Forget “because it’s the right thing to do”. Dismiss the notion that “we do it because we love our customers”. Altruism has nothing to do with it. Businesses engage in customer service because doing so generates more revenue than if they didn’t. And if it doesn’t, then the program needs an overhaul. Period.
How’s that for controversial? As a consumer, does that not rub you the wrong way in every fibre of your being? If customer service is simply a vehicle to generate additional revenue, we should be bracing ourselves for the heavy handed sales pitch, and the feeling of being “processed” by every corporation we buy from, right? Authors of “B-A-M! Delivering Customer Service in a Self-Service World“, Barry Moltz and Mary Jane Grinstead would argue that, no, in fact when a business realizes that their customer service should be generating at least as much revenue as it costs, it changes the corporate mentality for the better and everyone wins. The foundation of the theory is this:
“BAM!-good customer service is defined by the attitudes and actions that a business takes to help a customer feel more satisfied.”
B-A-M!, page 24
When customers feel satisfied, they come back or buy more. “Feeling” is key and feeling is personal. Ten people can feel ten different ways about a certain policy, action or attitude. Once companies realize that, they begin to incorporate a more individualized approach to customer service. When that happens, everybody wins.
“BAM“, for those curious is a acronym for “Bust A Myth“, which is precisely what Moltz and Grinstead do over the course of their quick book. They challenge and defy 19 of the popular myths of customer service, including “The customer is always right”. (But more on that later.)
The Personal Touch
"...there used to be a time when by using technology, companies wanted to seem big. Now, using technology, companies want to seem small and personal to their customer."
The thought leaders are all talking about this (Some have been talking about it for years): We spent years growing the retail world into a series of faceless corporate entities where bigger was perceived as better. Big chains had great coverage, which was ideal when the goal was to bring choice to the people. That race is over now. We have virtually limitless options for just about every facet of our lives. It is overwhelming, time consuming and can be exceptionally frustrating for people who simply want to solve a current problem and move on with their lives. Connecting on an individual level is becoming everything (again). More and more, people don’t want faceless corporations offering rock bottom prices. Instead, they want a customized solution, at a competitive price, delivered from someone who makes them feel special. And they will patron the establishments and businesses that provide them with that feeling.
Customer service means generating more revenue when the actions and attitudes you take are building loyalty and repeat business. What actions and attitudes does your company show your customers?
Find out what's going on
"If we're only speaking to the customer every time their bill is due, they think all we care about is money. It's a constant dialogue between the corporation and the customer that builds an ongoing relationship."
How often do you speak with your customers, and when? So often we trap ourselves in our ivory towers, making decisions about the direction of our businesses or departments without stopping to ask for the input of those who will be most affected by those same decisions. (That would be the customer)
If the purpose is explained to them properly, and they feel as though their opinion is truly heard, most customers will be enthusiastic to be included in discussion about your products or services. Customer feedback can be a great way to engage key customers on a personal level, too. It may cost you ten minutes to call a customer and have a rich, meaningful conversation with that person. What’s the value to your company if that customer decides to remain a customer for another year because of that call? What’s the hard dollar return on that ten minute investment?
A couple tips when calling customers for feedback:
- Only ask honest questions if you want honest answers.
- Be specific in your questions if you want specific answers.
- Don’t be defensive. Remember, you called them.
- Ask questions that are actionable. People sense authenticity. If you’re only calling because this article told you to, they’ll see through that. Call because you genuinely care, and want to incorporate their ideas into their customer experience where possible.
- Go in humble. You may know a lot, but you don’t know everything.
Call a customer this week. See what you learn.
The Customer is NOT always right. (Then again, neither are you.)
"The customer may not remember the details of the transaction - what they said or what you did, but they will remember how they felt... and they will remember that feeling for a long, long time."
“Personal touch” does not mean subservient behaviour. “The customer is always right” is one of the myths that Moltz and Grinstead blow wide open in B-A-M! The customer is human, and therefore guaranteed to not always be right. But you’re human too, and subject to the same universal laws of fallibility. The point is that it doesn’t matter who’s right or wrong. If the purpose of a business is to make money, and the role of customer service in accomplishing that is to help the customer feel satisfied with you as a supplier, then the goal in customer disputes is simply to find the solution that works best for both parties. No finger pointing, no egos. When engaging a customer in conversation or conflict resolution, try to remember what the purpose of the conversation is; to help the customer feel more satisfied, while maintaining the financial integrity of the business. That’s it. Do that – enough times, with enough customers – and business has no choice but to thrive.
I liked this book. Customer service has been done so many times and in so many ways that it’s hard to find fresh insight or material. I believe B-A-M! has both. It’s full of applicable yet entertaining real life examples. Through unearthing and debunking the 19 customer service myths so many of us hide behind, B-A-M! takes a typically softer (and often fuzzier) piece of the business world and gives it the “bottom line” attention it deserves. In our ever increasing consumer desire to have exactly what we want, when we want it, customer service plays a key role in elevating some companies to greatness (and leaving others in the dust). At 178 pages, B-A-M! is definitely worth picking up to stay ahead of the curve.