In his new book, “Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers”, Jay Baer says that “haters are not your problem…ignoring them is.”
I agree! According to an extensive proprietary study, 80 percent of companies surveyed say they deliver outstanding customer service, but only eight percent of their customers agree. So why such a huge gap between the service provider and the critic?
I would submit that many times the service provider thinks they’ve solved the problem technically, but the customer experience was so bad the customer ends up hating the service provider anyway. Many of the people that end up writing reviews would say they wanted more than a solution; they wanted to be cared about as a person.
Based on my experience, I have eight insights about how to build an exceptional customer service team that creates raving fans and five-star reviews.
A Support Call is an Opportunity
Every call into customer support is an opportunity to build a relationship. The minutes spent on the phone with that representative must contain a mixture of knowing exactly how to fix the problem (competency), willingness to sympathize with the inconvenience of the problem (humanity) and the speed at which the problem is resolved. Because reviews are so easy to do in real time by simply firing up your cell phone, companies have to be especially aware of the quality of the interaction between the support agent and the customer.
“People may not remember exactly what you did or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel,” paraphrased from various authors.
Get the Compensation Right
I’ve often wondered why customer service representatives are among the lowest paid people at many service providers. The harsh reality is, your support people are all public spokespeople for your company. Their compensation should be commensurate with getting the best people you can possibly afford for each level of customer service in your organization.
Remember how much it costs to gain a new customer the next time you are willing to hand that customer off to a competitor because of poor customer service.
Also, think about PR as not just the job of the marketing department or the CEO. Encourage and reward customer service team members to open a Twitter account and post the cool things they are learning or seeing happen in the company (of course you will want to make sure you have a social media policy in place first).
Put your best people in your most important support roles.
Hire “People” People
I can’t stress enough the importance of hiring “people” people in customer facing roles. Tony Hsieh of Zappos is famous for saying “people relate to people, not companies.” Hire people that can be passionate about taking care of customers and who genuinely love working for the company. Encourage people to make business personal.
Empower the Representative
Trust them to think on behalf of the company and enhance the customer experience. At SimpleSignal, I gave my support managers the power to spend some money on the spot to make things feel right with the customer. We’d do things like pay for a late night pizza delivery to a customer that was having an especially difficult after hours install.
Give a @#$!
The right way to think about customer service is to think about every customer as a VIP. How would a customer service call be different if the representative knew they were talking to Johnny Depp on the phone? Why should the kind of attention and care that was given to Johnny be different with any other customer?
Train, Train, and Train Some More
Knowledge is power. Give your service representatives ongoing training in the technology by inviting vendors to update and refresh everyone’s product knowledge quarterly. This can take anywhere from half an hour to half a day and be sure and make time to teach them cultural values and people skills as well.
Invest in having experts train them in how to take customers’ frowns and turn them upside down.
Make a Big Deal of Great Reviews
Publicly recognize individuals that exemplify amazing customer service. These kind of examples are infectious in an inspirational way. Tell success stories often and loudly in your company meetings.
Make a Bigger Deal of Your Bad Reviews
While great reviews are what we all live for, don’t forget that a bad review, as Jay Baer says, is the canary in the coal mine. In other words, it’s a gift; a way to see if there is an area where you need to improve. Remember that 95% of the people that feel the way your bad reviewer feels will never comment in a form that you can see. So be thankful for the 5% that are willing to share their bad experience in your reviews. Hug your haters!
So there are my eight insights to consider as you assess your customer service strategy. Take this seriously. It is truly the lifeblood of your business. It’s more important than just about anything else you can do in the weeks and months to come. And here’s a final tip. Take the time to do an honest assessment of your customer service team. Randomly call some customers that opened support tickets and see how they thought that call went. I found an hour a month doing that was time well spent.