeting on the phone and you’ve started out on the wrong foot. The décor and cleanliness of your business and the initial greeting on the phone shapes the attitude and opinion about your company. Neat and clean with a friendly hello go a long way to setting the tone of the relationship you’re about to build.

2.   Listen First

Listening may sound simple but it’s a skill and practice makes perfect. It’s vital to listen carefully to the customer’s wants and needs, taking notes to avoid the annoying request to repeat oneself. Seasoned service reps can often jump the gun making incorrect assumptions of customer’s requests. Confirming key facts will demonstrate your attention to detail and can avoid mistakes and disappointment.

3.    Be Real

Human nature dictates that customers need to feel like they matter. Whenever possible, customers should feel like they are the center of attention.  Going out of your way to build a relationship with customers that makes a person feel special builds relationships that last. Little things like referring to people by name demonstrate that they matter to you. A customer needs to feel like a person is sincere during phone interactions as well. Take time to address a customer’s needs. Avoid placing them into an automated system as if they are just a number. Creating an environment that establishes a personal connection will lead to a great experience.

4.    Say What You Do – Do What You Say

Don’t assume the customer knows your company’s procedure and policies and take the time to clearly explain them and confirm they understand and approve. If you tell a customer you’re going to do something, you had better follow through. Nothing says “I don’t care about you” faster than not doing what you say. If customers can’t rely on your word, then the credibility of you and your company are in question and it’s hard to win that back.

5.    Exceed Expectations

It’s not good enough today to meet your customer’s expectations; you have to exceed them.  Exceeding expectations is easy and doesn’t have to be costly. Whether it’s picking up the paper at the front door or showing empathy on the phone, we need to go above and beyond what’s expected for a standard experience. Find a complimentary action that won’t be anticipated and emphasize it, it’s all part of the wow factor.

6.    Mistakes Happen – Own Them and Fix Them.

Let’s be honest here, no one’s perfect and someone sometime is going to slip up and drop the ball. Don’t try to hide it or blame someone else, this is not the time to go “postal” on the customer even if you should; apologize and make it right as fast as possible. When a customer brings a complaint, don’t interrupt and explain company policy. Make a sincere apology and find a resolution to their issue. Thanks to the Internet and Social Media, not resolving their issue will not be isolated to one person. Word of mouth is still one of the most important components of building a lasting loyal relationship.

7.    Always Say Please and Thank You

Don’t take your customers for granted. Let them know you understand they had a choice and you’re grateful they chose you. Nothing exceeds expectations faster than receiving a thank you card in the mail after the job is finished. While you’re at it, toss in a discount or loyalty coupon for the next time they need your product or service.

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