How do you define customer service? Is it being polite and courteous, sending out thank you cards, or bending over backwards to meet the needs of your customers? Is it something you’ve spent a lot of time trying to perfect, or simply an afterthought that happened as your business evolved?
I like to think of customer service as the experience your customers receive when doing business with you, or more specifically, their “perception” of that experience. It’s how they feel when interacting with you. If their experience is positive, they refer you to their friends. If negative, they trash you and post unflattering reviews online.
Before, During, and After the Purchase
Although I think it’s impossible to please everyone all the time, I do believe trying to exceed your customer’s expectations should be the goal. Customer service is not just something that happens after a sale is made, it is what the customer experiences before, during, and after the purchase. The first step in being able to create an extremely positive customer experience is to identify every interaction you have with your customers, otherwise known as your customer touch points.
Identify Your Customer Touch Points
Although every business is different and unique, there are usually several interactions that take place before, during, and after the purchase that create the total customer experience. Take some time to identify and write down every one of these touch points, for each one is an opportunity waiting for you.
How fast do you respond to your customers? How and when do you communicate? How do you clarify expectations? What promises do you make about how your products or service performs? How do you make sure they are satisfied? What do you do well, and which areas could use a little work? If you start with your customer first contact, move through the sales process, and what happens after the sale you should have a sequence of customer touch points.
Exceed Your Customers Expectations
Once you have identified these customer touch points you can then work on enhancing each one in order to exceed your customers’ expectations. With each touch point, ask yourself “what at a minimum would have to be done consistently in order to meet our customers’ expectation with this step?” Next, ask yourself “What could we now start doing consistently that could exceed this expectation?”
Write down all of your ideas and examine each one. Often exceeding an expectation can be done by doing something that is simple to do.
Ask Your Customers for Feedback
How do you know what type of experience your customers are really having? The majority of people who experience poor customer experience actually never mention it because they believe it wouldn’t make a difference anyways. However, one way you can find out is by asking your customers.
Surprisingly, many business owners don’t think to ask their customers about their experience. By using a follow up survey after a sale, an anonymous survey, or a combination of both, a lot of valuable information can be gathered to help you identify and make improvements for your customer experience. If you don’t ask you’re never going to know.
Create the Experience, Don’t Just Let it Happen
You have the ability to create and shape whatever customer service experience you want your customers to have. Every customer touch point is an opportunity to determine how you would like your customers to feel when you exceed their expectations, which hopefully happens before, during, and after the purchase.
Be intentional and create the desired customer experience you want your customers to have, don’t just let it happen by default. Your customers will thank you for it.