Three things you can do to improve customer service

As I work with companies to help them improve their customer service, some things stand out. These are things a lot of organizations don’t do consistently. Yet if they did they’d find the quality of their customer service would improve and their customer loyalty would increase.

1. Know what your customers want.

The first thing is to make sure you really know what your customers want. I know this sounds too basic to even talk about. But I’m continually amazed at how many organizations make assumptions about what their customers want without asking them.

An example of this is when Magic Johnson opened a theater in partnership with T.G.I. Friday’s. As they stocked up their food inventory they ordered the usual number of hot dogs. This theater was in the city but the manager was used to suburban theaters. Customers in the city were different than suburban customers. As Magic explained, they didn’t go to “dinner and a movie, they had dinner in the movie”. So they bought more hot dogs than customers in suburban theaters did. The manager thought he had enough hot dogs for one month. They all sold in one night.

The theater manager thought he knew what his customers wanted. He made an assumption. He was wrong.

2. Get everyone involved.

Too often, management does not get enough people involved in finding solutions and addressing opportunities. They think they have (or are supposed to have) all the answers. Or they give lip service to employees but they never really involve them in any process of improvement.

Shari Ballard, a top executive with Best Buy talks about this. She calls it “making the math work”. Her example is Best Buy itself. They have 4,000 people at their corporate headquarters. They could rely on just these people to find solutions and opportunities. But they don’t. Because they also have 140,000 other people throughout their company. And these people are closer to their customers. By getting these people involved they increase their success ratio. They know they’ll have more answers, more ideas, more opportunities and more solutions.

3. Help your customers accomplish what they want.

Like #1 above, this seems too simple to even mention. But as customers, we see companies breaking this rule every day. This happens when we focus on selling rather than helping. It happens when we make suggestions before knowing what our customers want. It happens when we push products or services on customers because of our quotas or commissions.

Any time employees are focused on selling products or services because management tells them to, they are NOT focused on helping their customers. You help your customers by learning what they want to accomplish and then fitting your offering to their situation.

Anything else is self-serving. While there is nothing inherently wrong with being self-serving, don’t expect it to create loyal customers. It won’t. If your customers know you will always focus on your needs then they will treat you accordingly. You will not be a high priority for them because they are not a high priority for you.

But if they know you will always do right by them, they will treat you like someone they can trust. And they’ll come back more often.

Ask yourself how well you do these three things now. Is there room for improvement? If so, what might your first step be?

The article was written by Kevin Stirtz