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Making Our List… Checking It Twice… The Ultimate List of Customer Service Skills Jodi Beuder

ultimatelist Making Our List... Checking It Twice... The Ultimate List of Customer Service SkillsIf you are around kids at all dur­ing the hol­i­days, you may be notic­ing their lists being made for Santa. This got us think­ing … what would an adult list for Santa look like? Since we hap­pen to work in the world of cus­tomer ser­vice, we thought, why not put together our own lit­tle list? We’ll call it the “ulti­mate list of cus­tomer ser­vice skills”; it’s a wish-list of sorts, for Santa, or whomever that mag­i­cal per­son is that can help make our hol­i­day dreams come true.

Our ulti­mate list of cus­tomer ser­vice skills includes some of the top skills used by some of the most renowned cus­tomer ser­vice com­pa­nies. If you can help your com­pany achieve all of the items on this list, you will indeed have won­der­ful cus­tomer expe­ri­ence await­ing your cus­tomers – dur­ing the hol­i­days, and beyond.

There are no shortcuts

In cus­tomer ser­vice, con­sis­tency is key. As L.L. Bean’s CEO, Chris McCormick says, “it’s the day-in, day-out, ongo­ing, never-ending, per­se­ver­ing, com­pas­sion­ate kind of activ­ity” that defines con­sis­tent cus­tomer ser­vice. Great cus­tomer ser­vice doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily need to be flashy – but it needs to be present, in every inter­ac­tion, every day, every week, and every month. Build­ing a world-class ser­vice cus­tomer ser­vice brand is a marathon, not a sprint, and it hap­pens by mak­ing sure your team is com­mit­ted to cus­tomer ser­vice at every touch­point. So first on our list, Santa? We’d like to add “con­sis­tency and no short­cuts” to our ulti­mate list of cus­tomer ser­vice skills. Thanks, L.L. Bean for lead­ing the way with this example.

Let employ­ees exer­cise good judgment

When you make a men­tal list of com­pa­nies leg­endary for their cus­tomer ser­vice, Nord­strom comes to mind, right? The depart­ment store has been con­sis­tently listed as one of the top cus­tomer ser­vice brands, and for good rea­son – their employ­ees are fre­quently cited as being exam­ples of fan­tas­tic cham­pi­ons for their shop­pers. What is it, exactly, that Nord­strom does to train their employ­ees? One of the main themes is they encour­age their employ­ees to “exer­cise good judg­ment.” In fact, this is the #1 qual­ity that Nord­strom looks for when hir­ing employ­ees. Nord­strom has an exten­sive guide­book for employ­ees, which stresses attention-to-details, but by far, the over­ar­ch­ing theme is Nordstrom’s faith in its employ­ees to use sound judg­ment when deal­ing with shoppers.

Fast cus­tomer ser­vice isn’t nec­es­sar­ily good cus­tomer service

Okay. You knew it was com­ing. What list of cus­tomer ser­vice skills would be com­plete with­out men­tion­ing Zap­pos? Like Nord­stroms, Zap­pos is known for cus­tomer ser­vice (in fact, this asso­ci­a­tion is often higher for peo­ple than “shoes”). One of Zap­pos’ hall­mark cus­tomer ser­vice train­ing par­a­digms is to not rush cus­tomer ser­vice. Zap­pos threw out the whole notion of fast ticket times and devel­oped its own sys­tem, called the “Hap­pi­ness Expe­ri­ence Form,” which is based on mak­ing an emo­tional con­nec­tion with a cus­tomer, rather than solv­ing the prob­lem as quickly as pos­si­ble and mov­ing on to the next cus­tomer call. Zap­pos’ sys­tem helped them reach a 5% increase on its Net Pro­moter Score, and it’s a big part of the rea­son that 70 – 75% of pur­chases come from return­ing customers.

Learn the art of “if/then” cus­tomer service

Our final item on our ulti­mate list of cus­tomer ser­vice skills is cour­tesy of Ritz-Carlton. At the Ritz, the man­age­ment under­stands that mis­takes are inevitable, and that there will be times when cus­tomers are left wait­ing or become upset. To lessen cus­tomer frus­tra­tions, Ritz-Carlton stresses “if/then” plan­ning, which they call imple­men­ta­tion inten­tions. For exam­ple, if a customer’s food order is delayed in the kitchen, the wait staff can choose to re-focus the customer’s impa­tience by bring­ing out a com­pli­men­tary appe­tizer. “If” the food is delayed, “then” alle­vi­ate cus­tomer frus­tra­tion by offer­ing a free snack to hold them over. The tac­tic also works well to help the hotel chain go the extra mile to please cus­tomers. For exam­ple, “if” a cus­tomer has a really early morn­ing check out, “then” offer to bring up com­pli­men­tary cof­fee before the guest departs.

The Ritz-Carlton’s phi­los­o­phy that cus­tomer ser­vice should be proac­tive, based on chang­ing cir­cum­stances, mis­takes, acci­dents, and cus­tomer needs, has helped set them apart from other lux­ury hotel chains.

And one more thing for your ulti­mate list of cus­tomer ser­vice skills …

The one thing we didn’t men­tion on our ulti­mate list of cus­tomer ser­vice skills? Train­ing! Make sure you invest in the proper cus­tomer ser­vice train­ing for your employ­ees – after all, a list is great, but with­out the tools to imple­ment the train­ing, you likely won’t see the desired skills come to fruition.

Jodi Beuder, Cus­tomer Expe­ri­ence Advo­cate at Impact Learn­ing Sys­tems, believes cus­tomer ser­vice exists not just out­side the com­pany, but inside, too.. “To me, cus­tomer suc­cess starts before any con­ver­sa­tion and ends long after. It begins with pos­i­tive brand­ing and mes­sag­ing, in order to get the cus­tomer to the door. Cus­tomer engage­ment is moti­vat­ing and edu­ca­tional, and trans­ac­tions are easy and user-friendly. Cus­tomer suc­cess ends with the cus­tomer return­ing to that expe­ri­ence again.” With over 20 years in Mar­ket­ing Exec­u­tive roles, Jodi has ded­i­cated her career to assist­ing com­pa­nies grow their brand pres­ence and sales, and most impor­tantly, their cus­tomer reten­tion and satisfaction.
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Jodi Beuder
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