This is part 1 of a 4 part series
The Resolution Team. Consumer Care. WOW Services. Solution Centers. Support Ninjas….there are lots of catchy and clever names for Customer Service these days. But no matter what you call it – the point of the phrase is service.
Service to your fellow man and woman. Service to your community, your customers, and your potential customers. Whether you’re an adjuster working a local claim, or a call center rep talking with someone halfway around the world, great customer service is vital in today’s business world. Consumers are armed with more knowledge about a company, their values, their products, and yes, their service, than ever before.
Servicing customers is truly the purpose of any and every business, or at least it should be. No matter what the company, product, or service is, it exists to fill a customer’s needs or desires. Every person who interacts with a customer is part of the service team, whether formally or informally. Sure your company might have a person or a team who’s sole responsibility is customer support, but most customers view every person they encounter as part of the company’s customer service, without distinction.
Servicing customers is truly the purpose of any and every business, or at least it should be.
Whether you’re a grocery store cashier, a teacher, a CEO, or a claims adjuster…a bad experience with you will affect how consumers view your company as a whole, regardless of the title listed on your business card. You are the face of the company to that customer during that interaction.
So when does the proverbial cream rise to the top when it comes to customer service? And why is customer service so important in today’s world? I’ve been passionate about the subject for a long time. Throughout my career, I’ve seen how the role of good service plays into every job, in every company, everywhere. Great support comes in many forms but I believe it always involves the following principles.
CUSTOMER SERVICE IS HUMAN
Good customer service starts with a fundamental respect for other human beings, a true concern for their well being, and a desire to give everyone fair treatment. It embodies the same characteristics as any other human relationship done well. Good customer service should meet a consistent standard of treatment. Great customer service exceeds that standard.
It’s important to acknowledge that like with any relationship, this one is reciprocal. Both sides have to do their part to make the relationship successful. Customers usually call support because of a problem, so they’re frustrated by the time they speak to a representative. That can pose a challenge for the support rep, but it also presents an opportunity to create a positive experience, and send that customer off with great things to say about your company. The same can be said of working an insurance claim. Adjusters, like customer support, are usually only called in after the problem has occurred. But by using customer service skills, you can move that customer from the red to the black so to speak.
Good customer service embodies the same characteristics of any other human relationship done well.
The way we humans handle stressful situations and challenges is very personal. Sure, everyone wants their problem fixed quickly and conveniently, but that’s really the minimum requirement. Great customer service requires excelling at both listening, and communicating. Being empathetic and patient are two other qualities often associated with great support personnel. In my experience, determination and problem-solving skills are two characteristics of great customer service teams because they aren’t satisfied with the quick fix. They want to dig in and find the cause of the problem…not only how to fix it today, but how to make sure it isn’t an issue for customers in the future.
Regardless of your job or position, we’ve all dealt with tough cases. Whether it’s a customer who won’t be happy no matter what, a confrontational claimant, or a client who’s issue simply can’t be solved, managing these situations is part of the gig. This can be doubly frustrating because in most cases, the problem probably isn’t your fault. That reminds me…
My co-worker and friend drew a humorous analogy for me as I navigate being a mother to a newborn for the first time. “Just think of it like customer service,” he said, “none of what’s happened is your fault, but this person is really angry and you have to figure out why, and then fix it.” Not only did it make me laugh, but it actually rang pretty true. As any of you who are parents know, an infant is probably the toughest customer out there. They voice their unhappiness loudly, and usually at 3 a.m., and you try everything on your checklist to solve the problem: diaper changes, bottles, rocking, swaddles. Sometimes, you find a solution that works. But other times, the tiny customer has reached the boiling point with their frustration and just needs to yell. Eventually, everything usually works out. But you have to go through some challenges to get there.
Good customer service means dealing with all these human emotions and experiences, and still finding a way to turn the interaction into a positive one. Customer service solves a problem or fills a need for customers, and in turn, they help the company recognize what it could do better as well. Speaking of this…
CUSTOMER SERVICE IS AN INTERSECTION
Customer support is where the company’s products and the customer’s experiences converge. It’s where all the company’s parts and people, from development to sales, from executives to operators, meet. Here is where you have to set aside your goals and intentions, and deal with reality.
Customer support is where the company’s products and the customer’s experiences converge.
In today’s world, if a business can’t respond to their customer’s needs, and evolve based on those desires, they are at risk. We don’t have to look any further than the retail industry to see how quickly things can change for those that don’t change. But how do you learn what your customers really think? What they need? What isn’t working and what is working great? You learn through customer service.
It isn’t always pleasant or pretty, but it is vital to invest in this intersection. So many of our changes here at AdjusterPro have come from customer service learning that something wasn’t working for our students and needed to be changed. Sometimes it comes in the form of a simple systems issue or error that we don’t know is happening until calls and emails start rolling in. Or sometimes it’s a bigger challenge, like quality control. For example, we’ve added a lot of new courses over the past few years based on our customers’ needs. But based on student feedback, we learned that we needed to do better at manning the constantly required changes to our existing courses. We were churning out new products at an impressive rate, but our process for maintaining and updating those courses needed more attention.
Customer Support shouldn’t be the place where problems go to die. It needs to be the place where solutions and innovation are born.
Ultimately, these challenges unearthed our need for a dedicated quality control manager. We saw drastic improvements (and more importantly, our customers did as well) when we added the new team member to the mix. She raised the bar for course quality, as well as our quality control processes. (Shout out to Rach!)
At the end of the day, the best customer support team in the world can only do so much if the company isn’t able to take the input from customers and put it to good use. We have all probably seen or experienced that ‘customer service void’ – where you are talking with support about an issue or challenge, and they know about it, they tell you the higher-ups know about it, and yet nothing has been done. Customer Support shouldn’t be the place where problems go to die. It needs to be the place where solutions and innovation are born.
CUSTOMER SERVICE IS HOLISTIC
This idea of great customer service shouldn’t just extend to your traditional customers, either. It should also extend to employees. I truly believe that when you take great care of employees, they will take great care of customers. (Whether its their job, or not!) People are increasingly aware of their choices in the marketplace, and even in a niche industry like ours, people have options. One negative experience may be all it takes for them to take their dollars elsewhere.
In addition to losing current customers, employee turnover is also a major expense for most businesses. And unhappy employees, especially those with direct access to customers, often lead to unhappy interactions. Valuing the support team, valuing all your team, and the work they do helps keep your customers, well… your customers.
Strive to be a company that employees are proud to work for and customers are happy to buy from.
I believe giving the service department and it’s employees a ‘seat at the big kids table,’ can go a long way towards improving customer service for the entire company. Why? Because customer service’s voice is ultimately the voice of the customer. Very few companies have ever achieved success by ignoring their customers wants, needs, and issues. On the other hand, companies like Zappos, Chewy.com, and Southwest have achieved greatness precisely because of their exceptional customer service. Helpscout has a great article about giving support a seat at the adult table if you’d like to read more.
Being a good workplace that values customer service incentivizes employees to do a good job. It’s good for the employees, the customers, and the long-term growth of the business. When you strive to be a company that employees are proud to work for and customers are happy to buy from, great customer support flows (almost) effortlessly.
CUSTOMER SERVICE NEVER RESTS
You know that great feeling when all those things you have to do are finally done? The little boxes on your to-do list are checked off. Your tickets are all closed. Your email box is empty. All your claims are settled. Yeah…neither do we.
Simply put – great customer service never rests. There will always be new challenges, new questions, and new opportunities. No matter your job title, offering exceptional service to your particular customer means being as proactive as possible, while constantly watching for any sign of new issues. And when there is a problem, you should strive to handle it openly, quickly, and efficiently, not only for that person, but for future customers as well. At the end of the day, you can’t be the ultimate judge of whether you offer great service (that’s up to the customers to decide), but recognizing its importance has far-reaching benefits: for the company, it’s employees, the customers, and yes…the bottom line.
Those people and companies who are best poised to succeed recognize the far-reaching importance of customer service, both internally and externally. They are willing to invest in the simple but vital principle of serving people well, every day.