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4 C’s of Customer Service

Four words crossed my mind the other day regarding customer service. I call them the four Cs of customer service – Commitment, Completeness, Consistency and Communication. Let’s take a look at each one.

Commitment – In order to give great customer service, there must be Commitment from an organization’s leadership. Commitment must be visible through action. It’s easy to place posters and signs upon the wall, but that’s not the action of which I’m speaking. Leaders should show commitment by leading the charge to determine what great customer service should look like within the organization. Leaders should develop and adhere to core values for the organization Leaders should commit to finding ways to determine what’s important to the organization’s customers. Leaders should become the customer by utilizing the organization’s product or service in order to get the customer’s perspective. The commitment level of leadership should be readily apparent to employees. Leaders should regularly communicate their commitment with the entire organization. Commitment requires action! Commitment is long-term as the organization’s long-term existence is at stake.

Completeness – Following the leadership commitment to providing great customer service is the second C representing Completeness. Once the commitment is in place, the need to ensure that everyone within the organization is on the same page is paramount to the organization’s success. Completeness means that everyone within every department understands their role in providing great customer service. A complete and thorough assessment of the organization’s operations is key to identifying areas of opportunity. All customer touch points should be evaluated for efficiency. Completeness means insuring that what matters to the customer is identified and utilized in developing the organization’s product or service concept. Completeness means identifying one’s internal customers in order to determine how to meet their needs as well. All areas of the organization must be aware of how their everyday actions impact both internal and external customers. Completely commit to providing great customer service!

Consistency – After leadership exercises commitment and the entire organization is completely on the same page regarding the provision of great customer service, the third C of Consistency enters the picture. This C is crucial to the long-term success of the organization. The ability to consistently provide a great customer service experience is what builds brand loyalty. Loyal customers are revenue generators as they are both comfortable and excited to share their positive customer service experiences with others. Consistency means the customer receives the same level of service during each encounter with your organization. Consistency means that no matter which of your organization’s locations the customer visits, a positive experience awaits. When calling your organization, it doesn’t matter which employee takes the call, the organization will strive to consistently provide a great customer service experience. When interacting with your company online, the customer is provided an easy and efficient experience. When issues arise, the organization will look to consistently resolve them in a timely manner. When an organization can consistently provide a great customer service experience, it won’t be long before the word-of-mouth effect takes over. New customers will appear as a result of the organization’s ability to be consistent.

Communication – The glue that holds all of this together is the fourth C – Communication. Now this particular C requires that the commitment to providing great customer service is constantly communicated. It means that the organization’s employees are kept abreast of how well the organization is performing in its quest to meet the needs of the customer. This C means that the employees are given the means to communicate the customer’s perception of the organization to the leaders. The leaders are to communicate how employee ideas for improvement are contributing to the success of the organization. It means that customers are able to initiate communication with the organization regarding their personal experiences with the product or services. This fourth C requires the organization’s leaders to communicate customer needs and preferences to the rest of the organization to insure that all products and services are designed with the end-user in mind.

In this era of multichannel customer service provision, it’s important to make sure that your customer understands how important they are to your organization. Make sure they are able to see, hear and feel what they mean to your organization by establishing Commitment, followed by Completeness of purpose, exhibiting Consistency during all customer interactions and applying the glue called Communication!

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Six Words To Avoid in Customer Service

The are many ways to antagonize a customer – poor service, less than stellar product or the failure to keep the customer abreast of changes that impact the customer experience among others. One sure way to get on the customer’s “bad side” is to use these dreaded words during interactions – “Sir/Ma’am – What you need to do is….” I have witnessed (both face to face and phone interactions) customers becoming agitated upon hearing those words! There have been instances where the words were not meant in a condescending manner – the customer service person may have been simply attempting to provide directions or perhaps trying to give instructions while assisting the customer in resolving an issue – the outcome was the same nonetheless. The customer was offended by being told “What you need to do is…” Now some may say that perhaps the customer was a little too sensitive, but one must remember that some people are sensitive!

When providing your customer with information or instructions, word usage is important to the outcome of the interaction. Utilize the “ask or suggest/not tell” method of communication. From my own personal experience in the customer service industry, the need to choose one’s words carefully can prevent the creation of a sub par customer experience. Instead of saying to a customer “What you need to do is get a pen and some paper to write down this information.” try asking ” Do you have a pen and some paper available sir/ma’am? I would like to provide you with some information that will help you with this situation.” The initial statement may be vocalized with no harm intended, but most adults would rather not be told what they need to do! Exercise extra caution here when the customer is angry or complaining. Utilization of our featured statement may only lead to big trouble when the customer is upset or unhappy with your product or services.

It’s important to stay on the offensive when providing customer service. Effective communication is a critical component in your customer service toolbox. One’s ability to establish rapport with the customer rests on making the decision to communicate in a friendly, yet professional manner. The wrong choice of words can quickly put you in a defensive mode where you’ll find yourself attempting to explain to the customer and or someone within your organization (supervisor, upper management) what you really meant! When attempting to point your customer in the right direction, use suggestive language such as “May I suggest that you….. or “In order for me to assist you with this issue may I ask you to…… . Such language is hard to be construed as confrontational by the customer. Oftentimes, our word choice can be the difference in our provision of a great customer experience. Every customer deserves a measure of respect, therefore it’s important to ensure that the customer feels that you’re providing assistance versus their being a lecture recipient. Be conscious of how you provide assistance and be sure to stay away from the dreaded six words – What you need to do is….

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Team Effort at the Resort

During the Christmas holidays, my wife and I took a quick weekend trip to Lakeway Resort & Spa located in the hills of Austin, Tx. The resort allows for a great view of Lake Travis and is absolutely beautiful at night! From the moment of our arrival until our departure, the service was impeccable. Beginning with the spotless parking lot and the greeting at the resort entrance, I felt that we might be in for some extraordinary customer service. Marcus Davis at the front desk provided great check-in service. He advised us of the facility’s amenities, evening events and patiently answered my wife’s questions. Service during the happy hour was provided with a touch of class. After our arrival, we took a self guided tour of the resort. Every resort associate that we encountered wore smiles and proactively offered assistance! The outdoors fireplace was an added attraction on a brisk winter night. During checkout, I asked if the manager was available as I wanted to bring awareness to how a customer feels about the level of we experienced during our stay. Front office manager Jon Moser appeared and was thoroughly grateful when advised of how pleased we were with the level of customer service. When you combine the physical facilities with the great customer service, it’s just fitting that Lakeway Resort and Spa is the January 2013 recipient of my “Now That’s Customer Service!” Award. Great job guys!

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Web Chat – Is Less More?

Web chatting, as an option for customers to utilize for communicating with companies, is on the rise. According to the 2012 Fourth Annual BoldChat Live Chat Effectiveness report, one in five shoppers prefer online chat over any form of communication. In looking to be effective at properly communicating via this channel, one question requires consideration – Is Less More? Is it necessary to have long wordy conversations or are short, straight to the issue chats sufficient for the chat customer?

Studies have shown that most customers choose to experience an organization via their website because of ease, speed and convenience. Forrester Research has predicted that online retail sales will reach $250 billion by 2014. It seems quite natural that customers may want to communicate with your company while shopping online. What type of conversation is the chat customer anticipating? Is it necessary to chat in the same manner that one interacts over the phone? When web chatting with customers, it’s important to do so in short sentences. Get right to the point with your answers as long paragraphs are inappropriate when chatting. Chat agents should possess a high level of product/ service knowledge so that they can communicate in a quick, concise manner. They should be expert navigators of your organization’s website as this will allow for locating and retrieving the proper information for developing responses to customer requests.

Chat customers expect to be serviced quickly, efficiently and thoroughly. Establish chat guidelines for your chat agents. Provide “one touch” capabilities that allow your chat agents to ask repetitive questions and provide common answers with the touch of one key. An FAQ database and cheat sheets are invaluable tools for your chat agents. Avoid information overload when chatting with your customer. Provide only pertinent and relevant information. Stick to the issue at hand! Overwhelming your customer with wordy and lengthy responses may cause frustration, which can certainly create an unhappy customer. Just as it’s critical not to ramble when communicating with your customer via phone or face to face, it’s even more important not to ramble when web chatting your customer. Remember, this is the customer that seeks a quick and timely communication session! Be careful not to lose the personal touch with your customer. While “one touch” usage allows the agent to be efficient, balance that with utilizing the customer’s name during the chat or asking open-ended questions that allow your customer to fully express themselves should they choose to do so. If there is information that every chat customer is required to provide, proactively get them to do so by prompting them to have the information ready prior to their beginning the chat session. This helps your chat agent to be more efficient and possibly may assist in reducing the chat session length.

In the chat world, Less Is More in the quest to provide great chat customer service. The right communication method coupled with the right chat tools and combined with superior product/service knowledge can lead to your customer experiencing a great chat session with your organization!

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