Giving great customer service doesn’t seem like it should be that hard. Hire nice people, train them well, provide them with the tools they need to do their jobs, and amazing service should follow naturally - right?
If only it were that easy. Assuming you’ve got the right people working for you (let’s leave aside, for now, the issue of how difficult it often is to find those people), giving consistently excellent customer service requires a complex mix of solid training, true empathy, and a culture of customer care that stretches from the top of the organization on down.
So how do you start transforming your customers’ experiences from OK to amazing? Here are a few ideas from three companies that are doing it right.
Ace Hardware, the chain of neighborhood hardware stores that has nearly 4,900 locally owned locations all over the world, trains its employees to be not just nice, but helpful. As customer service expert Shep Hyken writes on his blog, “Anyone can be nice … but [Ace Hardware VP Tom Knox] wants more. He wants his people to be nice plus knowledgeable.”
You can hire the kindest people in the world who honestly want to make your customers’ experience great, but if they aren’t able to fulfill that customer’s needs, you haven’t won. The customer probably won’t be angry. They’ll probably give you another chance. But if they can find a place where the people are nice as well as knowledgeable (which is how Ace defines “helpful”), then you can bet they’re going to take their business there.
Discover, which has been credited with revamping the credit card business as a whole, got the highest scores for customer satisfaction among U.S. credit card companies in 2015, and the company garners consistently great reviews from the people who use it.
What’s their secret? Don’t be afraid to pioneer new methods and ideas. For example, Discover CEO David Nelms says in a Forbes article about customer service that his company pioneered the 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week customer service model for credit card customers. This is because one of the keys to customer happiness, they found, was enabling customers to connect with the right employee right away.
To that end, Discover’s phone options include the option to connect with a real person immediately. In an industry where the customer isn’t always treated with respect, this really makes a noticeable difference for customers. And it never would have happened if Discover had just gone along with the typical industry practices.
Apple may be one of the best-known examples of a company that obsesses over every aspect of its customers’ experience. It all started, of course, with Steve Jobs, whose “take nothing for granted” philosophy encompassed everything from product design to functionality - and customer service.
By employing rigorous analysis of what their customers want and need, Apple has been able to consistently present an excellent, holistic customer experience.
This laser focus on the customer at every level of the company has helped Apple become one of the top companies in the world for brand loyalty. When it comes to customer-facing positions, like the Apple store geniuses and phone tech support, employees are trained to listen or watch for emotional cues, to employ empathy and listen closely to customers’ issues, and to avoid using certain words - “crash,” “incompatible,” and “problem,” for example - that Apple has found to heighten a customer’s anxiety.
The final lesson from this tech giant? Apple employees are empowered to do what is right for the customer, without needing to go through an unwieldy or frustrating approvals process.
Offering great customer service is a complex directive, but the payoff is well worth it. To learn more about how to help your contact center improve its customer experience, watch our video Call Center Solutions for Superior Service.