Customer Service Training

Every employee of ComSpark is expected to work through this programme with their manager, and contribute actively to ongoing discussions about it at our weekly Toolbox Meetings.

The following is 1 of 12 Subjects taken from our internal Business Mastery Programme.

Table of Contents

The Four Pronged O.C.S. Way

Index

1.        Introduction

1.1         The importance of customer service

1.2         Why is the level of customer service so low in Oz?

There are three main reasons for low customer service levels

1.3         Your customer service legal obligations

2.        What is customer service?

2.1        Definition of customer service

2.2        A simple concept confused by jargon

2.3        A practical definition of customer service

The Customer Service Input-Output Model

2.4        The Customer Satisfaction Input-Output Model

2.5        The service edge

3.        Customer Satisfaction

3.1        The four levels of customer satisfaction

3.2        Satisfaction of needs

4.        The fundamental law of the customer

4.1        The Sam Walton Story – “The Ten Foot Story”

4.2        The customer mindset

5.        Why the customer is the most important person in your organisation, and why you should worry about customer service.

5.1        The bottom line impact of customer service

5.2        Poor service and the power of negative W.O.M.

5.3        The seven customer service facts you should know

5.4        Customer service in Australia – How are we going?

5.5        The customer service profile

6.        The Ten Step Outstanding Customer Service Mastery Program

6.1        The “PROBE” technique of O.C.S.

6.2        The Ten Step O.C.S. Mastery Program

7.        The Ten Key Service Activities

7.1 Focusing on two Key Service Activities

Telephone Service

Handling Customer Complaints

7.2        How does your customer service rate?

8.        Results of O.C.S.

9.        Case Studies

10.        The Customer Service Guarantee (C.S.G.)

11.        The Outstanding Customer Service Plan

12.        Summary

Business Mastery - SUBJECT 7

Outstanding Customer Service Mastery        

How to achieve Outstanding Customer Service and brilliant results for your customers and your business

The Four Pronged O.C.S. Way

  1. The Ten Step Outstanding Customer Service Mastery Program
  2. The ‘PROBE’ technique
  3. Customer Service Guarantee (C.S.G.)
  4. O.C.S. Plan

Index

1. Introduction

1.1 The importance of customer service

1.2 Why is the level of customer service so low in Australia?

1.3 Your customer service legal obligations


2. What is customer service?

2.1 Definition of customer service

2.2 A simple concept confused by jargon

2.3 A practical definition of customer service

2.4 The Customer Satisfaction Input Output Model

2.5 The service edge


3. Customer Satisfaction

3.1 The four levels of customer satisfaction

Exercise 1

Which customer satisfaction level are you on today?

3.2 Satisfaction of needs

Exercise 2

Ask yourself honestly how much do you really care about your customers?


4. The fundamental law of the customer

4.1 The Sam Walton Story – “The Ten Foot Story”

4.2 The customer mindset


5. Why the customer is the most important person in your organisation and why you should worry about customer service.

5.1 The bottom line impact of customer service

5.2 Poor service and the power of negative W.O.M.

Exercise 3

What do you currently do when you receive complaints from customers?

5.3 The seven customer service facts you should know

5.4 Customer service in Australia – How are we going?

5.5 The customer service profile

Exercise 4

Where are you today in your service delivery?


6. The Ten Step Outstanding Customer Service Mastery Program

6.1 “The PROBE” technique of O.C.S.

Exercise 5

Are you giving your customers The PROBE?

6.2 The Ten Step O.C.S. Mastery Program

Step 1 - Care for your customers

Exercise 6

On a scale of 1 – 10 rate yourself on how deeply you care about your customers.

Step 2 - Care for your employees

Exercise 7

On a scale of 1 to 10 rate yourself on how deeply you care about your employees.

Step 3 - Keep close to your customers

Exercise 8

Do you keep in regular contact with your customers?

Step 4 - Focus outside instead of in

Exercise 9

Ask yourself and your team whether you are focused outward towards your customers and outcomes for them.

Step 5 - What your employees say about your organisation really matters

Exercise 10

Openly discuss with your staff their opinions of your service or bring in someone objective to do it for you.

Step 6 - Make your customers feel good

Exercise 11

Do you really make your customers feel good?

Step 7 - Go the extra mile for your customers

Exercise 12

Do you go the extra mile for your customers?

Step 8 - Get out to the coal face

Exercise 13

Are you with your customers at their point of service contact?

Step 9 - See your organisation as your customers see you

Exercise 14

Spend the time and make the effort to show some empathy and understand your customers’ viewpoint and see what they see.

Step 10 - Be a great listener

Exercise 15

Determine how well you really listen to your customers.


7. The Ten Key Service Activities

7.1 Telephone Service and Customer Complaints

7.2 How does your customer service rate?

Exercise 16

Ask yourself ten simple questions in regard to each of the ten service activities.


8. Results of O.C.S.


9. Case Studies


10. The customer service guarantee (C.S.G.)

Exercise 17

Write and publish your C.S.G?


11. The Outstanding Customer Service Plan Worksheet

Exercise 18

Now it is time to write your very own O.C.S. Plan.


12. Summary


                                   

1.        Introduction

“The single most important thing to remember about any enterprise is that there are no results inside its walls. The result of a business is a satisfied customer.” Peter Drucker

Customers and customer service go hand in hand and both are essential to the success of your business. Without them you have no business. In today’s competitive marketplace, if you don’t provide a bare minimum of good customer service you will not attract customers. And without customers you don’t have a business.

Customer service is very real, it matters, it directly impacts upon sales and profitability and most importantly it is achievable.

Providing good customer service is not that difficult – you don’t need to do a business course and you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on a customer service training course.

But the challenge is to provide Outstanding Customer Service which will achieve measurable results and outcomes for your customers and results for your business and propel your business to success.

This Subject is dedicated to Outstanding Customer Service (O.C.S.) With O.C.S. you will achieve outstanding results for your customers and outstanding results for your organisation.

        Good Customer Service is Good Business”

        

        Very Good Customer Service is Very Good business”

        

        But … “Outstanding Customer Service is Outstanding Business!”

In this Subject we will show you the very powerful, effective and sure fire strategy for achieving O.C.S. – “The Four Pronged O.C.S. Way”

1. “The Ten Step O.C.S. Mastery Program”

You must learn, master and action.

2. The PROBE

How to provide outstanding value to your customers.

3. Customer Service Guarantee (C.S.G.)

Devise, write and promote your own Customer Service Guarantee.

4. O.C.S. Plan

Write your own O.C.S. Plan which will be your customer service “Sat-Nav.” You must work your plan!

        

As with each and every Subject the key is to learn, master and take action!

        

O.C.S. must be the solid bedrock of your business – the standard of outstanding customer service that you are renowned for. Your loyal customers and clients rely on your O.C.S. – they expect it, enjoy it, value it and they tell others about it. It is one of your greatest business assets – so nurture it, value it and master it yourself!

1.1         The importance of customer service

At the risk of stating the obvious - “Customer service IS very important to the success of your business.”

        

Treat me as if I belong here; acknowledge me as a person; let’s act as if this commercial relationship is a personal relationship.         

                

Australian consumers are saying that they want every encounter with service providers to have some of the character of an ordinary encounter with another human being”

        

        Hugh Mackay (Psychologist, researcher and respected author)

Customer service has become the prime area of competitive advantage of any successful organisation. “Quality of Service” was considered the most significant contributor to growth according to a PriceWaterhouseCoopers survey of 402 C.E.O.’s of Australia’s successful organisations.

        

Customer service is certainly discussed a lot and it is a buzzword in business circles today. Most business people and staff say the concept of customer service is important, there are hundreds of books written on the subject and every day of the week there is a customer service training session taking place. Yet how many organisations actually deliver on quantifiable and measurable customer service?

        

The reality and the norm in the marketplace is all too often customer dissatisfaction, poor service quality and only a token respect for customers. Why is this so?

1.2         Why is the level of customer service so low in Oz?

Service levels in Australia at best are only just keeping up with customers’ expectations and at worst service levels are in fact declining.

        

We all experience poor customer service every day of every week – in shops, in restaurants, in banks and on the phone, if in fact we can ever get through to a real person who really cares … and it drives us nuts!

There are three main reasons for low customer service levels

  1. Businesses’ and business owners’ inability to know how to define customer service in a way that actually means something to customers and is capable of practical application.
  2. Businesses do not know how to deliver customer focused service.
  3. Businesses do not acknowledge that they could improve their business service – they are blissfully ignorant and in denial.

1.3         Your customer service legal obligations

It is absolutely important to remember that your business has legal obligations to comply with “fair trading” laws in your state and country.

The goal of fair trading legislation is to provide consumers with basic protection. The goal is to ensure that goods and services are fit and proper for the purpose for which they are sold and prohibits misleading, deceptive and unconscionable conduct.

        

In essence misleading and deceptive conduct is when you lie or give people a wrong impression of a product or service. Unconscionable conduct is when you take an unfair advantage of consumers.

If you break the fair trading laws you face fines and in some instances goal sentences and of course you stand to ruin your business reputation in the eyes of consumers.         

In essence the legislation sets a bare minimum - a baseline of customer service delivery. Therefore if you are not delivering on the legal bare minimum “customer service threshold” you really are in strife.

2.        What is customer service?

It is remarkable how few people in business actually know what customer service really is. And if you don’t know what it is, you can’t deliver on it.

2.1        Definition of customer service

Despite the apparent simplicity of the concept of customer service, the language surrounding the whole subject matter and push towards customer service has developed an enormous amount of jargon, hype and confusion.

Many terms are vague and do not necessarily contribute to a greater understanding of the basic concept of customer service.

2.2        A simple concept confused by jargon

Over the course of customer service history and in particular in the past decade fads on Customer Service, catch-cries and jargon includes the following:

        

2.3        A practical definition of customer service

The fundamental principle of customer service is “CUSTOMER SATISFACTION”.

The key driver and determinant of customer satisfaction is the quality of help and service provided to the customer. In turn customer satisfaction is all about the outcomes and results achieved for your customer – That you in fact honour all your promises to customers - that you deliver the goods.

The Customer Service Input-Output Model

In its simplest form customer service is about a basic yet profound input/output model:

Service Inputs

Lead to ...

Outcomes and Results

Good quality service

Increased customer satisfaction

which builds ...

Stronger customer loyalty

which contributes to ...

Results for your business

eg improved profitability

There is a proven, verifiable direct relationship between customer service which leads to customer satisfaction which leads to greater business success and results which is directly measurable by profitability.

So you accept customer service is important but what is customer service? What does it really mean?

        

Customer Service is about what a business does, how it directly involves, touches or impacts on customers - at the “coal face” you might say. It is a series of activities or processes via which a business deals with, transacts with and touches its customers in some way.

The moments of truth – are all the moments when you interact with customers. The customer service experience through the entire process from a sales call, an advertisement, an order, delivery, follow up service, complaints and courteous calls which are part of one big customer service process.         

Customer service is very closely related to and depends on the definition of “customer satisfaction.”

Customer satisfaction”

“Customer Satisfaction is - The customer’s impression that the service provider has done something worthwhile, something of value, done in the way the customer wants it done.”         

Outstanding Customer Service”

“Outstanding Customer Service is - Consistently doing something of value for customers in the way customers want it done”. Or put more simply - “Always doing the right things right”.         

It’s all about action, results, and giving value to your customers.

Therefore the emphasis of customer service is on what you actually do for the customer – it’s about action and results which make a difference to the customer.

What you do for your customers needs to be worthwhile or of measurable value which makes the customer happy. And the yardstick is the customer – the customer has the final say on whether they are satisfied with the service or not.

2.4        The Customer Satisfaction Input-Output Model

INPUT

Your action

Elements of good service

OUTPUT

Results for your customers

which involves …

1. Deliver on your promises  

Customer gets the results they were promised and expected

2. Your reliability

Providing consistent service your customer can rely on

3. Quality of your performance

Making sure you do things very well

4. Worthwhile outcome for the customer

Making sure what you do is of value or worthwhile to the customer to achieve the desired outcome

5. Overall service effect

The ability to provide end-to-end service across all your dealings with a customer

It is important to remember that your input is your action/behaviour and the quality of your service which you provide to your customer which will determine your         customer’s outcome and results.

Remember that the ”input” to your relationship with customers is the quality of your service!

        

The secret to O.C.S. lies in making sure everyone feels they are getting your special treatment.

This applies to anyone and everyone you deal with - paying customers, those who don’t spend a lot with you and non paying customers alike.

2.5        The service edge

Since leaving his school, Haileybury College, Lynden has wondered what gives businesses that edge – that real advantage that makes the difference between an average business and an outstanding business.

It’s taken him 25 years in business and three university degrees, (call him a slow learner if you will,) to determine that the edge in business – the real key to business success is twofold:

  1. How well we serve our customers
  2. The quality and integrity of the internal culture that drives that service

“Being on par in terms of price and quality only gets you into the game. Service wins the game.” Tony Alessandra

3.        Customer Satisfaction

The customer is always right

We live in a “customer centred” or “customer centric” market economy. Never before has the customer had so much information, so much power and so many choices. Every SME (Small to Medium Enterprise) must be thinking day and night about how to please customers faster, better and cheaper than the competition.

The customer is king or queen

The most successful businesses today are those which are driven by and totally focused on customer satisfaction. They really think of their customers and clients as kings and queens.

Customer satisfaction comes from people dealing with people

You cannot satisfy people with goods, services or paper alone. People are human beings with emotions and they can only truly be satisfied as the result of positive and meaningful relationships with other people – it is just the way we are.

The vast majority of customer dissatisfaction comes from indifference or poor interactions with employees and people at the coal face of customer service delivery.

It’s all about the way you treat your customers

A recent Harvard University study in the United States found that 68% of dissatisfied customers, who changed suppliers, did so because of the indifference of one or more people at the coal face of the service delivery.

Employees invariably treat customers the way management treats the employees

This is a simple yet profound truism. Therefore it is imperative that you as a business owner or manager treat your employees the way you want your employees to treat your customers. You must walk your talk – treat your employees with respect, listen to them, smile with them, have a laugh with them, be warm towards them and have a meaningful relationship with them. You always know that when you are treated well in a restaurant or on a plane or in a shop - you know for sure that organisation has a “good owner or manager” who treats the staff well.

“One customer, well taken care of, could be more valuable than $10,000 worth of advertising.” Jim Rohn

3.1        The four levels of customer satisfaction

There are four levels of customer satisfaction:

1. Meeting customers’ expectations

Which is the bare minimum for business survival.

2. Exceeding customers’ expectations

By providing additional service features which go beyond what your competitors do and what your customers expect or want.

3. Delighting your customers

On this level you pleasantly surprise your customers. You go completely beyond their expectations.

4. Amazing your customers

On the fourth level, which is only reached by the most successful and respected businesses, is where you truly amaze your customers with what you do, the value you provide, the extra mile you go, the personal relationships you establish and the wonderful way you connect with people. At this level you are so good at regularly and consistently going beyond anything your customers expect.

At the fourth level you are definitely providing Outstanding Customer Service. At this level your customers buy from you again and again and most importantly they tell their friends to buy from you too.

Remember Customer Satisfaction at its lowest level is not worth a great deal, customer loyalty and delighted and amazed customers is priceless. It’s all about making customers love you and your team, keep them coming back and they will tell everyone they know about you and your outstanding service.

It should be noted that if you are currently providing a level of customer service which is below meeting your customers’ expectations – then you are in trouble. You had better steel yourself and totally dedicate yourself and your organisation to this Subject and “The Four Pronged O.C.S. Way”. If you don’t, rest assured you will be out of business very soon – guaranteed!

Exercise 1

Which level are you on today? Be honest with yourself and your team and you will have to ask your customers if you have not already done so.

If you are not at least at level one you had better really pull your socks up and work very hard on this Subject. If you are on level two – well done. Work how you can take the next step to level three. And if you are on level four already – then outstanding! Keep it up.

The key here is to aim as high as you can and learn from this Subject – and do everything you can to achieve O.C.S. via “The 4 Pronged O.C.S. Way.”

3.2        Satisfaction of needs

This is in fact easier said than done and most businesses assume that their product or service will in fact satisfy their customers’ or potential customers’ needs.

There are two fundamental truths about satisfying needs:

1. Every decision to purchase a product or service is an attempt to satisfy a need.

Every person who buys a product or service wants to solve a problem or achieve a goal. Therefore you must put yourself in the shoes of your potential customer and determine what your product or service means to them in terms of their goals or alleviating their problem/s.

2. Before selling anything to anyone you must be clear about your potential customers need.

To know and understand your potential customers’ or customers’ needs you must ask them good questions and listen carefully to the answers. In this way you can focus on the most important or driving need of your customer.

Therefore it is imperative to uncover and determine your customer’s existing needs not to convince them that they have needs that you want to satisfy.

O.C.S. is ultimately about relationships

People don’t buy products and services, they buy the people who are selling those products and services. First you sell yourself as a credible, likeable and trustworthy that delivers on their promises – and you actually sell what you represent.

The customer wants a relationship first”

The customer wants to know – How much do you care?

Success in customer service terms depends very much on your ability to establish and maintain high quality personal relationships with your customers – relationships which are meaningful, reliable and dependable.

Often this is based on our feelings, our intuition, our gut feel and our own good judgment. Customers want to be convinced that you will in fact deliver on the promises you make to them and invariably they do not make a decision to buy from you until they are confident you will honour your promises.

Customers want a friendship”

The undeniable fact in business is that almost all successful business relationships are built on friendships between the parties. Therefore focus on developing and maintaining friendships with your customers – which are relaxed, based on mutual interest, respect and fun.

Remember the more friendships you have with your customers, all things being equal, the more successful you will be and the more money your business will earn.

Exercise 2

Ask yourself honestly, how much do you really care about your customers?

4.        The fundamental law of the customer

        

The customer always acts to satisfy his or her needs by seeking the very best and the most, at the lowest possible price”

It is an absolute fact of business life that customers always attempt to get the things they want, the products and services they need, the fastest, easiest and cheapest way possible. Customers are always right and they have the power to purchase or not purchase from you. To survive and actually thrive in business you must deal with customers who by nature are self centred, impatient and whimsical in that they change their mind and will always “shop around”.

Customers know what they want, who and how they want it and they will go elsewhere and buy from someone else at the “drop of a hat”.         

4.1        The Sam Walton Story – “The Ten Foot Story”

Sam Walton, the founder of the enormous U.S retail chain Wal-Mart, once said of customers: “We all have the same the boss, the customer, and he can fire us any time he wants by deciding to buy somewhere else”

Wal-Mart across its 3,000 stores throughout the U.S has a reputation for great customer service. Prompt, friendly service is and has always been a serious matter at Wal-Mart. Sam Walton changed the landscape of American retailing and arguably the entire Western world’s retailing, by building a culture based on one simple principle - “Making the Customer Number One”.

Sam Walton had exceptional people skills and he asked all his employees to make a pledge: “I want you to promise that whenever you are within ten feet of a customer, you will look him in the eye, greet him and ask if you can help him.”

Sam’s focus is just as relevant and potent today as it was back in the 1960’s when he first asked his employees to take the pledge.

4.2        The customer mindset

“Meaningful and proper business planning always begins with the customer as the central focus”

You should always stay in touch with the thoughts, feelings and needs of your customers. A really important question to ask yourself is, “What is my customer’s reality?”

As with Sales which we stressed in Subject 5, every person is in the business of sales – likewise every person in every business organisation, no matter what their role is – accountant, shop floor assistant, or receptionist – is in the business of customer service, whether they like it or not. Everyone in every organisation has a customer and without that customer or potential customer they have no business. Everyone has a customer. And everyone is in the business of customer satisfaction. Your level of success in business is determined by how well you satisfy your customer.

5.        Why the customer is the most important person in your organisation, and why you should worry about customer service.

You must set clear, precise, quantifiable sales goals, targets and prospects

5.1        The bottom line impact of customer service

“The Customer Service Return On your Investment”

Customer service is very important but it is not just about satisfying the customer. There must be a payoff or an R.O.I. – Return On your Investment of effort - time, money and service input. And the good news is there definitely is a return.

It is an undeniable truth and there is plenty of irrefutable evidence that there are many business benefits achieved by providing customers with high quality service.

Conversely it is an undeniable truth that there are serious negative consequences to your business if you provide poor service or even worse, no service at all.

The R.O.I. benefits of good service are many:

INPUT

OUTPUT

The benefits of good service

Are many, including ...        

1. Increased customer loyalty

2. Attract more customers through positive W.O.M. (Word of Mouth)

3. Reduced costs of running the business

4. Reduced marketing costs

5. Stronger position in the marketplace

6. Able to differentiate service as a competitive advantage

7. Increased staff and job satisfaction

8. Increased profits

1. Increased customer loyalty

Customers will stay with you and be loyal to you and your organisation when they receive customer service of a high quality.

One survey suggested that 95% of customers that experience no problems, will remain loyal and another survey suggested that 90% of customers said they would buy from a company again if they had no problem.

2. Reduced costs of running the business

Reduced running costs can result from the following:

3. Reduced marketing costs

Having loyal customers means less time and money attracting/recruiting new customers. Research has consistently shown that it costs 3-5 times as much to attract/procure new customers compared to making the same sale or an additional sale to a happy existing customer.

Loyal raving fans via their positive W.O.M. also take on part of your marketing functions. Personal referrals are one of the strongest influences. Remember referrals and testimonials are gold to your organisation.

4. Stronger position in the competitive marketplace

Studies have shown that companies which are very good service providers had revenue growth twice the rate of poor service companies.

Another finding was that good service provider’s market share INCREASED by approximately 6% while poor service providers LOST approximately 2% market share per year.

5. Ability to differentiate from competitors in the marketplace on the basis of service

Many companies actively promote their U.S.E as their Customer Service Guarantee which clearly differentiates them from their competitors. It is imperative that your U.S.E. which is distinguished via your Customer Service Guarantee must be deliverable and you must deliver on your service promises

6. Increased staff and job satisfaction leads to higher revenue and profits

People genuinely want to do the best job they possibly can especially those who work in customer service face-to-face. Their level of job satisfaction, attitude motivation and empowerment is directly linked to the level of customer satisfaction.

Employees who know that their customers are happy are invariably happy themselves, proud of what they do, they enjoy what they do and they know that what they do does makes a difference. This results in greater job satisfaction, increased productivity, lower absenteeism and reduced staff turnover.

7. All this leads to increased profits

Loyal customers who stay with you longer spend more time with you, spend more money with you buying additional products and services and the costs to service existing customers are lower than the costs associated with attracting/procuring new customers. Loyal, happy customers become long term clients – who buy from you repeatedly over a long period of time.

Some reports put increased profits as high as 95% and at least 25% increase in profits simply flowing from a 5% increase in customer loyalty and retention. Just think about this for a while – if you just increase your customer retention rate by 5% you can achieve up to 95% increase in profits! (Bain and Company Study 1996)

The benefits are many!

Customers who stay with you for a long time are more profitable:

5.2        Poor service and the power of negative W.O.M.

If the service you provide is poor then you are guaranteed of one thing – your business will fail. However in many respects some of the impacts of poor service are not as readily apparent – at least not in the short term. Often, you as the business owner, operator or manager will be the last person to hear about the customer’s poor service experience with your organisation.

Here are some very interesting facts about poor/bad service and the heavy consequences - The “Price you pay”:

So you see Australians and New Zealanders are unique – rather than complain directly and “officially” to the company which has given them poor customer service they are more likely to talk to their friends, family and colleagues. And on average they will talk to ten friends who in turn talk to ten friends and so on….W.O.M. is “absolutely deadly” when it works against you.

When you do receive customer complaints it is imperative to address them honestly, immediately and thank the customer for the feedback and the opportunity to correct it and make them happy. Of course it is much better to get it right in the first place.

Therefore it is crystal clear that only through completely satisfying customers do you build true customer loyalty.

Exercise 3

What do you currently do when you receive complaints from customers?  Do you have a policy in place for dealing with customer complaints?

5.3        The seven customer service facts you should know

If the above did not get your attention then the following 7 facts should!

  1. The true value of all customers depends on future purchases, NOT past purchases. Think about this for a while – it is all about what your customers are going to purchase from you in the future.
  2. Customers have an increasingly wide choice of suppliers and continue to be better informed and more discerning with their purchases. So make sure you look after your customers and potential customers – they are gold and they are fickle just like the gold market – it fluctuates.
  3. Businesses commonly lose 15 – 20 % of their customers per year, usually without knowing why. Make sure you do your best not to lose a customer and when you occasionally do, make sure you know why and that way you will be able to make sure you do something about it next time.
  4. A dissatisfied customer will normally tell 9 – 10 people about their negative experience. Negative W.O.M. is poison as we have mentioned many times before.
  5. It costs 500 -1,000% more in resources to replace a customer than it does to retain a customer.
  6. The cost of marketing to new customers increases by up to 15% every year.
  7. Happy, satisfied, loyal customers are vital to help you develop a reputation that attracts new business and referrals. Businesses can NOT afford to miss any opportunity to perpetuate and promote positive W.O.M.

Always keep these seven facts in mind when thinking about your customers and potential customers - it will ensure your mindset is always right when serving your customers.

THE CUSTOMER SERVICE RESEARCH FACTS SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES – “AVOID THESE FACTS AT YOUR PERIL”

Just in case the seven facts above did not convince you, here is some further consumer research which certainly will get your attention:

        

  1. 85% of customers who are dissatisfied with the service offered by a retailer will never shop in that store again. And 88% will tell others of their experience.
  2. It costs 8 times as much to get a new customer than it does to take care of and service the customers you currently have.
  3. When customers were asked at a series of Australian shopping centres “How important customer service was to them?”
  1. 67% of males and 77% of females stated that it was very important
  2. 30% of males and 24% of females stated that it was important        

5.4        Customer service in Australia – How are we going?

We all have our stories and we all have our experiences of bad customer service – our horror stories which we have shared with at least ten friends.

Why do Australian companies generally not have high quality customer service?

  1. Lack of a true customer-driven focus
  2. Lack of management involvement and commitment to customer service
  3. Apathy exists among managers that their level of service is “OK.” They are in a dangerous state of denial.
  4. Lack of a process for changing organisational culture
  5. Customers in Australia have historically not been demanding enough.

A general apathy exists amongst Aussie consumers to demand better standards of customer service – but rest assured this is changing and changing rapidly. We have had the “She’ll be alright mate” and “Near enough is good enough” mentality for far too long.

Consumers know they have choices, the power and the voting rights!

And what does the Australian customer think about customer service levels?

The Australian Consumer Service Association (ACSA) has found that each year:

And what do our international visitors think of our service levels?

These are very disturbing, yet real facts about the poor levels of customer service in Australia. It provides a wonderful opportunity to businesses which do in fact provide O.C.S. So let us do everything we possibly can to capitalise on this opportunity!

5.5        The customer service profile

Where are you on the customer service profile?

Typically in Australia customer service can be grouped into three categories:

The 3 Service Profiles Input Output Model

INPUT        

Level of service

... leading to ...

OUTPUT

Customer service profile

1. Excellent service

Completely satisfied customers

Customers who are loyal fans. You can rely on their loyalty.

2. Mediocre Service

Non-committal satisfaction

Customers who are “fence sitters” The relationship is tenuous at best.

2. Poor Service

Customer dissatisfaction

Customers are vocal         critics – they tell ten friends about the bad service. Customers actively look for alternate service provider.

Few businesses in Australia are genuinely able to say they provide excellent service across the board in everything they do with their customers.

Exercise 4

Where are you today in your service delivery? Honestly rate yourself in one of the 3 service profiles. The bigger question is no matter where your business sits – how can you improve?

In Section 7 we will list ten critical customer service activities which you can implement to improve your C.S. and achieve O.C.S. If you follow these ten recommendations in a sustained enthusiastic and disciplined way you will dramatically improve your customer service profile.

The good news is that the ten recommendations are not complex, costly nor are they difficult to implement and manage. There are in fact ten simple activities which are cost effective, practical and most importantly achievable.

6.        The Ten Step Outstanding Customer Service Mastery Program

What is O.C.S.?

Before we go through the Ten Steps it is important to understand and fully appreciate what in fact O.C.S. is.

        

        O.C.S. put simply, is providing outstanding value to your customers.

        

Value is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as – “The worth, desirability, utility or usefulness of a thing”

        

The Oxford Dictionary defines service as –“The act of helping or doing work for another. It is a benefit given to someone”.

        

Therefore it is fundamentally about giving something of outstanding value – a benefit to your customer. And rest assured that O.C.S. is one of the main things that will differentiate your business from the competition.

        

How do you really know when you have provided O.C.S. and that it is truly what your customer wants? We all know what bad customer service is.

6.1        The “PROBE” technique of O.C.S.

O.C.S. is providing value to your customers via the PROBE.

        

        Promises                Deliver on all your promises to your customers

        

        Results                Give your customers measurable results                  

        

        Outcomes                Give your customers measurable outcomes

        

        Benefit                Give your customers measurable benefits

        

        Expectations        Exceed all of your customers’ expectations

        

If you provide your customers with The PROBE then you will certainly achieve O.C.S. You must work the Probe in conjunction with the “Ten Step Program.”

Exercise 5

Are you giving your customers The PROBE? If not what are you going to do about it and when?

6.2        The Ten Step O.C.S. Mastery Program

There are ten steps to achieve O.C.S. and the key is to understand their importance, commit to them and practice them with passion every day of the week.

        

Step 1 - Care for your customers

If your organisation is serious in its intent to achieve O.C.S. then you will recognise and understand that customers perceive value not just in products and services. They perceive value in the way they are treated and the way people care.

        

Customer care must be embedded into the culture and management ethos at every level. Care must be absolutely genuine and sincere because you will be crucified if you are acting and not caring about your customers.

        

Exercise 6

On a scale of 1 – 10 (10 for outstanding) rate yourself on how deeply you care about your customers. Are you absolutely 100% committed to caring about your customers?

        

Step 2 -  Care for your employees

                

Customer satisfaction is directly linked to employees’ satisfaction.

        

Your employees are at the coal face of your customer service delivery – they talk, meet, interact and “serve” your customers every day of the week. If they are cared for they will in turn care for their customers.

To provide real value to your customers you must first provide real value to your employees.         

Exercise 7

On a scale of 1 to 10, (10 for outstanding) rate yourself on how deeply you care about your employees. Are you 100% committed to caring about your employees?

        

Step 3 - Keep close to your customers

Find out what your customers need and empower your staff to be accountable and responsible for your customer service.        

        

Keep in regular contact with them via phone, email and letter. Ask them how they are?

        

Talk to them. Ask them for their feedback and suggestions and how you can improve on what you are doing.

        

Develop a relationship with them which goes beyond the professional. Whenever possible make them your friends.

        

Exercise 8

Ask yourself this question – Do you keep in regular contact with your customers – via phone, email and letter? If not – commit today to do so.

        

Step 4 - Focus outside instead of in

It is imperative to shift the emphasis and focus onto the customer rather than within your organisation.        

This way you will focus on outcomes and results for your customers, which is far more important than what is happening internally with your processes. Customer input is largely responsible for determining the product and service output instead of the supplier/producer determining the output.

This mindset is extremely important and we will discuss it in many of the Subject Solutions – especially Subject 12 - Entrepreneurship.

Exercise 9

This exercise is very important and it is all about your mindset. Ask yourself and your team whether you are focused outward towards your customers and outcomes for them. If you are too focused internally on your own processes and production change your mindset.         

        

Step 5 - What your employees say about your organisation really matters

What your employees say about your organisation does affect the way your customers think about your organisation. They listen to your employees and will be influenced by what they have to say about working for you and what the organisation really stands for.

What are your employees saying about you, your organisation and your service and products?

Obviously you need to create a positive culture which encourages your staff to speak about you and your organisation in a positive way. If you know that one of your employees is actively speaking negatively about you and the organisation you need to immediately address it and fix it.

Exercise 10

Openly discuss with your staff their opinions of your service or bring in someone objective to do it for you. And ask your customers how they feel about your staff and what they are actually saying about the organisation. Summarise the positive and negative aspects of their response.

Step 6 - Make your customers feel good

At every opportunity make your customers feel good about themselves and feeling good about doing business with you and your team.

On one very important yet fundamental level this is what service is all about – making another person feel good about dealing with you. Calling a person by their first name, the genuine smile and a strong handshake still makes a difference and it always will. Treat people the way you like to be treated yourself.

People feel good when they have received:

Exercise 11

Do you really make your customers feel good? Look at the strategies and mindsets you have in place which ensures your customers feel good. Then create a few more - perhaps birthday cards for them and their spouses a thank you card for doing business with you

Do something today, anything that will put a smile on your customers face. Consciously attempt to make someone feel good right now and discover immediately how much everyone benefits.

Step 7 - Go the extra mile for your customers

Adopt the mindset and commitment towards going the extra mile for you customers, at every opportunity – it is merely a matter of choice to “Render more service and better service at every opportunity”.

This is the commitment and the choice to go the extra mile for your customer whenever you have the opportunity and every time the opportunity presents itself. It is the desire to rise above the mindset of “just enough is good enough” because when it comes to O.C.S. just enough is not good enough. If you are in the service industry you have no choice here, you have to go the extra mile to be outrageously successful.

And remember anyone that has a customer or wants a customer is in the customer service industry whether they realise it or not.

The success of any service organisation relies, at the end of the day, on the discretionary efforts of its employees - whether they give their very best efforts all the time and go the extra mile at every opportunity to do so.

We will be discussing Discretionary Effort in more detail in Subject 10 - ”People Potential - The Human Edge.” Creating employees committed to going the extra mile does not just happen by default. It needs to fostered, encouraged, acknowledged and rewarded.

Exercise 12

Do you go the extra mile for your customers? Some things that you can do to begin the process:

Step 8 - Get out to the coal face

At the coal face is where it is really happening for your customers – this is where you actually interact with your customers – on the phone, in person and right across the customer service cycle. The most innovative and effective way to manage and lead is to get out there amongst the customers and listen to them and talk with them – discover their needs, their dreams and their aspirations.

Your Transactional Moment of Truth

The coal face is your Transactional Moment of Truth with your customers. This is what actually happens when you touch your customers and deliver on your service and deliver on your promises. At the shop counter, at the check in counter, on the phone, at the front of the queue and at your restaurant table – this is your customer coal face. At this moment of truth you actually find out what your customers are thinking and feeling.

Often at the coal face is where customers actually feel they don’t matter much. Therefore it is imperative to get out there and find creative ways to let them know that they do matter and that you and your team do in fact care about them and their feelings. Find ways to make them feel important and show them that you value and welcome their opinions and feedback

Exercise 13

Are you with your customers at their point of service contact?

Get involved, go to reception, listen to your people on the phone, go out onto the restaurant floor, meet and greet your customers.

Remember that little things with customer service makes all the difference.

Step 9 - See your organisation as your customers see you

This is easier said than done because it requires you looking into a mirror and seeing yourself and your organisation from the customers viewpoint. Walk a mile in their shoes or wear their hat and sit in it for a while, to really determine what it is like to be your customer.

Another way of looking at this is to really find out what your customers really want from you rather than what you want to give them.

Exercise 14

Spend the time and make the effort to show some empathy and understand your customers’ viewpoints and see what they see. Ask them what they see.

Step 10 - Be a great listener

And make sure you master the art of effective business communication in Subject 9 - Communication Mastery.

To understand your customer, see what they see and really understand how they think and feel about your service levels – you have to listen like you have never listened before.

As we discuss in Subject 9 – the art of effective communication requires the constant and vigorous practice of listening to your customers. Asking for their feedback and suggestions and objective criticisms and really taking it on board and accepting their viewpoint as valid and real. And then being prepared to make the changes if necessary.

Exercise 15

Determine how well you really listen to your customers. The only way to categorically know the answer is to actually ask your customers how well you listen to them. What do they think and feel?

Summary of the Ten Steps

Put all of these ten steps into action every day of every week with every one of your customers, potential customers and your marketplace and you will achieve O.C.S.

It is important to recognise how important each step is and commit to practicing each one on a daily basis and leading by example with your team.

Build the customer service muscle over time – one daily at a time and it will make an enormous difference to your customers and your bottom line.

7.        The Ten Key Service Activities

Most customers go through a fairly typical sequence of activities or processes when dealing with most businesses.

In most businesses there are ten key customer service activities or processes which take place between your business and your customers. These are the general activity elements of the customer service process or service cycle. They represent ten activities that businesses actually do and things people are responsible for in delivering service to their customers.

It is important for businesses to get all the activities right to ensure their customer service cycle is working for their customers every single time there is an interaction or activity with a customer.

The 10 key customer service activities across the entire customer service cycle are:

1. Product and Service Information

Clearly explaining what you offer

Providing information so customers know about your business and services.

2. Counter and Face-to-Face Service

Helping customers meet their needs

Dealing with customers when they come to you for service.

3. Telephone Service

Quick, accurate polite service

Dealing effectively with customers to address their inquiries when they ring.

4. Taking Customers’ Orders

Making it easy to buy

Accurately taking and processing the orders customers place with you.

5. Follow-up Documentation

Relevant and timely follow-up

Providing any necessary follow-up information that the customer requires.

6. Billing and Managing Payments

Making it clear and easy to pay

System of charging the customer for what they have purchased and payment.

7. Visiting the Customer

Arriving on time

Anything that involves you going to the customer’s premises.

8. Making Repairs

Fixed first time, on time

The various things you do when making repairs on behalf of your customer.

9. Handling Complaints

Turning complaints into compliments

Addressing any complaints the customer may have with you.

10. Managing the Service Culture

A customer focused business

Ensuring your business has a service culture focused on the customer.

All of the above Ten Customer Service Activities are important to the success of your service delivery model and processes.

7.1 Focusing on two Key Service Activities

  1. Telephone Service, and
  2. Customer Complaint handling

Telephone Service         

The telephone plays a pivotal role in the customer service between customers and businesses.

The rapid expansion of telecommunications have provided businesses with wide scope to allow their customers to contact them via phone – mobile phones, voice mail, call diverting, 1300 and 1800 numbers and sophisticated call centres.

The use of this technology should improve the service levels. But evidence abounds that this has not occurred. The challenge is that this expansion of telephone service has come at a cost with a loss of personal contact with people. The norm seems to be trouble getting through, delays, put on hold listening to elevator music and messages on hold telling you all about the company’s business, a recorded message and an automated system with many prompts which can be absolutely infuriating.

        

Customers want the same things from telephone service as they want from face-to-face service such as:

Therefore if your business has a lot of telephone service, make sure you deliver on the needs of your customers:

Handling Customer Complaints

Adopt the mindset that complaints are an asset.

Complaints are a normal part of everyday business. Every business gets complaints from customers because it is just about impossible to be perfect all the time and please every single one of your customers 100% of the time.

To ignore a complaint is to risk losing that customer. The key is to handle and deal with the complaint early and generally that prevents it escalating into a formal complaint. It is all about how best to handle the customer, not just focusing on the specific problem or complaint.

Many organisations measure customer “churn” or attrition rates but not why the rate is occurring. Unless you have a commitment to and processes in place to ensure that you know why customers are complaining and why they are leaving you, you are simply driving your business blind – without any navigation instruments.

Knowledge is power and it is imperative to understand what customers want and why they are complaining and leaving you.

Don’t forget what customers want

AT&T in the U.S. conducted an in depth research in the late 80’s and came up with a generic list of what customers want from any service transaction. A relationship first and foremost which included:

The 8 things customers want

  1. Do it right the first time
  2. Accessibility
  3. Responsiveness
  4. Knowledgeable people
  5. Promptness
  6. Kept informed
  7. Follow up
  8. No surprises

Why are complaints an asset and an opportunity?

The complainant is one of THE most important assets a company can have access to because the complainant INFORMS us, if we care to listen, WHERE our business is going wrong and points out where we can improve.

If a customer complains you can be sure it is because you did not do one or more of the above 8 key customers wants. Be guaranteed it is because you did NOT do one or more of the following:

  1. Did NOT do the right thing in the first place.
  2. You were NOT accessible.
  3. You were NOT responsive.
  4. You were NOT knowledgeable about your processes or products.
  5. You were NOT prompt.
  6. You did NOT keep the customer informed.
  7. You did NOT follow up.
  8. You provide unpleasant surprises.

The complaint becomes an asset because if we really listen carefully to our customer’s complaint and analyse exactly which one of the above 8 the customer is not happy with. We then have a very clear idea of what it is we specifically have to do differently to:

  1. FIX - Fix the problem for the customer and
  2. CHANGE – Act to ensure that you “error- proof” the problem permanently to ensure it does not happen again for any other customer. Make whatever changes to ensure it does NOT happen again.

Never ask a customer to put their complaint in writing

It is your responsibility to sort out the service problems in your business. It is not your customer’s responsibility. The customer has already done you a favour by bringing the complaint to your attention, don’t expect them to do more and put it into writing. You will only add salt to the wound and exacerbate the situation.

Also, if you do ask a customer to put a complaint in writing the customer will do one of two things:

  1. They will put it in writing and get very angry in the process, or
  2. They will not put it in writing and will take their anger and frustration out into their warm circle of influence – they will tell all their friends and family members and W.O.M. will “bite you on the backside”.

Verbals are best”

If you honour a customer complaint and handle it well then you achieve two things:

  1. You have control over the complaint and can fix the problem
  2. Your customer is liable to tell others about how well you managed it, build on your loyalty to you and return as a regular customer AND tell others to come to you as well.

Essentially, handling customer complaints involves 3 steps:

  1. Take details of the customer’s problem – know exactly why the customer is happy and where your customer service went wrong.
  2. Actually deal with the customer and handle the problem. Assure the customer you will in fact do everything it takes to fix the problem and make them happy.
  1. Advise the customer that you are taking full responsibility for dealing with the problem.
  2. Adopt a solution focused approach which actively involves the customer.
  3. Ensure the customer is happy with the proposed solution before proceeding.
  4. Keep the customer informed.
  5. Ensure all promised action is fully completed promptly.
  6. Advise the customer of any action that will be taken to prevent the problem arising again.
  1. Follow up with the customer after the problem.
  1. Ideally do the follow up within one week to check that everything has been satisfactorily resolved.

Even when you do make a strong recovery from a customer complaint and do everything you possibly can to fix the problem and make the customer happy you will still lose around 10-30% of those customers after only their first complaint. And rest assured if problems continue to occur then the rate of customer loss increases dramatically. Studies have shown that customers who have experienced 3 or more mistakes - 80% you will lose as customers for good. (U.S Office of Consumer Affairs 1995)

Obviously it is best to get things with your customer service right in the first place. However things can still go wrong. The key is the mindset you have towards your customer’s complaints and the commitment to do everything possible to rectify the problem and make your customer happy. It’s all about turning a negative into a positive. And regarding the complaint as an opportunity rather than a niggling headache. It is dangerous to think that you can turn customers who complain about your service into your biggest loyal customers instantaneously but the mindset and the commitment to do so will make a difference. And your business will build a reputation based upon that mindset and commitment towards rectifying a problem for anyone of your customers.

7.2        How does your customer service rate?

Exercise 16

Ask yourself ten simple questions in regard to each of the ten service activities.

  1. Have you ever had a misunderstanding or confusion with a customer because of some information you gave them?
  2. Does your business ever have inexperienced or ill informed staff dealing with customers at reception or service counters?
  3. Does your customer ringing your business encounter any difficulties? Has any customer ever said they have trouble contacting you or it is too hard to get hold of you? Does your phone ever ring off unanswered? Does your phone ring more than three times before someone answers?
  4. Do any of your customers encounter problems or difficulties with your orders? Are any customers filing in your order forms incorrectly or inaccurately or asking when the order will be ready?
  5. Do you always send the right information and related follow up material to your customers? Have you ever had a customer call back or email you to ask you where is the follow up you promised?
  6. Are all your invoices accurate? Have you ever had a customer question you invoice?
  7. Do you always arrive on time to meet with your customers and prospective customers? Have you ever been late when visiting a customer and not called them to let them know you are running late?
  8. Do you always fix your customers problems on time every time? Have you ever had to accept a return because of poor workmanship or faults?
  9. Do you deal with every single customer complaint immediately or promptly and follow up after the problem? Are any of your customers more frustrated after complaining than before lodging their complaint?
  10. Do you have a truly customer focused customer service culture? Has anyone in your business ever said “I don’t know what the customer wants”?

8.        Results of O.C.S.

The Pay-Off” or the R.O.I. to your business

As we have seen throughout this Subject there are undeniable and quantifiable results which a business receives as a direct result of providing O.C.S. to their customers.

1. Raving Fans

Whose W.O.M. is powerful and effective. You can bank on it that your raving fans will tell at least ten people and be a constant and reliable source of referrals.

2. Loyalty

Loyalty from your customers which you can rely on.

3. Testimonials

Great testimonials which tell the world what you do and how you do it from a personal viewpoint – incredibly powerful and convincing.

4. Referrals

Referrals from happy, satisfied customers are absolute gold.

9.        Case Studies

Some real life O.C.S. stories

Although the Gold Coast Australia is not renowned for its outstanding customer service there are some shining examples which we would like to highlight.

1. B.M.W. Australia

Bruce Lynton Gold Coast provides an absolutely brilliant service to its new car buyers. Matt recently purchased a BMW X5 and was absolutely amazed at the after sales service provided. The Service is free 6 days a week and you are you are entitled to:

As Matt says in terms of after sales service; “does it get any better than that?”

2. Charters Towers Restaurant - Gold Coast

Lynden and his wife Marguerite have dined at Conrad Jupiters signature restaurant Charters Towers for over ten years, because of the outstanding service provided by its managers Socky and Brian and the entire team.

The small things they do on a regular basis include:

10.        The Customer Service Guarantee (C.S.G.)

It is important and very powerful and effective to tell your customers, potential customers and the marketplace what you stand for and what you will actually guarantee them with your customer service.

Your C.S.G. can form the basis of your U.S.E which is your edge in the marketplace – what differentiates you from your competition. Your C.S.G. is a promise to your customers about your customer service – and this is one of THE most important promises in business – you must deliver on it or else you will be crucified.

Examples of Customer Service Guarantees

Sierra Trading Post – Online U.S Retailer

“Satisfaction Guarantee”

“100% Satisfaction – The Best Guarantee in the business”

“At Sierra Trading Post we want you, our customer, to be completely satisfied with your purchase and the service we provide.”

“When you do business with Sierra Trading Post, you’re getting the best guarantee out there. If you are not happy with your purchase for ANY reason, please return it to us for a full refund or exchange. This guarantee never expires! If you feel we have made a mistake in filling your order, we will gladly refund your shipping charges as well”.

Gowings – Sydney menswear retailer since 1868

The Gowings Direct Guarantee

“We guarantee everything we make. If you are not satisfied with one of our products at the time you receive it, or if one of our products does not perform to your satisfaction, return it to us for a replacement, repair or refund. Damage due to wear and tear will be repaired at a reasonable charge.”

Eddie Bauer – U.S Retailer

“Our guarantee”

“Every item we sell will give you complete satisfaction or you may return it for a full refund”

ComSpark Pty Ltd

Our own website is littered with promises.  Consider our PRICE guidelines, Customer Service Charter, CARE policy, and why we are more than just electricians.

Exercise 17

Now that you know what customer service is, the importance of it and how to achieve O.C.S. decide upon and commit to your own Customer Service Guarantee. Now write it down and publish it. What is your C.S.G?

11.        The Outstanding Customer Service Plan

Exercise 18

Now it is time to write your very own O.C.S. Plan.

12.        Summary

You now have a very powerful, effective and sure fire strategy:

        

“The 4 Pronged O.C.S. Way”

1. “The Ten Step O.C.S. Mastery Program” – learn, master and action it.

2. Provide value to your customers via The Probe Test:

Promises - deliver on all your promises to customers

Results - give your customers measurable results

Outcomes - give your customers measurable outcomes

Benefits - give your customers measurable benefits

Expectations - exceed all of your customers’ expectations

3. Your own C.S.G. – Customer Service Guarantee – promote it and live by it.

4. Your own “O.C.S. Plan” – work it!

Without a customer you do not have a business and with loyal clients, who rave about you, your product and your service, you are well on your way to building a great business. Customer service is imperative to the success of any business. It underpins, supports and generates sales.

People will only buy your products and services when they have the confidence in you and your organisation - that you will deliver on your sales and customer service promises and you “deliver the goods”.

O.C.S. converts and turns customers into clients – people who buy from you on a regular basis – repeatedly – again and again. Understanding the needs of your customers and delivering on all of your promises to the customer is imperative to the achievement of Client Fulfilment - turning your customers into raving fans and loyal clients.

“People expect good service but few are willing to give it.” Robert Gately

Ultimately the success of your business will depend upon the connection you create and maintain with a customer – visually, functionally, emotionally and financially. Commit today to O.C.S! Passionately master and implement “The Four Pronged O.C.S. Way”.

Customer Service Training @ ComSpark        Owner: Managing Director        Page  of