The 5 W’s of Great!! Service – Why

The WHY of great customer service. Why do it? Why is it important?

From a purely financial reason, it helps retain and bring in new business. As you or your company gain a reputation as a reputable, solid, top notch organization, new business will come your way. Your reputation spreads by word of mouth, Twitter updates, social media postings, emails, etc.

Word of mouth advertising is free, difficult to track, and by far the most effective means of advertising there is. The word will get out, in various means, and in today’s constantly in touch world, the word travels fast. So, what words do you want following you and your company?

Great service is important because, in my opinion, it’s half the reason, or more, I buy any particular product. In the long run, if I know I’m going to get great service from a company or store, I’ll frequent that store more often. This weekend, I had to fix my fence. Not such a big job, but I needed screws. Two places I could go for screws, I chose the one that’s got a big orange box in the logo. The reason being, on a previous trip I was looking into what tools and materials I would need to do some repairs to the ceiling in my garage.

One of the employees there noticed I was looking at drywall saws, and asked if I needed help. I explained my goal, and he not only made recommendations on the manufacturer he’d use himself, but also went on to make suggestions on insulation to use, little tips to insure I did the job right the first time, an estimation on how many boards of drywall, boxes of screws, and time to complete the job.

Basically I got a rough bid on a contracting job, covering the parts and man hours in labor. Because I was looking at a hand saw. Good service would have been to point out a particular saw he preferred. He went the extra step and beyond, in my book. That’s not the first time I’ve had that experience with that store. Other employees going well above the mark in making sure I had what I needed.

I might have paid a little more for those screws I needed to fix the fence. But I’m confident that when I go back to that store, and I know I will, I’ll walk out of there with more knowledge and confidence I can take on and complete the home repairs tasks I’ve set myself.

They’ve gained my trust as a customer. Great service did that. I see that parking lot over half full nearly all the time. That store has gained the trust of several hundred people, so they are busy often. Lots of customers in and out spending cash. Ultimately, that’s their goal, and they are succeeding admirably.

And see, word of mouth advertising? Just spent several paragraphs on how good they are at giving great service. How much would that sort of advertising cost, and they got it for free!

Why give great service? Why is it important? Your customers trust you, they keep coming and back, and they bring friends! Those friends come back, and they bring in more people.

That’s why great service is so vitally important. Run a search for bad customer service, you’ll find list after list after list. You’ll see the same names cropping up. You may not find as many lists for great service, and that is a failing, I think.

Great service is now expected, we only notice the bad. We need to take equal notice of the great, and get that word out there.

There’s a challenge for you, in the next week, make one post to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, some method about one instance of great customer service. Give credit where credit is due!


The 5 W’s of Great!!! Service – What

So today, What…great customer service, of course

From my previous post, the basic definition from assistance and other resources that a company provides to the people who buy or use its products or services. 

Rather a meager explanation isn’t it?

The question becomes then, what makes great customer service.

We can all identify what doesn’t. Not getting the help you need, feeling angry, let down, that you’re no better off than before asking for assistance.

Conversely then, good customer service would be when you leave satisfied, confident, your mind at ease.

Great customer service also depends on the situation. Think about it this way:

You are out to eat, just you and your significant other. Now, do you want a waiter who’s checking on you every 3 minutes, chatty, overly familiar? Or would you prefer a waiter who’s attentive, but not intrusive, and lets you focus on each other for the evening?

Now, let’s say you’re out with a group, after winning a softball game. Which waiter do you want then?

The waiter who hangs back is not going to give as good service, or perceived service, as the chatty one who’s checking up often, etc.

What defines great service varies on the situation, and the customer. You’ll learn to read people, their body language, not just what they say but how they say it. These clues will help you to provide each customer great service.

The 5 W’s of Great!!! Service – Who

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.

The 5 W’s of Great!! Service

The 5 W’s. Concepts that have been discussed to the ends of time and back again. So, why am I bringing them up again, for the umpteenth time? Because, a good solid idea is a good solid idea. It just needs tweaking to drag it kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

Who – EVERYONE! Even if your role is not an external customer, a client, facing position, everyone you talk to about business is a customer. Everyone, from the front line call center reps to the head office has customers. Providing excellent service to customers takes effort, it takes a conscious decision that ‘Yes, today I will give good service.’ Even if other don’t give you good service, that’s no excuse not to perform to the best of your abilities.

What – Service. From assistance and other resources that a company provides to the people who buy or use its products or services. That’s partially correct, as it covers external clients. But, a co-worker who asks you to help research an issue, or how do you perform task xxxx? That’s your customer, you are performing a service for them, helping or training.

Why – because providing outstanding service helps your company grow, both in the bottom line and a good reputation, within your industry and beyond. A good reputation with customers and potential employees is an asset that provides dividends both monetarily and a broad talent pool to pick the best of the best employees to bring on board.

When – Now!!! It’s never too late to start utilizing the tools of great customer service. Start with an easy one, say, keeping a notepad handy to write down items to follow up on. Review it during the day to check off all items have been completed. Put a sticky note on your monitor to answer the phone with smile. I’ve been one of those people who monitor phone calls in call centers, and there is absolutely a measurable difference in vocal quality and attitude when you answer the phone with a smile.

Where – At your desk, in the breakroom, in the parking lot. You may not need to be ‘on’ all the time, but you should be able to slip into that mindset quickly and easily. Eventually, it’ll become second nature. You sit down at your desk, start up the computer, and you are already flexing your CS ‘tools’, skimming a list of to do’s for the day, follow up items, etc.

And, don’t forget the solitary H…

How – However you need to. A deep breath before you start reading that first email, or put yourself in the ready state for phone calls. A good stretch, fresh cup of coffee, or tea. Long drink from an icy cold Coke, or Dr. Pepper, what have you. Keep a notepad handy, a MP3 player with some good music, or an audiobook. The How’s are as varied as the customer’s you encounter. The basic CS tools are really going to be the same, but the How different people get those tools ready is as varied as the customers there are out there in the world.

In further posts I’ll break out the different Ws and the H to bring out my view of each.

Honesty – The 99 and 44/100 percent best policy

It’s the 21st century! We’re a tech savvy group, using Twitter, Facebook, blogs, emails, to keep in contact with customers and clients. But one day, and it will happen, one of those tools we use won’t work. Or two tools, or three, and so on. It’s going to happen and then it’ll happen again. What do you tell your customers? The truth?

It’s my experience that honesty is almost always the best policy.

There are going to be times when you’re at work, but aren’t able to work. The situation will dictate how honest to be with your customer. It really breaks down into two things, situations beyond your control and situations you can control.

So, back to my first example: tools aren’t working. This is an instant where it’s okay to politely tell your customer there are system issues. They know it’ll happen, it’s happened to them, they’ll empathize. If it’s an internal customer, odds are they are having the same issues.

That does not give anyone an excuse to drop the ball. A notepad and a pen is all that’s needed to keep a list of issues to look up when things are working. Tell the customer you’ve written down whatever the issue is, read it back, and then, when tools are working, clear that list. Follow up on each item written down. Then follow up with each customer, give them an update or resolution.

So, situations you can control. The most important thing you bring to work everyday: your attitude. Personal issues are just that, personal. The person on the other end of that phone or email is not going to empathize that you went out on a bender the night before and are feeling it still at 1 PM. You and your significant other are having a fight, your kid is acting up in school, yes it’s happened to everyone. Doesn’t mean you should let it affect how you handle business. Your customers didn’t call or email to hear about the drama of the day.

Personal issues should be left in the car when you get to work. It’s WORK, so yes, it takes more effort some days than others to work with a smile and give great service. That’s part of being a professional.

That professionalism needs to carry you throughout the work day, and shouldn’t stop once you leave your desk, call center floor, front of the house, front desk, where ever it is you interact with customers.  Just because the person you just got off the phone with acted as if they should get preferential treatment doesn’t mean next break you should belittle that customer to co-workers. And, just because another co-worker engages in that kind of behavior doesn’t mean everyone else gets too. There are ways to handle that sort of stressor, and we’ll get into those later.

So, is honesty the best policy? A majority of the time, yes.Your customers are not dumb people, give them some respect and treat them you want to be treated. Do that, and you’ll give the very best customer service!

Customer Service Tip

Good customer service… It something that I see slipping, slowly but surely, as we get more connected via email, Twitter, Facebook, texting. As it becomes easier and faster to communicate, the standards for professional behavior have to be in the forefront.

Anyone you communicate with is a customer, whether its internal or external. Your buddy in the next cube, if you ask about anything work related, that’s your customer. The client you call to explain an email, ask a question, try to close an order, that’s your customer. Your boss when they come by asking how’s that report coming along? That’s your customer.

It’s always important to remember, whoever you communicate with, via email, phone, text, tweet; if it’s work related, that is YOUR CUSTOMER! Make your communication the way you would expect if someone is communicating with you.

This is easy enough to remember when you’re dealing with an actual customer, a Client. Even if you have a good, relaxed, relationship with that Client, that’s a CLIENT! so most communications are written with that in mind.

It becomes very important to remember that people you work with are also your customers. Just because an email you send isn’t going to be seen by an external customer doesn’t mean you should lower your standards or expectations. Don’t write an email to someone as if you were their boss when you aren’t. Don’t be too casual even if it’s a friend. Keep language professional, use the right spelling and grammar. At some point, any email you’ve sent out can be pulled up and reviewed. Is that email you’re about to send something you’d want the CEO to look at?

If that person on the other end of your communication is someone you think is an idiot, a moron, how do they keep their job here? None of that matters. That person is your customer, so address them that way.

All you can do is keep in mind that each person you communicate with is your customer. Treat them the way you want to be treated as a customer, and you’ll rarely make a misstep in your communications.