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What Is World Class Customer Service?

By Deb Calvert (1241 words)
Posted in Sales & Business Development on August 20, 2013

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Professional sellers know that it’s both easy to do and imperative not to do. Taking a customer for granted and assuming current customers will always be customers is short-sighted and irresponsible in selling. When customers begin to feel unappreciated, as if they are just one of many and only as valuable as their last order… It’s then that customer dissatisfaction can lead to customer attrition.

 

Keeping customers starts with keeping customers satisfied.

 

But top sellers don’t stop there. They take extra steps so they can maximize the relationship they have with each individual customer. They look for ways to increase the relationship to the greatest possible degree and to make the fullest use of each relationship.

 

Here’s an alarming statistic. Customer loyalty expert Cindy Solomon says that nearly 80% of customers who defect say they were satisfied with your service when they left. Satisfied but not loyal. Why? Because satisfied is no longer enough. Our customers need to be absolutely engaged with us if we are to defend ourselves from our competitors. 

 

This is not to say that professional sellers “use” their customers in a self-serving way or think of them as disloyal, harboring suspicious feelings about them. On the contrary, maximizing the relationship with the customer should be mutually beneficial. The customer’s satisfaction should be increased to the greatest possible degree, and the customer should be able to make the greatest or fullest use of the business relationship, too. When sellers are driven by an intent to understand and meet customer needs, this mutually beneficial outcome is more likely.

 

It may help you to think about the opposite of maximizing which is minimizing. To minimize means to “reduce to the smallest possible amount or degree” or “to represent at the lowest possible amount, value, importance, influence, etc. especially in a disparaging way; to belittle.”

 

You would never want your customer to feel minimized. The only certain way to avoid this is to intentionally maximize the relationship instead. This is what causes sellers and companies to strive for the most supreme level of service, often referred to loosely as “world class customer service.”

 

The  most widely-used definition of “World Class Customer Service” comes from Belding Skills. According to this customer service researcher, “World Class Customer Service is the process of consistently communicating to every customer – whether it is an internal customer or an external customer – that they are valued, and that their satisfaction is paramount to your organizaton.”

 

Most sellers would absolutely agree with this defintion, at least in theory. They apsire to and intend to let their customers know they are valued and their satisfaction is supremely important. However, in practice, these intentions and aspirations may not always be realized. 

 

What gets in the way of delivering World Class Customer Service? For most sellers, it’s the busy-ness that comes in day-to-day routines. Sales transactions plus managing orders and issues as they arise consume most of a seller’s time. Sellers begin to think of service as a by-product of their work rather than thinking of it as the true essence of every task they perform. When service becomes an afterthought or a background intention, it may not be as high quality as the seller (and sales organization) would hope. 

 

World Class Custormer Service is superior because it is deliberate. It is intentional. Purposeful. The professional seller operates at all times with a focus on serving the needs of the customer – not just the transactional needs related to order fulfillment, but the deeper level needs that truly satisfy the customer. 

 

At a minimum, this means demonstrating competence and efficiency in responding to customer requests. It also means handling any issues that arise in a timely manner. But it means more, too, from the perspective of the customer.

 

Author and Industrial Psychologist Rosanne D’Ausilio has provided a list of customer expectations. It includes both the obvious aspects of customer service and the “new essentials” of customer service, too. In order to provide World Class Customer Service and truly satisfy customers, D’Ausilio says that professional sellers must do these six things in every interaction with every customer. Exceptions and missed opportunities are costly, according to her research, and buyer/seller relationships are tenuous when these buyer expecations are not met. Note that these expectations are measured in observable actions, not by seller intentions or aspirations.

 

This is How Buyer’s Define “World Class Customer Service.”  

 

1) The seller responds promptly to my requests and questions.

 

2) The seller communicates in ways and at times that are convenient for me.

 

3) The seller is brief and clear in our transactions. 

 

4) The seller talks about our business needs beyond current transactions as appropriate.

 

5) The seller makes it easy for us to business with them, minimizing hand-offs.

 

6) The seller personalizes the service to us.

 

But it doesn’t stop there.  D’Ausilio and others, including research discussed in The Challenger Sale, forecast even higher levels of customer expectations in the near future. Customers will demand service that goes “above and beyond.” This is what buyers are beginning to demand and will expect more and more in coming years. 

 

7) The seller informs, educates and challenges the customer.

 

8) The seller shows expertise, competence, confidence and professionalism.

 

9) The seller empathizes with and understands the customer’s perspective. 

 

10) The seller creates value that is unique to the customer and demonstrates genuine interest in the individual. 

 

These ten aspects of providing world class customer service are more than “nice to haves.” Your buyers consider these to be “must haves.” Use this list as a self-assessment and see what you can do to improve your sales by improving your level of service. 

 

{#/pub/images/DebCalvertNew.jpg}Written by Deb Calvert, President, People First Productivity Solutions-Author of the DISCOVER Questions book series, Deb has worked as a sales productivity specialist and sales researcher since 2000. She is certified as a Master Sales Coach, Master Trainer, and host of CONNECT! an online radio show for selling professionals where listeners ignite their selling power in just an hour. Deb helps companies to boost productivity through people development. This work includes leadership program design and facilitation, strategic planning with executive teams, team effectiveness work, and performance management program design. 

 

Do you have a sales question for Deb?  Please visit our Sales Community, she will be happy to help: Ask an Expert

 

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Here are some related articles you may be interested in: 

Three New Approaches to Making Effective Sales Calls

4 Essential Skills for Leaders, Managers & High Potentials

You Only Get One Chance to Make a First Impression

Managing Customer Expectations

Marketing 101 With A Twist…Making It Effective

  

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Comments (4)

Robert Rodewald posted on: August 23, 2013

Clear ad to the point, well done! Without Customer Service, there are NO repeat customers and NO customer referrals.

Dana Friesen posted on: August 23, 2013

Great insights

Wilson Modi posted on: August 23, 2013

Great share! The 10 pointers can easily be called the "Ten Commandments of Customer Service".

Will Roche posted on: September 14, 2013

Great points and all spot on! Why is it so hard for retailers to make the move?

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