It would be a mistake to think of the traditions and best practices of exceptional customer service as being of a different era–niceties to perhaps to be picked back up in the future but not directly relevant now, during this daunting, even grim, chapter of business history.
Undoubtedly, things have changed for all of us, those of us in business, and nearly all of our customers as well. Yet what I see happening around me at the best businesses, and the path I counsel my own client companies to take (as a customer service consultant and customer experience turnaround expert) is a doubling down on connecting with customers through exceptional customer service, rather than a shying away or feeling that the exercise is best saved for a happier time somewhere down the line.
Certainly, in some ways, there is less we can do for our customers now, as our businesses are absorbed in navigating the challenges of working by remote, dealing with supply chain disruptions, and struggling to stay afloat.
But in other ways, there is so much opportunity now to do more for them as well.
In other words, if you’re wondering how you should be interacting with customers during this time of crisis, it’s the way you always have been, but more so.
Strive to give more courtesy.
To be more anticipatory in answering the questions that haven’t been asked, in fulfilling the needs and wishes that haven’t been voiced.
In practical terms…
…Spend a little more time listening on the phone.
…Be a little more flexible in using channels of interaction that you’ve shied away from in the past, assuming regulatory, security, and privacy concerns permit.
…Be a little more thorough in your correspondence, spending a little more time research information and solutions that may be outside your official scope of duties but have value for your customer during this challenging time.
… Be even more thoughtful when involved in customer service recovery–i.e., when engaging with a customer who is upset or feels wronged. Note: If you don’t have a customer service recovery already implemented at your company, please email me at email@example.com and I’ll send you a formatted, printable version of my four-step MAMA method for customer service recovery.
What payoff can your business expect from these additional efforts? In my experience consulting and advising on customer service and the customer experience, I have repeatedly experienced how customers who feel loyalty from a business will return that loyalty and become loyal themselves.
Certainly, there are exceptions, and those exceptions–the customers who don’t repay your loyalty–can be frustrating and even heart-rending. But loyalty-breeding-loyalty is the overall rule, and there is nothing that goes further toward sustaining a business in the long run than the creation of loyal customers. A truly loyal customer will spend more, be more open to trying your line extensions, will be forgiving of occasional foibles and missteps (up to a point), and will often be willing, even eager, to sing your praises far and wide.
Customer loyalty is a powerful force. And there is no better opportunity than right now to show your loyalty to your customers and get the ball rolling.
Micah Solomon is a customer service and customer experience consultant, speaker, trainer, and training designer. Micah was recently named “the World’s #1 Customer Service Turnaround Expert” by Inc. Magazine. Reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit his website, or check out his new bestseller: Ignore Your Customers (and They’ll Go Away) (HarperCollins Leadership).