I often wonder how people don't get what great customer service looks like--in any business.
Think about it. If you go into a restaurant and the host or hostess is on his or her phone, not paying attention, as a customer you immediately get aggravated. Or if the waiter never checks back to see if you need anything after the food has arrived. These little things greatly affect the way a person perceives the business--and they're so easy to fix.
Another example I'm sure we can all relate to is going to see the doctor.
How often do you actually see your doctor at the time you scheduled? Almost never. You set an appointment for 2:00 P.M. and don't end up seeing them until 2:40 P.M., maybe 2:30 P.M. if you're lucky.
That's awful customer service.
As someone who has built multiple companies in industries where you don't win on price comparison, but customer service, I find this to be one of the most important parts of entrepreneurship--in any industry. How you communicate with your customers, and deliver on their expectations, has a direct correlation to how likely they are to come back.
And you want them to come back.
This is the number one mistake businesses make, is thinking that customer service just "happens." But the truth is, it doesn't. You have to make it part of your culture. You have to teach it to your employees, and make them aware of what it looks like. And it all starts at the top--with the founders, the leaders and managers within the company.
Because if you don't, you're doomed.
So, what is good customer service?
1. Set expectations, and reinforce them whenever possible.
If your employees learn that it's acceptable to do the bare minimum, then they will.
It's up to you to set the right expectations, and then walk the walk. You can't tell them to answer every sales call that comes in, and then not answer yours.
Let me give you an example:
With my company, LendingOne, there are 10 other formidable companies that can provide exactly what we provide. So we win with customer service.
When a customer fills out an on-line application for a loan, they get a pre-approval and their rate quote within two minutes and a follow up call from us within an hour. Within hours, they know whether their loan has been approved or not.
We have competitors that take days to do the same thing. I knew from the beginning that if we weren't going to win on cost, we had to win with speed and customer service.
In three years, we've done over 1,300 loans and never missed a closing date promised to a client.
2. Make sure everyone in the company understands their metrics.
Like I said, great customer service doesn't just "happen."
It has to be a metric, and something that you can accurately measure. At my company, we measure how many sales calls get missed per day. That's bad customer service.
To every employee in our company, we distribute a daily count of how many calls were missed the day before. If there's even one missed call, my sales manager gives me a ring and tells me exactly what happened--and how it will be fixed.
It's a big deal to miss a call in our company, because that's our primary measure for great customer service.
The same goes for tables with impatient customers at a restaurant, or how long someone has to wait in line at your retail store. Unless you're measuring what great customer service looks like, and helping your employees drive toward improving those measures, they never will.
3. Deliver on what you promised.
One of the best pieces of advice you could ever follow in business is that it's better to under-promise and over-deliver than over-promise and under-deliver.
If it says on your website that you return calls within 24 hours, and you don't, then you're not delivering on what you promised--and that's bad for business.
The way I think about it, if it isn't broken, fix it anyway. Every business should always be looking to improve upon the way they service their customers. If I'm at 96 percent, why not work toward 98 percent? If I can close a loan in 10 days, when not work to get it down to eight?
That should always be the mindset.
There isn't a business in the world that will win by being the low-cost provider (unless you're Wal-Mart). It's a bad game to be in.
All great companies are built by having effective customer service, because it's the service portion that keeps people coming back again and again. Because it becomes a relationship that they trust.