Seth Godin's post Sunday, the story of an incident he witnessed at Radio Shack on Friday, got me thinking again about how important good customer service is to business success. Before writing this post, I wandered around the blogosphere to see what I could find on the subject of customer service.
Bloglines reported more than a million posts that contained the words "customer" and "service." Technorati reported over 13,000 blogs "with high authority" that mentioned the two words.
Many of the posts I checked out were about negative customer service. See, for example, Mike Lally's rant about poor service at Home Depot (and this one about poor service at Lowe's). And I found a few positive posts, like Peep Laja's praise of Google. And Michael Arrington's contrast of good service at Google with poor service at PayPal.
Note that each of these posts mention's the company's name prominently. I don't know about you, but I would much rather be the recipient of praise for our customer service than rants. I would not want to be Lowe's or Home Depot or Radio Shack or PayPal with rants like these. But Google wouldn't be a bad place to be right now!
Here is a great article by Kevin Dwyer about customer service. Read it for an understanding of how small "moments of truth" can make a big difference in customer perception of service. Mapping the customer experience, in order to find the critical moments of truth, is one key step toward great customer service.
For my money, there are at least two other keys to great customer service. One is great training. Well-trained employees are much better able to deal with customer problems and resolve them well and quickly.
The other key - perhaps the biggest one in my book - is trust. You need to trust your customers - after all, you are asking them to trust you. How will you gain that trust if you don't give it first? Trust your customers to treat you fairly. (Yes, some will try to cheat you, but don't make the majority of your customers suffer because of a few miscreants. Deal with the untrustworthy customers on a one-off basis, and keep your general policies friendly and customer-centric.) And trust your employees to fix customer problems on the spot - don't make them run up the line for approval all the time. That frustrates your employees and your customers.