What Does Great Customer Service Look Like?

Q&A with Leadership IQ CEO Mark Murphy

Q: What’s the one thing that a lot of people get wrong when it comes to customer service?

MM: Customers really do want to live up to their ideal selves. They want to be great; they want to be good people. Even angry customers don’t fundamentally want to be angry. On the whole customers want to live up to a high standard. Sometimes we just need to help them do that; by being able to assess not just what they want, but also, for example, the kind of communication style they prefer to use so we can verbally deliver the kind of customer service that makes them feel relaxed and confident, regardless of the situation. This is one place where a lot of leaders are missing the mark —in how they teach “what great customer service looks like” to employees.

Q: So how do we start helping customers to be great?

MM: First of all, let’s begin with the idea of Individuality. Customers are individuals. I think we all intuitively understand this, and yet, when you look at a lot of customer service training programs and you look at how we instruct our customer service and our customer-facing employees to deal with customers, it’s usually a one-size-fits-all kind of script. It’s become the case that no matter what the situation, all we hear is: “Good morning sir, how are you today?” And that might be okay for someone who is walking into a spa, but it might not be so good for someone walking into the emergency room of a major teaching urban hospital.  If we really want to deliver extraordinary customer service we’re going to need a customer service program and a mentality that recognizes the individuality of the folks we serve.

Q: How does a company define what great customer service means to their customers?

MM: I am going to answer your question with another question, only because it brings out the challenges in how to answer this question.  And here’s my question: When you personally get great service from somebody, what is it that person does that makes it a great experience? How would you describe it?  And I am going to give you four choices here with which you can answer:

  • Choice 1 – When I get great customer service it’s because of a friendly and warm interaction. The other person goes out of their way to build personal rapport with me. I know we’ve got a relationship.
  • Choice 2 – When I get great customer service it’s because the interaction is as brief as possible. The other person gets right to the point and doesn’t waste my time with anything else.
  • Choice 3 – When I get great customer service it’s a very methodical, step-by-step procedure where the other person keeps me informed every step of the way.
  • Choice 4 – When I get great customer service it’s because the focus stays on the technical aspects of the interaction. The other person’s work is excellent, but they’re not really building a relationship with me.

So again, when you look at these four choices, which of them represents what great service means to you?

Most people go for Choice 1, but there are plenty of situations where customers don’t want to establish a relationship. Maybe you just want someone who is efficient, knowledgeable, fast, or whatever, but without all the small talk and niceties that come with Choice 1.  One example I use is realizing at 11 PM that you need to run out in the rain to get milk for the kids; and you’re wearing your pajamas. That’s definitely a time where you want a fast and easy customer service experience and not to make a new best friend.

Q: So delivering great customer service depends on the situation?

MM: Yes. Customer service and the psychological needs of your customers are very much situationally driven and contextually driven. It may be popular to say “Oh, the best customer service people are warm and friendly; they build rapport,” but it’s not always true. There is that whole other group of customers that get forgotten in that situation who want something very different.

And that’s the major lesson here, and one we cover in more depth in our webinar: to understand what your customers want from you because they’re not all going to be the same. Every customer is going to vary, but it’s really not hard to teach your employees to pick up on some simple cues that direct them on how to treat every one of your customers like an individual.

A professional corporate writer with over 20-years’ experience crafting just the right words for executives to use in challenging situations, Lyn is a passionate and adept qualitative researcher. Her seasoned skills as an interviewer make her quick to identify the unique attitudes and behaviors that define an organization. Lyn’s extensive expertise in public relations and persuasive communications translates strongly in her contributions to Leadership IQ’s custom-training programs.

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