n 1912 L.L. Bean launched his newly formed Maine Hunting Boot company with what he called his single Golden Rule which in part said, treat your customers like human beings, and they will always come back for more. Sounds simple, “treat your customers like human beings”, but in today’s world of PC to person interaction it's not always as easy as it looks and unless a company has a relentless drive for service, satisfaction and experience it is sure to suffer.
Exceptional customer focus is something to behold and should be a central tenet of any company, young or old.
All of us remember great moments in customer service; those little things that allow a company to stand out from the pack and keep you coming back year after year, or when we turn an interaction into a lifelong memory. I call them Magic Moments. I have one from a couple of years ago. I purchased a pair of mountain boots as a Christmas gift for my son from Zappos. The shoes came promptly but when I got around to wrapping them, just 3 days before the holiday, I opened the box and saw the size 12 I ordered had a size 9 in the box. I quickly called Zappos and was ready for a fight… until they turned a bad situation into a Magic Moment.
The call center rep was empowered to make decisions. First, she overnighted, at no cost to me, a new pair of the proper size. Next she discounted the shoes as a “small token of their appreciation for my business and an apology for my inconvenience.” Finally, she enrolled me in their VIP website. One small problem was transformed into a story that I love to tell and a site I will buy from forever.
The best companies understand that a customer comes in many flavors and sizes. I have yet to run across a business that can deliver on a mission of growth with a narrowly defined customer. It starts with the people that buy our goods or use our websites but from there it extends into a maze of possibilities that all need to be considered and cared for.
A smart business recognizes that customers include not only those that provide revenue, but also extends to fellow employees, suppliers, partners and anyone else that can, might or should play a role in the value chain of a great customer experience. Who for instance is the customer at Google? Is it a paying advertiser? Is it a user who conducts a search? Is it the website that allows for easy indexing and hence a more relevant result? Is it the UI designer that creates a masterful experience that allows an engineer’s brilliant creation to be appreciated? The possibilities are endless.
The point is that none of us can get the job done on an island. In an ever increasingly automated world, we rely on each other to deliver results. It's important, it's actually critical, that an organization, from top to bottom is thinking about the customer. When I was running Lycos, I challenged employees to find something every day that would improve or deliver on a great customer experience. It has to be ingrained in the culture of a company and it has to be something we think about all the time.
So here are 10 quick things to think about. Get them all right and you will be unstoppable.
- Build a culture committed to the customer – instill a company wide commitment to making your customers feel valued.
- When your customer tells you something, listen – whether surveys, focus groups, social posts or email, the market speaks the truth. Don’t ignore it.
- Customers remember failures– your execution needs to be flawless all the time. Adopt a zero tolerance policy in that it is never OK to disappoint.
- When it comes to customer service, one size does not fit all – be flexible, fluid and adaptive.
- Empower ALL of your employees to make the experience perfect – you can't predict every situation but you can enable your organization to be responsive to every situation.
- Treat employees like customers – happy and respected employees deliver happy customers.
- Be obsessed with quality – you don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression.
- Copy best practices – learn from the best.
- Keep the customer central to every decision the company makes.
- Create Magic Moments at every opportunity.
Exceptional customer satisfaction isn’t hard but like all else in a top notch organization it takes focus, attention to detail and commitment. Magic Moments are there every day for the taking. Look for them and you will be amazed at the impact you can have.
In the words of the late great Same Walton, co-founder of Wal-Mart, “The goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best but legendary.”