- The book Can Your Customer Service Do This? is based on the author’s extensive experience and research as a customer service expert, trainer, speaker, and author. The book reveals the secrets and methods of transforming customer service and creating a customer-centric culture that leads to lasting customer loyalty and business success.
- The book defines customer service done right as anticipatory customer service, which means getting inside the heads of the customers, understanding their needs, expectations, and emotions, and delivering solutions that exceed their expectations and delight them. The book also identifies four key capabilities that enable anticipatory customer service: continuous delivery, lean management and product development, architectural empowerment, and culture of learning and experimentation.
- The book provides a framework for measuring and improving these capabilities and customer service performance using rigorous statistical methods and surveys. The book also shows how these capabilities and performance are influenced by organizational culture, leadership, and team autonomy. The book offers practical advice on how to adopt and improve these capabilities and practices, as well as how to overcome common challenges and pitfalls.
Many brands are failing to connect with customers, providing mediocre or unsatisfactory customer experiences, says customer service expert Micah Solomon. Learn how transforming your approach to customer service, by anticipating customers’ needs before they themselves do, can differentiate you from the competition. Today’s customers want to feel valued and find near instant solutions to their problems, and serving their needs requires the work of skilled, purpose-driven and empowered customer service agents. Solomon’s playbook offers leaders a wealth of practical guidance on creating iconic customer experiences.
- Stand apart from the competition by providing iconic customer service experiences.
- Purpose-driven team members find innovative solutions to customer issues, without needing oversight.
- Turn customers into loyal fans by treating them like individuals and correcting mistakes with integrity.
- Connect with customers by selecting the right words and being mindful of nonverbal cues.
- Combine technology and human-to-human connection.
- Strengthen customer relationships with well-crafted written communication that reflects your brand voice.
- Seek meaningful customer feedback with well-designed surveys and sentiment analysis.
- Make customer-centricity and innovation a key part of your business culture.
Stand apart from the competition by providing iconic customer service experiences.
Many organizations are either dropping the ball when it comes to customer service or achieving only the bare minimum, leaving customers “merely satisfied.” But these subpar approaches don’t build loyalty, meaning you risk losing customers to your competition. Transform your approach to customer service by surpassing “baseline” standards for customer service – simply giving customers what they want after they ask for it – and excelling at “anticipatory customer service.” This requires knowing your customers’ needs better than they do themselves and giving them what they want before they even ask. Endeavor to provide “gold touch customer service,” improving your relationship with customers by going the extra mile, serving their needs with more effort than expected and answering questions with unexpected thoughtfulness.
“A merely satisfied customer belongs to the marketplace. A loyal customer belongs to you.”
When you give consumers exceptional service, you stand out from the competition, which means you don’t get stuck in the “commodity zone,” a place you end up when people view your company as interchangeable with others providing similar products. Imagine customer service as an ascending ladder, with anticipatory service experiences on the top rung. When you’ve reached this level, you’re able to stand out as a truly iconic brand when it comes to customer service experiences. Satisfactory, or baseline, service experiences are a level down, while the lower level represents “unacceptable service” experiences, in which companies fail to deliver value.
Purpose-driven team members find innovative solutions to customer issues, without needing oversight.
If you want to have engaged customer support team members, you need to trigger purpose-driven behavior, ensuring workers align their job tasks with your organization’s broader purpose. Distill your purpose into a short sentence or a few sentences, sharing it across your communications platforms. For example, an automotive retailer may describe its purpose as “to serve our customers as they would wish to be served, during every mile of their automotive journey.”
“Empowerment is essential for bringing a purpose-driven culture to life. Without empowerment, you’re giving mixed messages: on the one hand, instructing your employees to pursue a pro-customer purpose, but on the other, not giving them the power to do so.”
Effective purpose-driven customer service workers feel empowered to solve problems themselves, which is essential given that it’s impossible to predict every customer situation they might encounter or have a manager supervising their customer interactions all the time. Take time to celebrate team members’ customer service wins, modeling the purpose-driven behavior you admire and rewarding employees for finding innovative solutions.
Turn customers into loyal fans by treating them like individuals and correcting mistakes with integrity.
Customers feel valued by your company, and keep returning, when your team makes an effort to remember them. This can look like using customers’ names in conversation, and keeping track of knowledge your employees gather regarding them, such as their pets’ names or their hobbies. You should never make customers feel like they’re interrupting you. Instruct workers to prioritize serving the customer standing in front of them, pausing any non-emergency tasks they can perform at a later date. Show gratitude to consumers, thanking them for choosing to trust your company. Remember that your customers care most about their own needs – they’re not interested in hearing the minutiae of how different departments work or don’t work (avoid lecturing them on how they’re asking the wrong department or person for something, and just help them) or the behind-the-scenes challenges a service agent must navigate to solve their problem. If mistakes do happen, the “service recovery paradox” holds that you’re actually more likely to turn these formerly upset buyers into fans if you treat them well while fixing them, as they’ll view you as an ally.
“Nearly every customer has a desire to be recognized, to be seen as a unique individual.”
Sometimes, you need to repair broken customer relationships, which teams can achieve with the following framework, “MAMA”:
- Make time to empathetically listen to your customer’s complaint, without interrupting them.
- Acknowledge mistakes and apologize if at fault. Make sure it’s a real, meaningful apology (for example, “I’m sorry that we let you down”).
- “(Have a) Meeting of Minds,” including your customer in the process of finding an aligned solution to correct the mistake.
- “Act! And Follow Up!” In this last step, you take the action steps you’ve promised to take, before following up in three ways: with any colleagues you’ve involved to ensure nobody drops the ball; with the customer, ensuring you’ve fully resolved the issue; and with your company, by logging the issue into your systems to prevent it from recurring.
Connect with customers by selecting the right words and being mindful of nonverbal cues.
Make choosing the right language to build rapport with customers easier, with the following “Triple A checklist”:
- Avoid – Don’t use words that might anger customers, undermine them, challenge them or prompt them to doubt your company’s trustworthiness. Defensive language can look like, “Are you sure that’s what happened?” And starting sentences with phrases such as, “To be honest with you,” can make your brand seem less trustworthy, as it suggests your customer service representatives aren’t always up-front.
- Assure – Use words that inspire feelings of comfort, letting customers know you have the situation under control and will protect them.
- Align – Make sure your language fits your brand voice.
“Without the right language, everyone who works with customers is putting the brand they represent at a disadvantage.”
Customer service team members should be mindful of their body language and vocal style, as it’s easy to send the wrong message without words. For example, a lack of eye contact can signal displeasure, as can negatively perceived auditory cues, such as loud sighing. Employees should strive to match customers’ speaking pace, as speaking too quickly when your customer is speaking at a more leisurely pace can signal impatience. Employees should also be conscientious about customers’ movements within the physical space, yielding first to avoid collisions or awkward moments, giving customers space to move freely without impediments.
Combine technology and human-to-human connection.
Strive for “digital parity” with e-commerce companies, providing customers with the same quality of digital interactions, meeting their expectations. Use the “triangular model,” connecting customers to agents who interact with technologies, such as AI, behind the scenes. For example, human employees can turn to AI assistance, invisible to the customer, and act following context-based suggestions on a computer screen to better engage the customer. Technologies can assist your customer service efforts in myriad ways, such as providing augmented reality features to give people more information about your product, and targeting individual customers to cross-sell products based on their particular interests.
“Every business, no matter how brick-and-mortar it may be, should be as good on the technology side of how it interacts with customers as fully digital, entirely e-commerce players are.”
When communicating with customers on the telephone, be attuned to the clues customers provide about what they’re experiencing emotionally, adjust your approach to respond appropriately, and moderate your tone and speed of speech to convey empathy and alignment. Choose the agents answering phones with care, as they’re the voice of your brand at a key customer touchpoint. In the internet age, customers calling you on the phone are probably facing bigger challenges than those that reach out via email or your messaging chat, so assign these calls to skilled employees. People who come across as personable, calming and compassionate conversationalists shine in these roles. Keep your branding elements to a minimum on the phone, avoiding rattling off a long, wordy greeting. Always end calls on a high note when possible, issuing a “fond farewell” that the customer will remember warmly (for example, “It was great working with you, Margaret.”
Strengthen customer relationships with well-crafted written communication that reflects your brand voice.
When communicating with customers via the written word, aim to do so while being personable, jargon-free, thoughtful, on-brand and clear. If you communicate in a manner that’s confusing, irrelevant, insensitive, missing vital nuances or incomplete, you risk damaging your customer relationships. Anticipate customer needs, ensuring you send all the information they’ll want (for example, links and attachments) and answer questions before they think to ask them. Have a keen eye for detail, reviewing all information before you send an email, as you don’t want to create a record of a correspondence with errors.
“The written language is a powerful tool when used correctly.”
Make your communication as personalized as possible, avoiding generic signatures such as “From your friends at ___)”. Likewise, try to avoid using “donotreply” addresses if possible or using a signature with a generic switchboard phone number, which make it difficult for customers to respond. Instead, share your name and direct contact line, so they can actually reach you (if your company allows this). You may want to consider sending handwritten cards as a powerful symbol that you care about your customers, but don’t do so if you expect a response. Also, it’s perfectly normal for businesses to plan a note-sending initiative, then never get around to completing it, as mailing letters is time-consuming.
Seek meaningful customer feedback with well-designed surveys and sentiment analysis.
Glean valuable insights into how your customers feel about their experiences with your brand through surveys. When creating surveys, stick with rating scales with fewer options (no more than five), and avoid asking complex questions that require too much thought. Leave space for open-ended responses, allowing customers to express themselves freely. Aim to use emotive words if they align with your brand style (for example, “fantastic!”), and ensure your survey uses friendly and gracious language in the introductory sentences on your survey. Keep surveys short if you want respondents to actually complete them, and avoid hounding customers to finish surveys.
“Surveys, more often than not, are a type of communication that comes out a hot mess.”
Companies are starting to leverage technology-driven approaches to feedback, and finding they can more accurately gauge sentiment by doing so. For example, you can listen to recordings of your calls and grade the sentiment you perceive, or use sentiment analysis technology. The value of gleaning insights into customers’ perception of your brand is ambiguous, but at the very least, surveys can provide customers with opportunities to unload and vent. Keep in mind though, that a poorly crafted survey can waste people’s time, contain spurious results and test even your most loyal customers’ patience.
Make customer-centricity and innovation a key part of your business culture.
Help team members remember their customer service training by doing the following: Get your department head or CEO to kick off training sessions; give trainees printed materials containing their training information; provide attendees with a certificate of completion; stress the seriousness of your customer-centric approach during orientation; systemize ways to celebrate great moments in customer service (for example, notes on a virtual bulletin board); hold meetings under 10 minutes – ideally every day – to focus on one of your company’s customer service standards or principles; and model good customer interactions yourself, as someone in senior management.
“Employees will only contribute their innovative insights if they can be sure they’ll be listened to and given the consideration they deserve.”
Encourage innovation in teams, giving employees permission to experiment and make mistakes when aiming to improve your product, process or business model. Team members will need space away from their daily routines to innovate effectively, as well as the psychological safety to feel it’s OK to make suggestions. If one department or location discovers an innovative solution, experiment with embedding it into another business area as well. Innovation is key if you hope to keep pace with evolving customer expectations, as customers will compare your customer service approach to that of other companies. Consider inviting your customers to collaborate in helping you generate innovative ideas, while showing them that you value their perspectives and insights.
About the Author
Micah Solomon is president and CEO of the consulting firm Four Aces, Inc., as well as a customer service expert, working as a consultant, author, trainer, speaker and content creator.
The book Can Your Customer Service Do This? is based on the author’s extensive experience and research as a customer service expert, trainer, speaker, and author. The book reveals the secrets and methods of transforming customer service and creating a customer-centric culture that leads to lasting customer loyalty and business success.
The main argument of the book is that customer service is not just a technical or operational issue, but a strategic and competitive one. The author argues that customer service done right can be a powerful differentiator and a source of sustainable advantage in today’s fast-changing and demanding market. The author defines customer service done right as anticipatory customer service, which means getting inside the heads of the customers, understanding their needs, expectations, and emotions, and delivering solutions that exceed their expectations and delight them.
The book explains how to achieve anticipatory customer service by developing four key capabilities: continuous delivery, lean management and product development, architectural empowerment, and culture of learning and experimentation. The book also provides a framework for measuring and improving these capabilities and customer service performance using rigorous statistical methods and surveys. The book also shows how these capabilities and performance are influenced by organizational culture, leadership, and team autonomy. The book offers practical advice on how to adopt and improve these capabilities and practices, as well as how to overcome common challenges and pitfalls.
I found the book Can Your Customer Service Do This? to be very informative, insightful, and useful for anyone who is interested in or involved in customer service. The book is well-written, clear, and engaging, with plenty of examples, case studies, and anecdotes. The book is also backed by solid research and data analysis, which makes it credible and authoritative.
The book covers a lot of ground in a relatively short space, but it does not sacrifice depth or detail. The book provides a comprehensive overview of the current state of customer service performance and its impact on organizational performance. The book also provides a clear framework for assessing and improving customer service capabilities and practices, as well as a roadmap for implementing change and transformation.
The book is not only relevant for customer service professionals, managers, or leaders, but also for anyone who cares about delivering value to customers and stakeholders through technology. The book shows how customer service is not just a technical issue, but also a business issue, a cultural issue, and a leadership issue. The book challenges some of the common myths and misconceptions about customer service, such as that it is not possible to achieve both speed and quality, or that it is not important for non-technology companies.
The book Can Your Customer Service Do This? is a must-read for anyone who wants to learn how to create an anticipatory customer experience that builds loyalty forever.