Category Archives: Customer service

How To Align Your Customer Service With Your Company’s Values

Many companies have value statements and company goals, but they often miss the mark when they try to determine how to align a specific team to these statements. When you think about how to align your customer service team with your company’s goals, what comes to mind? Do you only think about the staff on the phones or taking those emails and trying to make the customer happy or do you visualize all of the other parts of the business? Do you think about sales, marketing, and product development side-by-side working with customer service, for example, learning from the frontline team and working together to retain customers? If you do, you’re probably on the right track, but sadly you might be the exception!

Traditionally, the perspective was that each of these groups worked in a silo, each having different objectives and methods of achieving them. However, with new tools and technologies in place, it’s possible for many different parts of the business to have information about a prospect/client and what their circumstances are. The new paradigm is that all parts of the company work together as a whole to create a great customer experience. 

This doesn’t happen by accident. It takes strong leadership and good planning to get everyone on the same page and moving in the same direction. But thorough execution pays off. 

Companies who have successfully aligned department goals have seen up to 36% higher customer retention rates and 38% higher sales win rates

Promote Integration Within Your Company 

When the different departments within your company don’t communicate, each department might have a narrow-minded idea of its function within the company. For instance, if your sales team just worries about meeting its targets by any means necessary, they might promise customers product features that are only in development – or not even planned. Aside from the disappointment, this causes to the customers, this has a significant impact on the support organization also.  Customer’s do not want to call, they are most interested in a product that works and delivers the features they were expecting and have paid for. When there is a discrepancy between expectation and reality, you tend to negatively impact customer loyalty and any short-term gains in sales, are not worth the reward.

A similar problem is when a product is released to the field without involving support at any stage of the process. If a customer has a new product/service or feature that the support team is unfamiliar with, their experience will be less than optimal. While support is often able to find the solution, this experience, is less than professional and will only frustrate your customers.

Clear communication is vital when solving the problem of how to align your customer service with the other divisions in your company. 

Have a Clear Idea of Who Your Customers Are 

A great way to unite all your departments is to promote the idea that they all have the main goal of creating a great customer experience. In order to do that, you have to know exactly who your ideal customers are. 

Customer profiles can help everyone get a clear idea of your target demographic and see them as real people, not just abstractions. 

  • Align your customer service through cross-team training sessions – When everyone in your company has some understanding all the different processes in the organization, they’ll be able to address problems from a new perspective. For instance, if your sales team sits in on a customer service call and sees for themselves the consequences of creating customer expectations that can never be met, they’ll be able to see how they need to re-align their actions. Most of all, shared experiences increase understanding among all your teams. Your customers can only benefit. 

  • Similarly, having developers and other senior technical staff, work on cases will only benefit the customers. Often features are created and designed without a clear understanding of the end user and how they will utilize the solution, if the developers are forced to solve these common user problems, they’ll actually work harder to build a product that meets real-world situations. Everyone benefits from an improved product, and customers love to see their that their voices have been heard. This creates brand loyalty and improves your reputation.

  • When thinking of how to align your customer service with your greater goals, maybe you should really be thinking of how to align your greater goals with your customer service. Your customer service team knows your customers and is plugged into your customers like no one else. In some ways, they have the best knowledge of customer needs and desires, which is a valuable resource to guide the rest of the company. However, there can be a problem with too much information. How can your customer service team identify what is important and needs to be passed on to the product team? An important part of how to align your customer service is to have a clear mission and product goals that are communicated to everyone in the company. If your customer service team has access to your product roadmaps, specs, and design mockups, they’ll be able to tell what customer feedback the product team needs to hear, and what is not relevant to the product in question. 

    Keep Your Brand Consistent 

    Your customers don’t care about your internal organization schematics. They expect a consistent experience whether they’re dealing with sales, marketing, customer service, or any other section of the company. They also expect you to remember them across channels. If they gave information to a sales rep, your social-media guru should be able to access it if the customer sends a Facebook message. 

    There are few things customers hate more than having to repeat themselves, and a good CRM and good inter-departmental communication means they won’t have to. 

    Organize everything in one easily accessible place This could be an extensive software system or a Trello board – the important thing is that everyone has access and can see how the company as a whole is doing. Omnichannel CRM tools like Freshdesk are excellent in this respect as they are simple and easy to use with everyone on the same page.

     Accessible measurements for such things as 

    • customer satisfaction, 
    • team performance for all divisions, 
    • productivity,
    • the number and subject of support requests, 
    • and team member suggestions; 

    let everyone keep in mind the real numbers, making it easier to track trends and implement improvements. 

      Everyone can see the real numbers across the board, so action can be taken based on real data, not emotionally-based motives. For instance, if a few customers are really upset over a new feature, it might seem that it’s not been received well when the reality is that most customers love it. 

      Give Your Outsourced Teams In-House Training 

      It’s very common for a company to outsource at least some of its functions, especially customer service responsibilities. This is fine as long as you make the effort to maintain the quality of your customer experience. Make sure everyone follows the same standards and meets the same KPIs. 

      Show that you value everyone’s hard work and set up rewards for outstanding performers whether they’re outsourced or work in your main office. Aligning your company departments with a shared vision allows you all to work together, which increases engagement and improves your bottom line.


      Customer Service

      Customer Service – the simple explanation from Wikipedia (here) is that it is “ is the provision of service to customers before, during and after a purchase.”
      Now regardless of the type of Call (Contact) Centre you run you are always providing Customer Service. You can call the center a NOC (Network Operations Centre) a Technical Service Desk or a Help Desk but regardless of its name, its purpose is the same. The people that make up that team are there to provide a service to your customer and they are there to do it in the most efficient and useful way possible.

      The 4 Types

      Depending on the stage of the transaction that you customer is, with your organization, they will be dealing with one or more different types of customer service teams.  At a high level, they fall into the distribution below:
      1. Support: Including dealing with account issues (billing information, new account setup, order taking etc…).  This team ties closely together with the technical team and often provides a first level support function if it is in their remit.
      2. Technical Support: More detailed troubleshooting is carried out by this team.  Often referred to as “after Sales” Support they ensure that existing customers have a useful and worthwhile service and deal with any problems or issues that they may have.
      3. Sales & Marketing:  Inbound and Outbound sales teams, web chats and email responses.  In addition to this, offsite events, telemarketing, surveys, and other events are handled by this group.
      4. Quality Control: Review of customer interactions and problem analysis.  In addition to this, this team would also ensure that the company was compliant with standards in dealing with customers and would perform random audits.

      Measure, Do, Act

      Now, depending on the type of call center you are running, your first and probably most important starting challenge is determining the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that you wish to have in place in your organization.
      Once you know what you want to measure and why you can then set about ensuring that you meet, exceed and surpass those requirements in short, medium and long terms.  To determine the most important KPI though, you need to know what services are important to your customers so that you can ensure that your teams are in the right place with the right knowledge to provide those answers to your customers to minimize any service disruptions or service impacts. 

      Once you’ve determined KPIs the next step is determining how you go about achieving and surpassing those requirements.  To do this, you need to ensure that you have the right caliber of candidate with the right skill set available and the right tools in place to expedite a speedy resolution for your customers.

      • In its simplest form, a helpdesk is a group of people assigned to assist customers in solving their problems. There are many different types of helpdesks and they are called by a variety of different names…
      • Should you Outsource your Helpdesk?

        To outsource or not to outsource … while not exactly a question that plagued William Shakespeare (hence the lack of any really good quality plays about it!), is a very valid question for the small and…

      Practice, Practice, Practice

      Just like athletes, your staff needs to have the appropriate skills and knowledge to ensure that they are able to resolve your client’s issues as quickly as possible.  The best way to do this is via training.  This includes initial training – ie. when they first join your company – and ongoing training to ensure that their skills do not get rusty.  It is possible to throw them into the deep end and see if they swim, but this is hardly an efficient use of your resources and should be minimized if at all possible.
      Appropriate teams and methodologies need to be in place to ensure that information flow and tools are available to your frontline staff so that customers get the appropriate answer as quickly as possible – things like FAQs and Knowledgebases are great, but they need to be kept up to date. You must also ensure that you have a robust and effective system to track customer interactions.

      Understanding NPS, How It Works & Whether it’s a Measurement that Makes Sense

      Improving customer experience is one sure-fire way of expanding your business and establishing a credible brand name for yourself. After all, who doesn’t want their brand to be known for a great customer experience?! Great customer experience is essentially the key to a successful business. So why not use tools to help you improve your customer experience? There’s an abundance of tools available both online and offline that are designed to help you achieve the ideal you’ve envisioned for your clients. However, few can boast the power and usefulness that the NPS can provide you with.

      So, What Is This “NPS”?

      NPS stands for Net Promoter Score and it was developed by Fred Reichheld. It helps to create a clear and understandable customer satisfaction score which can then be used as a comparison between various businesses over even a single business across an extended period of time. This is done through surveys (we’ll get to that in a bit), and sometimes questionnaires, which are directly given to consumers so that accurate data can be collected. Of course, you’re probably wondering where this happens.

      Well, think about any random time you ever got a pop up on your screen while you were visiting a website. Often times you will get questions like “would you recommend this product (or service) to a family or friend?”. Considering how little time it takes, you will probably answer and then continue your search. Well, that is the kind of surveys used to determine the NPS. They’re short, to-the-point and strategically placed by companies so that you answer them as honestly as you can as you’re doing your search.


      The NPS question given to the customer will generally include an 11 point scale from 0 to 10. Think of it as a rating with 0 meaning that you are not likely to recommend it at all to 10 meaning that you are extremely likely to.

      According to the NPS guidelines, consumers can be broken down into three categories:

      Category #1: Promoters

      These are the people who will be giving your recommendation question a 9 or a 10. We call them promoters because they are very likely to spread the word about your product

      These are the people who loved your customer service and will probably be advertising your brand to others through the word of mouth; never underestimate the power of word of mouth! It is a great, genuine and free advertisement for your business and as such makes promoters very valuable.

      Category #2: Passives

      Next up are the “passives”. These are the people who will give a score between 7 and 8. These are the most vulnerable of your clientele. Why? 

      Because, unlike the promoters, they aren’t spreading the word about how great your brand is. They’re just there because. 

      They don’t love your brand; they don’t hate it either, but they can be easily diverted elsewhere if the competition is offering the right price tag.

      Category #3: Detractors

      Detractors are the unhappy customers who’re giving you’re a score of 0 to 6. These are the people who can cause some serious damage to your brand. Like the promoters, they’re going to be spreading the word…of how bad your brand is. 

      You need to make sure that you do not have a lot of detractors because they can seriously hinder the growth of your business.

      In order to calculate your Net Promoter Score, you subtract the percentage of detractors from the promoters. The NPS is not expressed in terms of percentage. It needs to be an absolute number between -100 and +100. Generally, a positive NPS is considered good for businesses. In fact, many businesses aim to make sure that their NPS does not fall to zero or negative as zero shows that your business is stagnant while a negative NPS will show that your business’s customer experience is bad and that there are more detractors than promoters. This will, in turn, lead to a series of losses for you, so it is vital to make sure that your NPS is always positive.

      By using this data, you can begin to plan a business strategy that improves your NPS.

      Why Is It Important?

      The biggest advantage of NPS is that it is able to provide a simple, yet holistic, understanding of your customer experience. This coupled with the fact that your customers are the ones directly answering questions without any filter, provides you with accurate data. 

      The NPS is able to give you the real picture of how your clients perceive your business. Similarly, by comparing the NPS of other businesses, you can determine how well you’re doing. In some sectors, the NPS score rarely comes out to be more than +50 and even though this may not look good, if held up against the rest of the market, you will find that the NPS of +50 might actually be the score of the highest performing company in that industry. 

      It’s relative yet it does not generalize or marginalize any competitor. You get a clear picture of what’s happening and that is great for business. There are many other benefits to the NPS which you can find here.

      Does It Make Sense?

      While it might initially take some time to wrap your head around it, once you get it you’ll realize the NPS is actually really easy to use and understand. While other tools can be very complicated, the NPS is simple, and its effectiveness lies in its simplicity. 

      The results are pretty clear: the promoters are your loyal customers, the passives may be deterred away and the detractors are leaving. As we’ve already said before, you can use this to your advantage and establish an order that helps to grow your business. It accurately shows how your client feels.

      Cancellation – the final step in a long and drawn out process

      Dealing with customers that want to cancel is hard. I know – I’m personally in the midst of trying to cancel my Television/Internet service & trying to keep my frustration in check is difficult to say the least! – however, this blog is not about the customer experience, but rather how to ensure that the customer does not feel the way they do!

      But … that being said, my situation does make for a great case study so lets explore exactly what happened & where we are now.

      I was a happy customer with my local Television/Internet provider (Cogeco) and paying about $100/mo for their services which I though reasonable.  However this price was based on a 1 yr promotion, so when that year was up and the price jumped to $189, I thought it would be reasonable to see if they would match the prices being offered by their competitors.  In addition, the promotion for new customers now was $75 or something like that, for similar services – unfortunately they were not willing to meet anywhere close to that, and the best they could offer was a $20/mo loyalty discount, bringing my price down to $169.

      Well, as you can imagine, I started to look around.  While I was happy with the service, the price was too high in comparison to other businesses.

      Fast forward a couple of months and I’d moved to another company and called Cogeco to cancel my service.  I was informed that because I’d taken advantage of the $20 promotion, I’d have to pay a penalty of $70 to cancel.  Doing some quick math in my head, I figured that it would still be worth it as I’d make that back in one month with the new company.  However, the “cancellation specialist” informed me that if I waited till the end of the month, I’d be able to skip the cancellation fee which seemed like a smart move for me.

      Today takes us to my 2nd call to a different “cancellation specialist” where I’m now informed that I’m still going to be stuck with that cancellation fee and I’ve actually ended up paying for an additional 3 weeks of service with a company that I could not even use as their equipment was literally unplugged from the wall!

      At this point, I’m willing to bite the bullet with the cancellation fee just to move on, but I don’t want to also have to pay for those extra weeks of service as that would have only made sense if I wasn’t paying the cancellation fee!  So I’ve asked for an escalation to the manager (which they cannot do, but promise a 24hr call back … stay tuned).

      So long story short, lets reiterate some of the pain points and issues:

      1. Special Offers – special offers are a great tool to entice new business to an organization and the discounts to get customers on board are absolutely essential.  However, when an offer ends and the price doubles, you can expect customers to leave.  You might get some people that just ignore the increase, but not too many I suspect.  If and when customers do call in to discuss the offer, reasonable discounts should be made available to entice them to stay, perhaps even enhancements to the service – Netflix for example, or increased bandwidth or something along those lines.
      2. Hold Times – I didn’t really discuss it in my scenario above, but my hold time was close to 30 – 45 minutes + the time spent discussing the issue with the individual.  This did not help my mood at all, and I expect that the reason for the extreme hold time was very much due to #1 above!
      3. Copious Notes & Details + Follow Through – I unfortunately spent too much time once I spoke to the representative repeating myself with regards to the fact that my issue was not the $70 cancellation fee, but rather the discrepancy in information between the previous representative and this one and that I was now on the hook for an additional service charge for a service that I had not been using.
      4. Unwillingness to help an existing customer – despite my previous point about special offers, there is actually a cost to the business in terms of churn.  By not making me a competitive offer, not only have they lost my business now (short term), they’ve also lost my potential business in terms of upsell opportunities in the longer term also.  Not to mention this post and it’s potential damage overall!  It would have been far simpler and better for them if they were up front right from the start and said there was nothing they could do – sure they would have lost my revenue for a couple of months, but they might have potentially had me return in 6-12 months to take advantage of any “new” customer promotions that they might have then been offering.  

      So that’s the scenario, what could they have done differently to not get me to the point where I’m airing my dirty laundry in public?

      1. Allow their staff to negotiate in good faith in an effort to truly retain customers.  A 10% discount on a bill is not really any incentive when the competition is offering 50%.  Something reasonable like 25%-30% would probably ensure that customers were retained, while still helping to maintain the bottom line.
      2. If $’s are not available in terms of incentives, offer additional services that the client might not even need or use as a benefit.  It’s a bit of a cheat, but increasing bandwidth is a great selling point if you know that it is not going to be utilized as then the customer believes they are getting something “better” but there is no real impact to the business.
      3. Staff your queues appropriately with staff that are trained to not only defuse irate customers, but also able to look for solutions and options.  Customer service is not just about keeping someone quiet – it’s about actually helping them.
      4. Remember that your existing customers matter also … churn hurts a business and having to reacquire customers is not only difficult and time consuming, it’s expensive also!  It wastes not only the companies resources, but in this case the consumer also with the reprogramming of devices + the retraining of family members on how to use the devices!
      5. Ensure that your staff provide accurate and reliable information (I’ll let you know what the supervisor says if I actually get a call back) so that the message the first time is the same message the second and third!  
      6. Staff your queues appropriately to ensure that hold times are minimized and offer high tech options to customers to get them off queues.  Tools and technologies like chat, knowledge and phone system call backs are all ways of helping to reduce wait times.
      That’s my 2c for today – stay tuned to see how this one ends up and lets see if they can turn me around.

      Nine Commandments

      Customer service is an integral part of our job and should not be seen as an extension of it. A company’s most vital asset is its customers.

      Without them, we would not and could not exist in business. 

      When you satisfy our customers, they not only help us grow by continuing to do business with you but recommend you to friends and associates (remember, that while it seems only complaining customers tell others, this isn’t actually the case!).

      The Key Commandments of Customer Service 

      Know who is boss. 

      You are in business to service customer needs, and you can only do that if you know what it is your customers want.
      When you truly listen to your customers, they let you know what they want and how you can provide good service. Never forget that the customer pays our salary and makes your job possible. 

      Be a good listener. 

      Take the time to identify customer needs by asking questions and concentrating on what the customer is really saying. Listen to their words, tone of voice, body language, and most importantly, how they feel.

      Beware of making assumptions – thinking you intuitively know what the customer wants. It’s key here to not only listen to the question itself but also what the questions “means”.  A key example is when a customer asks

      What time is the 3pm parade?

      At first glance, this seems like a stupid question, but when you realize that the customer actually means:

      What time does the 3pm parade ARRIVE HERE (where I’m standing)

      it makes a lot more sense! (nb. this example is taken from Lessons from the Mouse – a training course that teaches Disney customer service excellence).

      Do you know what three things are most important to your customer?

      Identify and anticipate needs. 

      Customers don’t buy products or services.

      They buy good feelings and solutions to problems. 

      Most customer needs are emotional rather than logical. The more you know your customers, the better you become at anticipating their needs.

      Communicate regularly so that you are aware of problems or upcoming needs. Make customers feel important and appreciated. Treat them as individuals. Always use their name and find ways to compliment them, but be sincere. People value sincerity. It creates good feeling and trust. Think about ways to generate good feelings about doing business with you. Customers are very sensitive and know whether or not you really care about them. Thank them every time you get a chance.

      Help customers understand your systems & terms. 

      Stay away from jargon and industry-specific “speak”.  While these terms are completely understandable to you with your years of experience – to an outsider they don’t make any sense at all!  Remember, you’re the expert in your field, but your customer is the expert in theirs and quite often the service you provide to them is not their core business!

      Your organization may have the world’s best systems for getting things done, but if customers don’t understand them, they can get confused, impatient and angry. Take time to explain how your systems work and how they simplify transactions. Be careful that your systems don’t reduce the human element of your organization.

      Appreciate the power of “Yes”. 

      Always look for ways to help your customers. When they have a request (as long as it is reasonable) tell them that you can do it. Figure out how afterward. Look for ways to make doing business with you easy. Always do what you say you are going to do.

      Know how to apologize. 

      When something goes wrong, apologize. It’s easy and customers like it. The customer may not always be right, but the customer must always win EVEN WHEN THEY ARE WRONG! Deal with problems immediately and let customers know what you have done.  When a customer makes a mistake, don’t make them feel foolish, but rather treat them with dignity.  The key thing to remember here is the Golden Rule:

      Treat Others, the way you Want to be Treated

      Make it simple for customers to complain. 

      Value their complaints. As much as we dislike it, it gives us an opportunity to improve. Even if customers are having a bad day, go out of your way to make them feel comfortable. Give more than expected. Since the future of all companies lies in keeping customers happy, think of ways to elevate yourself above the competition.

      Consider the following:

      • What can you give customers that they cannot get elsewhere? 
      • What can you do to follow-up and thank people even when they don’t buy? 
      • What can you give customers that is totally unexpected? 

      Get regular feedback. 

      Encourage and welcome suggestions about how you could improve. There are several ways in which you can find out what customers think and feel about your services – I talk about this in a bit more detail here. Listen carefully to what they say. Check back regularly to see how things are going. Provide a method that invites constructive criticism, comments and suggestions.  Whatever issues are identified need to be addressed and not ignored!

      Treat employees well. 

      Employees are your internal customers and need a regular dose of appreciation. Thank them and find ways to let them know how important they are. Treat your employees with respect and chances are they will have a higher regard for customers. Appreciation stems from the top. Treating customers and employees well is equally important.


      A very important point to remember at all times is that you need to have a more aggressive Internal SLA vs. the one that you are offering to your customers. 
      I know it sounds self evident doesn’t it, but there are no end of organizations that I’ve dealt with where customers are offered a 4hr SLA on a 24/7 basis and the engineers that can actually fix the problem are either unavailable till the next business day or NOT even on call!!! 
       Let me state this once again and very clearly so that there is NO CONFUSION … If you are offering your customers an SLA of ‘X Hours’ and your Engineering (or Development or Project Management or … etc…) team is only offering you an SLA of ‘X + Y Hours’ … YOU WILL LOSE MONEY and YOU WILL LOSE CUSTOMERS!!! 
       It is imperative that your internal SLA be better than the one you are offering to your customers and you need to ensure that your Sales team and Senior Management are both on board with this. 
      Remember, also, that this must go all the way up the chain … your Engineering team has agreed to an internal SLA of ‘X – Y Hours’ (woohoo!! That will solve 80% of your problems) but the Development team is only offering them an SLA of ‘Z’ (assume ‘Z’ is a multiple of ‘X + Y’) … for those 20% of customers and problems that cannot be solved by your Tier 2 (Engineering team in this example) group … you are still going to be in trouble. 
      The question, now becomes how much are you and your company willing to invest in protecting yourself from that 20%? Just like everything else there are things you can and cannot do, and you need to decide what your investment will be to give you the best “bang for your buck”.


      In a similar fashion to interviewing and hiring people – the hardest and most expensive exercise is getting the right employee – getting people back into the door is exactly the same.  You want that repeat custom as that is what will save you money in your marketing and advertising.  One of the key components to this in addition to the quality of the product itself is the customer service that you provide to the customer in their purchasing and ordering decisions.  You can offer promotions and slash prices to bring in as many new customers as you want, but unless you can get some of those customers to come back, your business won’t be profitable for long. Good customer service is all about bringing customers back. And about sending them away happy – happy enough to pass positive feedback about your business along to others, who may then try the product or service you offer for themselves and in their turn become repeat customers. 

      Good customer service should be thought of as relationship building and networking.  It’s easy to think of a good salesperson as being the driver of a business, but in reality, anyone can sell something – once – its the way in which something is sold and the service you provide after its sold that will help you build that relationship.

      “You will be judged by what you do, not what you say.” 

      If you truly want to have good customer service, all you have to do is ensure that your business consistently does these things: 

      1. Answer your phone. If you don’t speak to your customers, you won’t know what problems they are having and you won’t be able to help them fix them.  Hire the right people that have the right knowledge and make sure you have enough of them as keeping your customer on hold is NOT good customer service.
      2. Keep your commitments.  If you tell someone you will find out the answer or will call them back, make sure you find out the answer and you call them back! Reliability is one of the keys to any good relationship, and good customer service is no exception. Think before you give any promise – because nothing annoys customers more than a broken one. 
      3. Listen. I’ve spoken about this before in previous posts (here) but one of the most frustrating things – especially for customers not happy with you – is forcing them to repeat themselves.  Irate customers especially can become infuriated when they find themselves transferred from person to person constantly having to explain the same issue over and over.  It is imperative to use active listening skills and show your customer that you are paying attention by making the appropriate responses at the right times.
      4. Complaints – no one likes complaints.  After all, most people are already trying to do their best and don’t like being told that it isn’t meeting the objectives they set out to address.  However, customer complaints are an opportunity to hear not only about what you might have done wrong now but rather an opportunity to learn what you might do right in the future!   Many of us have developed a reflex shrug, saying, “You can’t please all the people all the time”. Maybe not, but if you give the complaint your attention, you may be able to please this one person this one time – and position your business to reap the benefits of good customer service. 
      5. Help out – sometimes it really is the little things that make a difference.  Providing directions or parts at a nominal charge might not earn you revenue now, but it could help make that customer someone that will come back in the future when they know that you have the knowledge and skills for their problem.
      6. TrainingWhile having the phone answered on the first ring is a laudable objective if the person on the end of the line has no knowledge of your product or service it doesn’t really accomplish your objective.  You need to train your team in your products and services as well as the value of good customer service. Most importantly, give every member of your staff enough information and power to make those small customer-pleasing decisions, so he never has to say, “I don’t know, but so-and-so will be back at…” 
      7. Give them the pickle – sorry I know that’s a bit of strange turn of speech, but in some customer service training I once took its something that was taught and it stuck with me.  Giving them the pickle means going that extra mile… for example if someone asks where something in the store is – don’t just point them to the aisle … take them there and show them the item they are looking for + other alternatives that might be better! 
      8. Give them more than they are asking for – if you want them to come back, give them a reason to come back.  It can be a small coupon, it can be something that will help with whatever they’ve just purchased.  It doesn’t have to be expensive or large, but it should be useful.

      If you apply these eight simple rules consistently, your business will become known for its good customer service. And the best part? The irony of good customer service is that over time it will bring in more new customers than promotions and price slashing ever did!

      Defining a Service

      Now I started this post talking all about good Customer Service, however, something that isn’t often discussed is how you define a service (product) in the first place.  Its all well and good to have good customer service, but if you’re selling something that the market isn’t interested in, you won’t have any customers TO service!  If you’re a reader of this blog, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of ITIL and its methodologies … fortunately, ITIL can help here too and by a happy coincidence, it also has an 8 step plan!

          1. Define The Market & Identify Customers – who is your target market & demographic (i.e. who would be interested in your product or service and who do you want to sell to)? By identifying the market it will simplify the decision about the products or services of interest and will help you identify the customers that would be interested in your product. Markets can be defined by industry, geography, demographics or a host of other factors.
          2. Understand the Customer – knowing what your customer wants is essential to providing him with a solution to his demands.  For Type I and II organizations providing service to internal clients, this means understanding what the business is trying to accomplish, what the overall business goals of that business are and how these outcomes can be achieved.  Type III (external) service providers need to understand why they are purchasing that service and what products or services are key in achieving the objectives.  Understanding the customer involves understanding what they want to do, what their constraints are, how will they know that it has been successful etc…
          3. Quantify The Outcomes – I’ve spoken at length of the importance of measurement.  This is absolutely essential if you are providing a service to someone or purchasing a service from someone as the only way you will know whether a service meets desired outcomes is by knowing in advance what your targets are and by measuring, how close you are to reaching those targets and objectives. Defining outcomes is an important part of defining services, but customers often take it for granted that everyone understands their particular outcomes because they work on them as a matter of routine. It is therefore important that the service provider works with the customer to quantify each outcome, and document it as part of the service description that will be entered into the service pipeline.  As mentioned earlier in this post, complaints (not achieving outcomes) are not only a way for the customer to blow off steam, but are also a way for the provider of that service to improve in clearly defined ways so that they are better able to provide that service to the complaining customer and also to other customers!  Therefore it is important to review the achievement of outcomes regularly, both to ensure that the service provider is not missing an opportunity, and also to ensure that current outcomes are being delivered.
          4. Classify the Service – this could be somewhat confusing in ITIL terms as they talk about service archetypes and service utility etc… To put it into somewhat simpler English, think of this as defining a subset of resources that will meet a specific customer demand.  By combining a specific resource with a specific demand, you’ve built a specific service which you can then market and sell.  In this way, not only will you know what the service is but you will know who your customer is and also what internal resources you will need to devote to them.  This type of mapping is extremely useful as it will enable you to service not only your current customers but also through some simple analysis, future markets, and customers also!
          5. Understand the Market – OK you should by this point, have a good idea of your customer as well as what they want and how you are going to give it to them.  You’ve basically already completed this step, but by taking it just that little bit further you can define the market space in general vs. just the one specific customer.  Each customer has a number of requirements, and each service provider has a number of competencies. These intersections between the service provider’s competencies and the customer’s requirements are called market spaces.  More formally, market spaces are the opportunities that a service provider could exploit to meet the business needs of customers. 
          6. Define Services Based On Outcomes – Perhaps somewhat self-fulfilling, but a service should be defined upon what you can provide and what the customer wants.  Having the customer want a rocketship and you providing a go-cart will not be successful and to be honest, offering a rocketship when they only want to pay for a go-cart will probably not work either!  Services need to be cost-effective solutions to problems and need to address the needs of both sides.  See my previous post where I talk about Value and Utility and Warranty as that will really help you understand this concept.
          7. Build a Service model – another place where ITIL perhaps over complicates things (IMHO) in their description, a service model can be used as a template or blueprint for multiple services’.
          8. Define Service Packages and Units – Services may be as simple as allowing a user to complete a single transaction, but most services are complex. They consist of a range of deliverables and functionality. If each individual aspect of these complex services were defined independently, the service provider would soon find it impossible to track and record all services.  When a single service is delivered to a customer it is viewed by the service provider as a service. When two or more services are bundled and sold or delivered together they are viewed by the service provider as a service package.  Service Packages can be defined as core, enabling or enhancing – see my post for further details on this.

          OK lots of information on this one, so apologies if it’s a bit too wordy but it seemed to be the best option in terms of knowledge transfer.  As always, feel free to ask questions in the comments.