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For some businesses, customer service is just a department. To others it sets the  tone for the rest of the company. We’ve all experienced great customer service as well as awful customer service. Great customer service starts  when someone goes above and beyond and creates a memorable experience.

True customer service is more than please and thank you but it starts there. If you don’t have the basics down you can’t create a memorable experience.

It means an unexpected and pleasurable  event.

Last week, I lost my very old iPhone 3. The charging port was getting worn, and it was time to get a new one but being without a phone is devastating. My contract is with  AT&T, so they were my first stop.  I looked at phones and was more confused than ever. What in the world should I buy? I talked with the salesperson Avi but still couldn’t make up my mind so I decided to check with a few other  carriers in town and see what was available.  Phones are pretty much a commodity, but the customer service person makes the difference. Notice I didn’t say a sales person.

What’s there to sell? We don’t get sold anything any  more. By the time we go to the store we pretty much know what we want.

I asked all my friends about their phones. I stopped strangers in Best Buy and asked them about their phones, and I checked on line.

After visiting six stores and  four days later, I was getting worn out. I decided to go back  my original AT&T store on Central Avenue in Albany. I said to the salesman Avi, “I just need some kind of phone while I’m deciding.” His statement, “Why didn’t you say that, I’ll get you a loaner phone while you look around!” I went home with a phone and yesterday I went back and ordered my new phone from Avi. It’s hard not to buy from a guy who lends you a phone.

Case closed.

Having a consistent customer service message is important for any company. You should know your products, what’s new, and if there’s a company policy that should be explained to your customer?

Should everyone have a script? There are certain touch points that are important to every company,  and everyone should know what they are. The message needs to be consistent, but the delivery should be sent with your personality (Unless of course, your offensive; in which case you’re in the wrong job.)

Every time you miss one of these touch points you run the risk of losing a customer so these points need to be identified.  They are  different for every company but  once identified should be part of ongoing training.

So what are the points?

  1. Show your customers love. When you call me by my name its music to my ears as they say. If you use it at least twice it’s even better. (If you use it more than twice it gets scary.)
  2. Know your customer’s standard problems and have some solutions on hand.  It’s no secret that if you’re in the northeast and delivering products in the winter that delays are in inevitable. The key is to plan on it and have  solutions on hand.
  3. Be proactive.  That means thinking for your customer. Is there something your customer always needs this time of the year? Should you remind them? Of course, you should. In the northeast, it’s time for a snow shovel, de-icer for your windshield and door locks and snow tires.  Is kitty litter still a solution if you get stuck?Suggest he get a shovel so your truck can get to this loading dock.
  4. Should you “reinvent the wheel?” Maybe so; we’ve reinvented the phone a few times haven’t we?  Is it time to change your policies or at least review them?  How about a using a square wheel; would it work better?
  5. What hidden tools do you have at your disposal? Do you have a  gift, a discount or special shipping when real problems occur? Do you have some hidden delights for your customers?  (It’s like giving the customer a loaner cell phone.) Think of your customer as your business partner. Ask how you can help them before they need help.
  6. Remember it’s the holiday season; stress is at its highest. How about calling your customers and wishing them well?

Remember, red hot customer service means going out of your way, delighting your customer and providing a memorable experience.

Lisbeth Calandrino helps businesses build loyal customers through  customer service training and providing customer retention strategies. Her book, Red Hot Customer Service can be ordered through her web site, www.lisbethcalandrino.com.

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