So…i’ve been visiting a few different prospective and current clients lately and I have been noticing a common theme. They are preaching to me how customer service oriented they are and how that differentiates them as a brand from their competition. I’m calling Bull$#!+. Now…I’m not going to mention any names because surely I will upset a few people. But if you’re reading this, I’m sure you will know who you are. With that being said… creating a GREAT customer experience is far from an easy task and I am certainly not saying that JTCG is the best at it… we work every day, and I mean EVERY DAY, to improve communication and service for our clients. It’s never ending, and truly, how I believe we can differentiate our firm from other agencies, both locally and nationally. Let me give you some examples and then I will tell you how Jacob Tyler handles the same situations. Mind you… these are the most BASIC examples of integrity around customer service and it goes WAY deeper than this to deliver on a great customer experience brand promise.
Example 1. Your call is important to us, please continue to hold.
We’ve all heard this one and how annoying is it? Obviously my call can’t be THAT important if you are making me hold this long. Perhaps if you really thought that, you would hire someone to answer the phone! With that being said, when I called a client recently (ironically with the word “Serve” in their name), I could not get to a human… after three attempts. This is hitting the buttons 1 (for sales), 2 (for support) and 0 (for the operator). I’m outraged. Really? You don’t have an operator during business hours? This is a company doing over 5 million in annual revenue. How did I get through? I randomly called back and hit different extensions until someone picked up. Finally, when someone did, they didn’t know the extension of the person I was attempting to call and couldn’t transfer me. Thus, I was required to leave a message for the employee to write down. This method was fantastic in 1978… yet just slightly archaic in 2010.
How we handle it: Our phone system is designed so that when the user calls they are greeted with options to dial a specific individuals extension or the operator. If operator is chosen…between the hours of 9:00 am and 6pm PST, someone is REQUIRED to answer the phone. If our “operator” is not available, then other staff members take over. Each staff member must greet the person on the other end pleasantly and with the same message. We never know when there is an emergency that even if I may be on the phone and unable to answer my extension, the caller may try back to get someone else to notify me in the office.
I will say that many believe I go overboard with this. I am most likely one of few CEO’s that post my cell phone on the site and in my signature. Believe it or not, it doesn’t get abused as often as you may think. Of course, there are always those clients that feel they deserve 24/7 access to me and take me up on it. And yes… I deal with it. That’s part of delivering on a customer service promise. It’s being available when people need you.
Example 2. Please ring bell for service.
I walk into a building for a client meeting at a fairly large company with a huge lobby and over 100 million in annual revenue. Some staff members and I are due for a 10AM meeting and we are right on time (Yes… time integrity is an important part of customer service as well). Well…no one is at the desk. There is a phone available and it says “dial ‘0’ for help”. Wouldn’t you know I do it and the phone rings on the desk in front of me? Yes…that’s the operator. So I hit an extension, and then another, and then another, until I eventually just decide to walk down the hall and knock on a door to someone’s office who then graciously helped me. This may sound far-fetched but this isn’t the first time it has happened to me in my career. The best part of this story is that in our meeting, someone spoke up and said the company clearly differentiated themselves by customer service. I then responded by saying, “I disagree, let me tell you my experience when I walked in”. Their response was, “Well…we don’t care about our vendors that walk in the door, it’s our clients”. Imagine their shock when I dialed the main line from their own phone (as a client would from outside their own office) and didn’t get anyone after multiple attempts. Customer service? Really?
How we handle it: Bottom line. We have someone to greet you at the door. Always. Period. Everyone who walks in is offered a beverage of their choice and asked to wait briefly for the greeter to contact the staff member they are there to see. That’s it. Pretty simple. You just have to do it.
On the other hand….
Recently I had the pleasure of stopping by to visit our client, the Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas, to drop off some new brochures. Now, if you’ve been living under a rock and you know nothing about Four Seasons Resorts, they are know for delivering a better than great customer experience. You don’t have to actually stay there to know this…that’s the crazy thing. You have heard it from friends, family, acquaintances, etc… What you may or may NOT know about the Four Seasons Las Vegas is that they have been the longest running AAA/CAA five diamond rated resort for the past 11 years. What makes them the BEST out of all hotels in Vegas? The customer experience. Every employee from the valet to the manager greets you with a smile and asks what they can do for you. Okay…so…I’m probably not telling you anything you don’t already know. Why? Because they have built their whole brand on this premise.
So the million dollar question is…how do you give this level of “customer experience” to YOUR customers in YOUR business? You’re not a hotel? It’s not the same… right? Well… you need to embrace your customers and constantly work on it. It’s just common sense. Or is it?
Webster’s Dictionary defines common sense as “one’s judgment based on their perception of the situation.” Essentially, your employees’ ideas of superior customer service are based on their experiences of customer service. The level of customer service a person is innately capable of giving is relative to his (or her) life experiences up to that point. Where has he traveled and been? What has he experienced? What manners and code of behavior was he taught at home? In all likelihood, there is a huge discrepancy between your vision of customer service and your new employee’s vision. He doesn’t know how others, namely your customers, want to be treated. You need to be prepared to train your front-line employees to recognize how others want to be treated. In short, Don’t just expect your employees to do this automatically. It’s a mistake I used to make quite often until I finally realized that this is learned and not the nature of every person.
Recently, I was delivered a signed copy of a book by Don Dijulius (thanks Don) titled “What’s the Secret? To promoting a World Class Customer Experience” and I have to say it’s an extremely informative book and I recommend it to anyone in the process of training staff on how to deliver exceptional customer service. He states, and I agree, “The only companies that are succeeding with long-term sustainability are the ones fanatical about differentiating themselves through the customer service they deliver.”
Customer service is not only rewarding to your customers. It’s very rewarding to your staff. Your employees become a part of a bigger purpose and feel happy when speaking to your clients on the phone or in person. In this day, we feel it is more important to compete and build their brands with superior customer service. Don’t just SAY it. Deliver on it.