Some people might think this post should be presented on a Monday, as customer service generally is thought to fall under the Marketing umbrella, and they wouldn’t be wrong, just a bit incomplete. When done correctly, customer service is about marketing your business, but it’s also about a lot more than that. Providing good customer service requires being part swami, part teacher, part disciplinarian, and part butler. Your goal is to provide not what your customer wants, but what they really need which requires the swami to read minds, the teacher to educate, the disciplinarian to steer them away from things that won’t do what they need, and to be firm about why they don’t need them, and the butler to provide that little extra touch of luxury that allows your customer to walk away feeling pampered and appreciated. Providing good customer service is a lot about being aware and alert, and much less about mouthing some tired platitudes about “how your business matters to us”. Good customer service doesn’t tell your customers they matter to your business, it shows them they matter.
Peter Shankman, who gets a lot of things right when he talks about customer service, says that these days, great customer service doesn’t require being stunningly awesome every second. Being better than the rest just requires elevating your game a little bit. Sadly, most people are so accustomed to being treated like an inconvenience and enduring terrible customer service that they’ll react to even a modest effort like you’ve offered them a Godiva chocolate in a solid gold box strapped to the cutest puppy in the universe. Even being seen to make an effort while being unable to deliver can win you points. We’re all so beaten down these days by companies that basically treat us like ATMs that simply being treated like a human is a refreshing change of pace.
So, given that we know most companies are providing rock bottom customer service, and realizing that it only takes a little to be a lot better than average, the next step is to harness your inner swami, teacher, disciplinarian and butler and take your customer service to the next level. Here’s how that works:
The Swami – You don’t have to read minds, you just have to listen and be observant. Customers aren’t always the best at expressing what they need, so you’ll need to read between the lines on occasion. Being a swami also requires thinking about the orders that come to you and paying attention to what’s being ordered. If you have a customer who orders consistently, and their orders are generally the same type of thing, and then they order something completely different, it’s worth checking to make sure the order was placed correctly. Even if they did order properly, they’ll still appreciate that you knew them well enough to know this wasn’t their usual order.
The Teacher – Teachers educate, and many of us in the industry talk often about what customers don’t know and how it’s our responsibility to teach them. Your customers don’t expect and probably don’t want a college level seminar, but explaining a few basic details can help them better understand what you can and can’t do and why. Educating customers about the value of what you do, both in creativity and in dollars and cents is also worthwhile. You don’t have to lecture, but taking advantage of a teaching moment is always a good thing.
The Disciplinarian – Anyone who has ever been around a child has probably had the experience of telling them no, or stopping the kid from doing something they really wanted to do but which was dangerous or not good for them. I’m not saying customers are children, or should be treated as such, but there are times when you, as the expert, will know better than they do. At those times, it’s your job to provide information that will allow them to make the correct choice, and to steer them away from the wrong choices. Sometimes that requires being firm. The traditional rule is that the customer is always right, but that doesn’t mean they always make the right choices. Your job is to help them see where they’ve made an error and to provide them with good choices that will help achieve their final goal.
The Butler – We can’t all be Jeeves, but we can provide that little extra touch that makes our customers feel spoiled and pampered. Whether it’s a handwritten note to say thank you for an order, or a little extra something thrown in with finished garments, letting your customer know you appreciate their business doesn’t have to be fancy, it just needs to be sincere.
Sincerity is probably, in the end, what matters most. If you genuinely appreciate your customers, truly want to provide them with the best products and service you can, and are willing to put some effort into doing so, it’s likely that your customer service will be way above average. It’s also likely that your customers will recognize that, and continue to be customers for years to come.