Is Your Company Naughty or Nice? Get Customer Service Tips for this Holiday Season – Part One
By Ron Kaufman
Generally, companies try to stay on their best behavior all year long by applying these Customer Service Tips. But during this holiday season—with decked halls, crowded malls, shrinking bank accounts, and frayed nerves—providing great service is even more critical than usual. Much like Santa, customers have their own “naughty or nice list,” and they won’t hesitate to give you the business equivalent of a stocking full of coal (i.e., taking their business somewhere else) if you make your way into the wrong column.
There’s no better time of the year than the holiday season to uplift your customers with highly effective Customer Service Tips. Unfortunately, there’s also no easier time of the year to do or say exactly the wrong thing.
Often at the holidays companies find themselves overbooked and short staffed. Supplies of popular items run out of stock. Departments aren’t prepared for the increased volume of customer inquiries and complaints. Employees are too distracted by holiday events or travel plans or shopping lists to give customers their full attention.
These practices are precisely what land companies on customers’ naughty lists. But usually, these are not isolated incidents. Instead, they are evidence of a bigger problem in the organization’s overall service culture.
Holiday happiness and great service needn’t be incompatible. In fact, one of the true forces driving the holidays is our desire to take care of the people we love. And that’s what’s at the core of uplifting service—taking care of the needs and concerns of other people. When companies build a service culture that keeps this top of mind, they’ll find themselves on the nice list every time.
How can you be sure to land on your customers’ nice lists? What behaviors will banish you to their naughty lists? Read on for a few tips:
To Stay on the Nice List:
Make it seamless. For many of your customers, the holiday season is the busiest time of the year. They will be shopping, ordering, and asking more questions than ever across every possible channel: in person, over the phone, at their computers, on their mobile devices, at work, in their cars, and from home.
When you provide integrated, smooth service across channels, you’re making your customers’ lives a lot easier. From web to email to ATM, to counter to SMS to phone calls, to social platforms and home deliveries, when all information about your customers accumulates and moves seamlessly, then your customers can get what they need from you quickly and get back to doing everything else in their lives.
Customize for your customers. Sure, your customers know they aren’t your only customer, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to be treated that way. Personalized service makes people feel special.
When you offer options, choices, range, and variety and create more value through customization and personalization, your customers will feel like they’re your favorite. Implement processes that allow you to recall your customers’ questions, preferences, and choices in all future interactions. Then customize your offers and suggestions for their next visit or purchase. This increases your value each time a customer comes to you, and helps you become the vendor, store, or supplier they are glad to talk about and comfortable recommending to others.
Say “Yes!” to service recovery. Companies on the nice list know that great service recovery turns “oops” into opportunities. Don’t treat customer complaints like they’re annoying or a waste of time. Instead, be grateful when unhappy customers give you a chance to win back their business. Why? Because for every customer who does complain, there are several others who had the same problem, but didn’t give you a second chance.
Companies that “get” service recovery understand when a customer complains, he is really telling you what he values. If he says you weren’t fast enough, he values speed. If he says he’s tired of not being able to get anyone on the phone, he values human interaction. “Nice” companies quickly seek to identify what complaining customers value. And then they make sure that employees are empowered to make amends and offer an appropriately generous and valuable new action.
Remember that happy (engaged) employees = service with a smile. Especially during the holidays, it can feel like the businesses, stores, and restaurants we frequent have been invaded by employee drones. Many service providers seem exhausted, frazzled, and too overwhelmed to do anything more than provide the minimum service to keep customers moving along.
Companies on the nice list know how important employees—both customer-facing and non-customer-facing—are to providing uplifting service. Your employees should be switched on and energized by their role at your company. When they’re clearly aligned, vigorously supported, and joyfully connected to the brand, to colleagues, and to customers, then job satisfaction fuels customer satisfaction in a virtuous cycle.
Weave yourself into the fabric of the community. Uplifting service works because it makes everyone feel good, from employees to customers to other community members. When your company plays a socially responsible role in the community, then good feelings of service spread farther, and employees want to provide great service because it is so gratifying.
When your company contributes and participates in the wider community, uplifting the commercial, civil, cultural, environmental, and economic eco-systems, people notice. They’ll want to give you business because they know you give right back to their community. Being your customer makes them feel like they’re contributing, too. Many companies do this with local sports team sponsorships, school internship opportunities, highway and park adoption schemes, and other neighborhood development programs.
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