In my Customer Service Excellence training, I start with a module on how customers rate service. We look at interesting statistics, such as that for every customer complaint, there are 26 others who have remained silent… and that it takes 12 positive service experiences to make up for one negative one!
We also consider the types of factors customers use in evaluating service – the reliability of your service and products; their confidence in your company’s ability to handle problems; your professionalism, empathy and responsiveness. The reality is that all of us have pretty high standards. If we think in terms of a report card, getting a “C” means you met expectations. To move to a “B” means you need to exceed expectations and an “A” means you need to be delighting the recipient of your product or services. So if I call your company and you do what I expect – no more, no less – you’re average.
Let me share a story I told a recent class that shows how you can move up and down the scale of the report card in a single call. Five years ago, I called the phone company to cancel my father’s land line after he passed away. When I advised the representative I needed to cancel a phone number, he didn’t ask why (failure #1) but instead immediately began sharing some different pricing options so they could keep the business. When I explained why the phone was being cancelled, he apologized for my loss and for having tried to sell services that weren’t needed (recouped some lost ground). Regrettably he had to transfer me and he wasn’t able to do a warm transfer for which he apologized (nice he apologized; still annoying to have to go through the request again).
When I talked to the next rep, I learned from what happened and this time I said I needed to cancel a phone line and why. The rep immediately expressed her sympathy for my loss (nice touch). But it’s after this moment that the call became memorable. She pulled up the phone number and there was moment of silence and then she said, “Oh, wow. This number has been in service a long time. Was this your childhood phone number?” When I responded yes, she said, “Well, this must have been a difficult call to make. I’m going to take care of this quickly for you.”
This empathetic customer service service rep took me from being a bit annoyed to being startled by someone’s ability to comprehend the personal dimension of what it meant to handle a seemingly simple task. And she was right: it was sad to cancel out a life-long number that I had memorized as a little girl and dialed for decades afterwards.
Was canceling out this phone number a difficult task for the phone company? No. Would a person expect something memorable to happen when contacting a company to handle this? No. Did something memorable happen? Yes. One person’s ability to look at the length of time that the number was in service and apply what that might mean to me as the person calling took something mundane and made it extraordinary.
If your company could benefit from customer service training that helps your service representatives take an interaction from satisfactory to service that exceeds expectations, please email me and we’ll discuss your needs.
Ann Potts is President of Executive Performance Fuel, LLC, a premier resource for personal branding, training and leadership development. Ann works with individuals and companies who are growth-oriented and committed to ongoing development.