If 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.