“Companies that differentiate themselves through service will create positive service experiences with authentic, personalized, and emotional connections.”— Jeff Toister
In business, keeping customers returning to you is a challenging task as there are lots of other firms that provide the same services as you are.
To get more customers and keep existing ones, it can only be possible if you take care of them by ensuring good customer service at place.
To have a clear understanding of customer personas and customer service, we had a conversation with the world’s top customer service professional, Mr. Jeff Toister.
Jeff has shared his opinion on what exactly good customer service is and how businesses can ensure it. He has written three books on customer service named as “The Service Culture Handbook,” “Getting Service Right,” and “Customer Service Tip of the Week.” Out of these three books, The Service Culture Handbook has been rated one of the best CX books.
Also, he is a keynote speaker and customer service trainer who is helping different organizations to improve their business strategies. Read the full article and collect valuable information to learn more about Jeff & his journey in the customer service field.
1. Elaborate from where did you start in the customer service field, and how’s your journey been so far?
Nearly every job I’ve had involved customer service. In high school, I worked in a retail clothing store and learned a lot about how to interact with customers and help them succeed. In college, I had the opportunity to design a customer service training program while working for a non-profit and found I really enjoyed that as well. After college, I merged my love of customer service and training to focus my career on customer service training.
That was many years ago. Today, my business helps companies build service cultures, where employees are absolutely obsessed with customer service.
2. In your opinion, what really is customer service?
My opinion is this should not be an opinion!
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, customer service is “The assistance and advice provided by a company to those people who buy or use its products or services.”
There are other terms such as “customer experience” and “customer success” that are sometimes used to mean the same thing, but those terms really have different definitions.
A more open question is what is good or even great customer service?
This one is tricky, because individual customers ultimately decide whether service is good. Customers’ perception of service quality comes down to how well the experience met their expectations. Good service meets expectations, poor service falls short of expectations, and outstanding service exceeds expectations.
The big challenge is customers have different expectations, so what might please one customer might not please another.
3. What do you think why most of the businesses are lacking in delivering good customer service?
The biggest reason companies struggle with customer service is they do not have clarity on what outstanding customer service looks like. Leaders assume that great service is obvious, but employees are often confused about what they are trying to achieve.
Call quality is a common source of confusion in contact centers. A supervisor might review just four of an agent’s calls per month against a checklist of required behaviors, but the agent is reminded every day to work through phone calls faster. The agent feels pressure to choose between a fast call or a quality call.
Meanwhile, the mandatory behaviors on the quality monitoring form don’t necessarily align with a great experience. A customer might call and say, “I just need an answer to this one question,” and the agent has to decide between answering the question directly or frustrating the customer by first going through a checklist of required behaviors.
These conflicts can be fixed through what’s called a customer service vision statement. It’s a shared definition of outstanding customer service that gets everyone on the same page. Agents can have a clear purpose when everything, including quality and productivity standards, are aligned with achieving the vision.
4. Have you ever faced any difficulty while serving customers or clients?
Anyone who says “No” to this question has never worked in customer service!
Customer service is often difficult. Sometimes, you work with a customer who really needs your help, but you lack the authority, resources, or procedures to give them the assistance they need.
At other times, you or a colleague has made a mistake and the customer is justifiably angry. Great customer service requires you to swallow your pride and help the customer feel better again.
On still other occasions, a customer might be unreasonable and even blame you for a problem they caused. Those are the hardest customers to serve, because it’s human nature to argue with or try to get away from someone who is being unfair to you. I’ve learned a lot of lessons over the years about serving unreasonable customers and helping them feel better, but it’s never easy.
5. As technologies are evolving with time, is it necessary to use advanced business solutions to serve customers better?
Technology can help, but only if it’s used correctly.
When I started working in contact centers more than 20 years ago, the phone was the only way to get help if you had an urgent need. Now there are multiple channels available for a customer to turn to, such as email, chat, text, social media, and even self-service.
That technology has the potential to make things a lot easier for customers. For example, you used to have to call technical support if you forgot the password to an online account. Now you can often reset the password yourself in a few seconds using self-service technology.
At the same time, all that technology can make things confusing, especially if it doesn’t work correctly. If a customer tries to reset their password, and it doesn’t work, they are now upset about the password and the multiple attempts to reset it by the time they call.
6. Tell us the best customer service experience you ever received or any scenario where you find yourself as a most well-treated customer?
For me, the best customer service is always personal.
Years ago, I was traveling to Portland, Oregon for a consulting project. The associates at the hotel where I stayed, which was then the Westin Portland, were amazing. The doormen would welcome me by name and say, “Welcome home” as I arrived. The front desk associates remembered me as well, and we’d chat for a moment as they checked me in. I’d inevitably run into the general manager or one of the hotel’s senior leaders while I was there, and they would chat for a bit to make me feel welcome and ensure my stay was a good one.
My favorite restaurant where I live in San Diego, Antica Trattoria, is the same way. Whenever my wife and I dine there, servers come over and shake hands or give hugs, even servers from other sections. We wave at the cooks in the open kitchen, and spend a moment talking with the owner. It feels like spending time with friends, rather than just a transaction.
That’s hard to do in some businesses, especially in contact centers where the nature of the interactions is very transactional. But we can get close by taking a moment to treat each customer as an individual and develop a little rapport.
7. Please brief the importance of CX metrics to improve business performance.
Customer service and customer experience leaders need to create a link between business performance and the metrics they track.
For example, customer survey results are meaningless by themselves. It’s just a number. But those results can become incredibly valuable if you can tie survey scores to customer retention and use the survey data to identify exactly what keeps customers loyal or drives them away.
An analysis like that will get your CEO to pay attention!
8. What advice do you want to convey to businesses to maintain a good customer service level?
Providing great customer service isn’t easy. If it was, more companies would consistently do it.
In The Service Culture Handbook, I identified three things that customer-focused companies do to consistently deliver outstanding customer service.
First, outstanding service is clearly defined through a customer service vision statement.
Second, all employees are engaged with the vision and are committed to helping achieve it.
Third, the business operations are all aligned with the vision so it’s easy for employees to do the right thing for customers if they’re doing their jobs correctly.
9. Share some tips and tricks from your famous book “Customer Service Tip of the Week”?
The book started as a weekly reminder, where I shared one customer service tip via email, once per week. Anyone can still subscribe for free.
The idea was to remind people about the fundamentals. We can all slip into bad habits if we don’t practice, so each reminder focuses on one particular skill such as active listening, using appropriate body language, or empathizing with an upset customer. The reminders help keep our skills sharp.
The Customer Service Tip of the Week book is a compilation of more than 52 of my favorite tips, and it also includes guides for leaders to share the tips with their employees.
10. Is there any missing element, that you feel businesses are not delivering?
The biggest challenge for any business is keeping its promises. There’s often a disconnect between marketing, operations, and customer service that leads to service failures.
For instance, I just ordered a new blazer from an online clothing store. My initial order was mysteriously canceled a day after I placed it. The company sent me an email informing me the order was canceled, but offered no additional explanation. I had to contact customer service to discover there was some sort of glitch on their end, and then I had to place a new order on the website before I finally got the blazer shipped to me.
The company’s website promised the blazer would fit because I have previously ordered a blazer in the same size. But the blazer that arrived was noticeably smaller than the one I already owned, so I was disappointed with the purchase and had to take the time to return it.
The company’s brand promise is a painless shopping experience for clothes that fit well and look great, but I received none of that with my latest order. Instead of becoming a loyal customer who feels great about a new blazer, I’m suddenly questioning whether I should order from them again.
11. Are you taking a shot on any new book? If yes, can you brief us a little about it?
Yes, I’m in the early stages of writing a new book about how companies can create a better, more consistent customer experience by keeping promises.
It seems like a simple concept at first glance, but it’s something companies genuinely struggle with.
Stay updated withThe Real PBX expert advice blog series and get more opinions on customer experience from the leading industry experts!