Friday, April 3, 2009

The "Art" of Customer Service

Guest blog from Mike Hyatt-Evenson, EthicsPoint Director of Client Services

My father-in-law is a retired pharmacist. All jokes aside about being a drug dealer, for part of his career he worked as the pharmacy manager where he, as you can expect, was continually enticed by pharmaceutical salespeople. Since the pharmaceutical sales model is one of the most competitive, highly compensated models in the world, I asked him how he would choose what to buy. His answers struck me. Fundamentally, everything had to do with the salesperson who:

  1. Kept their promises.
  2. He trusted.
  3. Really listened to understand his needs.
  4. Took the extra step.

What struck me was that he did not mention price, quality, gifts, or incentives. Though he was talking about salespeople, those qualities are exactly what we train our customer service people to do. For example:

  1. We always call when we say we will.
  2. We build trust and relationships with our customers to develop long term loyalty.
  3. We actively listen to our customers so we completely understand their needs and pain.
  4. We distinguish ourselves from our competitors by doing more than just the minimum.

This reinforces one of the concepts that I believe makes some companies great – the “art” of customer service. The “science” of customer service comes in accurate tracking of customer information, good phone systems, proper staffing, efficient use of tools, etc., etc. Any company can do the science.

The “art” of customer service means that we deliver what and when we say we will. It means that our customers are doing most of the talking. It means that our customers know that we take pleasure in working with them and doing our jobs. It means that we let our customers tell us the story of their child’s graduation if they want to. It means that we quit talking and get down to business if they want to. It means that we take the extra step to make our customers’ jobs a little easier. It means that we happily communicate good news but are also honest with bad news. It means that customer service is not a department, but is pervasive in everything we do across the organization. It is what will lead to a great customer experience.

In this economic environment, our customers are (and should be) scrutinizing every penny they spend. I believe that the companies who live and breathe the “art of customer service” in everything they do will be the ones left standing.


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