October 23, 2014

Customer-Obsessed Service

Social media has pushed customer service to the forefront for many organizations. Responses are often faster in social media than they are in traditional service channels, since social media makes everything extremely visible. And when things go wrong, customers often flock to social media to air their grievances; a perfect example is the article I recently co-authored for Forbes Online, with Mark Fidelman, about the Southwest Airlines 3 Million Fan Flash Sale fiasco. In my book, I talk about Killer Customer Service. Another way to think about this is as Customer Obsessed Service. But what does it take to make this happen at an organization?

Expectations

Before we can discuss Customer Obsessed Service, we need to make sure we understand customer expectations. Customers have changed, and customer expectations have greatly changed! Social media has put everything into a new light as empowered customers are taking up their mobile phones and tweeting their distress for all the world to see. Here is a typical customer service tweet:

Does anyone know if COMPANY X has a Twitter? I want to make sure everyone knows how POOR their customer service is!! I’m sooooo annoyed.

If nothing else, brands need to be using social media to listen to the customer conversation for concerns or issues. Sometimes customers may be whining, and sometimes customers may have a real problem that needs to be addressed. Customer Obsessed Service means a company is attentive to what their customers are saying via social media (and via other mechanisms as well, including surveys, comments to sales, feedback to customer service reps, etc.) and then takes action to make sure the customer’s issues are resolved to their satisfaction.

Action: Do you understand the expectations of your customers for your products, and for your customer service? If not, spend some time listening to customer conversations, talking to customers for clarification, and determining the top pain points.

Employees

Most employees in an organization don’t understand what it takes to provide great customer service, much less Customer Obsessed Service. Yet employees are a key factor in whether customer service sucks or rocks. This is true whether the employee actually works in customer service or whether they are not customer facing at all!

Customer Obsessed Service starts with hiring the right people – those who are naturally people-focused, have a passionate spirit, are empathetic, and like to think creatively to solve problems. Southwest Airlines, who is generally great at customer service, calls this having “…a Warrior Spirit, a Servant’s Heart, and a Fun-LUVing Attitude.” I couldn’t agree more!

These employees also have to be empowered to do what is right for the customer. This doesn’t mean giving every customer a discount, or something for free when they complain. It DOES mean listening to the customer’s needs and doing what they can to make it right without always having to get a supervisor’s approval. Guidelines need to be clear, and when they are employees are freed up to get the help they need to turn around a bad situation with a customer.

Action: Start with an assessment in your organization. What do your employees think about your customer service? What would they do to make it better?

Customers as Assets

Customer Obsessed Service is also achieved based on how we measure it.

Incredibly, many companies today are still measuring their customer service based on how many calls they can process in an hour. Get the customer off the phone/chat as soon as possible in order to respond to more customers. The end result is usually customers that have to call again in order to finish getting their questions answered. These types of metrics are used when organizations look at the customer service department as something to be measured on a P&L statement. Customer service is viewed as a cost center.

Organizations espousing Customer Obsessed Service view customers as a valuable asset that belongs on a balance sheet. Each customer interaction is a golden opportunity to improve the relationship, and each customer touch could result in a customer who is so happy they become an evangelist for the brand.  Don Peppers and Martha Rogers talked about this in their book Return on Customer Companies that treat their customers as an asset create a very different approach to customer interaction; each customer contact is reviewed to see how it will add to or detract from the value of each customer.

Action: Review your customer service metrics to see how you view your customers.

What About You?

What else do companies need to get right operationally in order to create Customer Obsessed Service? Who is doing it well? Leave a comment with your thoughts, and let’s start a discussion on Customer Obsessed Service!

Comments

  1. JP Carlos says:

    Customers are defnitely company assets. The problem is that many companies fail to see how important they are. They are reduced to statistics.

  2. Shaleen Shah says:

    Do you agree that customer service is the new marketing? There’s this fallacy that social media is about marketing when in fact, it’s just a communication tool for you to listen and engage your customers/prospects better. Perhaps, for the same reason that we see many who feel that social media isn’t really working for them. Just as customers are assets, your employees are as well. To motivate your team to be people-oriented is not as easy as it seems because going the extra mile can mean going beyond the call script and customizing the customer’s experience without going beyond the policy. I love the word ‘customer obsessed’ in your post – much like customer centricity.

  3. iyogi says:

    Good post about Customer Obsessed Service. The role of social media is definitely very important for many organizations because it has helped to make the customer services more efficient and effective.

  4. Sybil says:

    Retaining existing customers prevent competitors from gaining market share; the end result therefore is repeat purchase, enhanced reputation and recommendation.

  5. Andy Rolnick says:

    I agree with the author and think they are right on the money with their points. I think the CS Rep’s should have a little mirror on their desks and should look in to it each time they answer the phone, they should ask themselves how they would like to be treated if they were on the other side of that phone call. I think the Call Centers should give their CS Rep’s a little more power to handle the customer’s needs without having to transfer them around the Call Center. I also believe the CS Rep needs to follow through with what they tell the customer i.e. if they tell the customer they will call back tomorrow, they should, not four days or a week later.

  6. “employees are a key factor in whether customer service sucks or rocks. ”

    Agreed! Your customer service or call center agents deal with your audience day in and day out. They can make or break the customer experience and public perception of your brand hangs in the balance. Would you trust your employees with your brand management?

  7. Here in Brazil … social media is in the initial process and we have a very large amount of users … but it is still very incipient adoption of this great tool for organizations.

  8. Very true that the importance of social media and customer service is growing every day. It is also generally the fact that companies pay particular attention to that channel and the service is generally good. But for those companies which do not invest enough or are not prepared to go the extra mile it is probably better to avoid the social media networks rather than do a half-hearted job on them

  9. After service is essential to every customer regardless what services you offer. Being valued is more important than the services or product sold.

  10. First of all you should listen the customer and try to understand problem. It does mean listening to the customer’s needs and doing what they can to make it right without always having to get a supervisor’s approval…..

  11. Michael Sato says:

    Finding the right people to do customer service is one of the keys for outstanding customer service. They are the face of the company and they should be able to represent the company to customers

  12. Maryke says:

    I do believe that the balance between good Customer Service and exceptional Customer Service is a very delicate one. Consumers are not always right, and Suppliers are not always wrong – and vice versa. That’s why I make use of the Customer Service website http://hellopeter.com/ to write my reports about my suppliers, and get feedback from them. I like to keep all my channels open.

  13. Maryke says:

    Interesting article. Consumers often feel very helpless – I’ve also been in that position before. But thanks to http://hellopeter.com/, a website which allows me to write reports about my suppliers AND a copy gets sent to them, I now have a voice. What I love about this website in particular is the fact that Suppliers have the opportunity to respond to me and more often than not my queries get resolved and everyone wins.

  14. Using social media has really changed the game for both internal and external customer service. Service providers can no-longer cover-up the bad experiences, as soon as it happens, it’s out there.

    We see now entire communities are being formed about the subject http://doittrini.com/community/

  15. “Each customer interaction is a golden opportunity to improve the relationship, and each customer touch could result in a customer who is so happy they become an evangelist for the brand.”

    So true! I believe that companies should really put more effort into improving their relationships with existing clients. rather than trying to win over new ones.

  16. @waston says:

    Grate article about Customer Services ,this article is very helpful in respect company growth and brand prospective if the company employs follow guideline of the article.

  17. Keith says:

    Great article, the speed and reach of social media has made customer service one of the most important parts of any business these days.

  18. Adam Methew says:

    Use live chat software and support to your website its best for your business and if somebody have a eCommerce website live chat support team tell them all about your products

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  21. Ian Zafra says:

    Customers are the life of every businesses. Thus, it is the job of every company to train and equip their people with excellent people skills. Remember literally, customers buy from company’s people. Companies should be customer-oriented at all times and social media is just as powerful as those traditional platforms to build long-term relationship with the customers. Today, customers would like to be more involved and have a lot more to say about your service and product that’s why businesses should be able to utilize social media for online reputation and increase customer satisfaction and engagement.

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Trackbacks

  1. [...] Customer-Obsessed Service – Some companies view their customers as an asset. You could call that obsessed or just really customer-centric. [...]

  2. [...] just read a great article about the importance of customer [...]

  3. [...] spirit, are empathetic, and like to think creatively to solve problems. – Customers Rock!, Customer-Obsessed Service by Becky [...]

  4. [...] conversations, talking to customers for clarification, and determining the top pain points. Read on … Share [...]

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