So, those 5 W’s we’ve all heard about, Who, What, When, Where, and Why. Throw in the H for How for good measure. It’s the five things that have to be in place to make a good story, according to Journalism’s school of thought. What do they have to do with great customer service? That’s what I’ll be covering in the next few posts.
First off, the WHO. And if you think Tommy or Baba O’Riley, you’ve given away your age! But, I’m digressing here.
All right, WHO should be concerned with providing great service to your customers? That’s easy, YOU should. You shouldn’t limit your thinking to categorizing customers as only external clientele. Speaking from experience, I know it becomes easy to make that demarcation. Customers here, Co-workers there. I treat the Customers well, use my best voice, use correct grammar. But to Co-workers, nah, I can be more casual, use cliches and slang that I don’t use with Customers.
Notice, I did not say ‘informal’. For people in sales positions, or sales support, even tech support, you’ll be in contact with the same people, and you’ll get a feel for how they like to be addressed by their communication with you. It’s a good idea with your first communications with a new customer to lean towards the formal side of things, and based on their responses, adjust accordingly.
However, don’t let yourself become lazy. Slang terms shouldn’t enter into business communication. Verbal shorthand is not proper in a professional setting, especially when the person on the other end doesn’t understand it. Similarly, if you don’t understand a term, don’t use it. You’ll most likely use it the wrong way, and give a bad impression.
The next part of WHO has already been answered, WHO are your customers? Anyone you talk to about business matters. Let’s say you are in Sales, a customer contacts you to ask about the status of their order. That’s easy. Now, the Purchasing Agent who sent that order to your vendor to get fulfilled, that’s also your customer, you’re contacting them to get a status to pass along to the client. Now, let’s extend this example out some. The vendor is having issues fulfilling the order, so the estimated delivery date is pushed out.
Breaking this into the points of view of the two employees:
Sales – you’re going to have to give your client some information they won’t like. They were expecting the order to be shipped a week earlier than the current ETA. You’ll get frustrated, knowing your next phone call is not going to be pleasant. Is the appropriate response to vent some of those frustrations on the Purchasing Agent, simply ordering them to Fix It!! or stating that this is not satisfactory a few times? No, not at all. The more appropriate response is ‘Okay, the client will not like that. What can WE do to try and move that up? Can you get with the vendor to request they speed it up? I have contact XX with that vendor, I”ll get with my contact and see if I can do anything from this end.’
It’s simple, but effective. The Sales rep and Purchaser are, after all, on the same team. The ultimate goal is to give the client the best service. Rather that immediately go into an adversarial tone, acknowledge the situation is not the best, and move towards a team based, collaborative effort to rectify that situation. By doing so, in this example, the Sales rep can go to his client with the current ETA, and knowing it will not be satisfactory, already has multiple steps being taken to resolve it.
Purchasing Agent – You know the ETA you get from the vendor is not going to go over well. But, you also know this vendor is having manufacturing issues that are affecting multiple orders. Knowing this, is the most appropriate response to just give the current ETA? Again, no. You’ve got further information that directly impacts that ETA, so provide that information.
Now, if the Sales Rep take the adversarial approach, is that any reason to back off giving great service? I know the gut reaction is ‘absolutely! he’s being a jerk about something I can’t do anything about!’. I’ve been there, yes, it can be incredibly annoying. And, unfortunately, I’ve taken that same approach in response. I can tell you, in that sort of situation, EVERYONE loses. Now the tone is set for further communication. There’s no team, it’s them vs us, and in the process, the client gets left out totally.
Back to the example; even if the Sales rep takes the me vs you tone, that doesn’t excuse shoddy service. So the Sales rep says ‘Fix it.’ The response should be that the vendor’s been contacted with a request to speed it up, the vendor’s relationship manager with the company has been contacted as well to see if there’s anything further to be done. Like dominoes going down, you’re already a few steps ahead, being proactive.
What that does in instill in the Sales Rep ‘Here’s the person to go to. They get things done.’ You’ve now built a level of trust that will make it easier in the long run to form that team, collaborative, mind set that pays off down the road. You’ve built up your reputation, and it may not necessarily be GREAT CUSTOMER SERVICE in those exact terms, but it is the idea that you’re a solid person to rely on, who’ll get things done, go that extra step. In turn, the client gets not only the ETA, which they won’t like, but also steps 1, 2, 3, and so on to bring that date in to what they do want, without them even asking. Now the company has the reputation of being a solid company, reliable, gets things done, a company that goes that extra step. That is the kind of reputation companies want.
When identifying the WHO, WHO gets your best customer service, and WHO are your customers, the answers should be the same. From the time you cross that threshold in the morning, coming into work, EVERYONE gets your best customer service, and EVERYONE is your customer.