When my colleagues Vicki Halsey and Kathy Cuff and I were creating the Legendary Service customer service training program, we asked people in organizations two questions:
- Why is creating a positive customer experience important?
- How do you want your customers to feel when working with your organization?
We always got the same answers:
- If customers are happy, they will come back and also will tell others about their positive experience.
- We want our customers to feel that we care about them and will help them be successful.
Even though that was years ago, and today’s world is different in many ways, these two tenets of service haven’t changed. Customers notice great service and appreciate being treated well by someone they are doing business with. And organizations want customers to know they value them and have their best interests in mind.
Now think in terms of when you are the customer. You probably have favorite places where you like to do business, whether you are online or face to face with a service provider. Think about why you return, over and over again, to a favorite company, store, or website. Hint: it’s not just about product quality. Research shows that customers return because of the way the people or organization providing the product or service make them feel—before, during, and after the transaction. Welcome. Comfortable. Cared for. Special.
Sounds simple enough, right? Let the customer know you care. So why doesn’t every company and salesperson follow this simple philosophy? We all know it’s more cost effective to keep existing customers than to continuously try to recruit new customers to replace the old. Why, then, do most of us have more stories about being on the wrong side of bad customer service than about being treated well? It’s puzzling, to say the least.
My cousin Liz Bone is a successful real estate professional who has a fabulous track record with clients. When she told me 75% of her business consists of referrals and repeat customers, that sounded to me like she must be doing something right—so I asked her to elaborate.
“Working with a client is a very personal experience, because you are tapping into someone’s true feelings,” Liz says. “It’s not only about the sale, though—sometimes you just have to spend time with a client and really listen to them.”
Liz told me that showing care for clients is a vital part of her day-to-day work. “If you focus on relationships, the sales will take care of themselves. If you don’t, you’ll miss out on what I find to be the most enjoyable part of my job—working with people and problem solving. It’s satisfying.”
Liz is a great example of what our company calls the “CARE approach” to customer service. These elements of our Legendary Service model are easy to remember and can be put to use immediately.
C – Committed: Living your customer service vision. You perform your tasks with the customer in mind and you act on your belief that service is important.
A – Attentive: Listening to identify needs and wants. You pay attention to verbal and nonverbal cues to better understand the customer’s frame of mind. You ask open-ended questions and repeat back so that the customer knows they are being heard.
R – Responsive: Taking action that shows you care. You are available to the customer. You acknowledge and validate their feelings, address concerns, offer solutions, and gain specific agreements. And you express appreciation for their business.
E – Empowered: Unleashing the full extent of your power. You are aware of all company policies and practices. You continuously increase your knowledge about your job. You are aware of the power you have to create a loyal customer with every interaction. You are empowered to handle all customer situations.
Each connection between a service provider and a customer is unique. It doesn’t matter whether you are doing business as an individual, a small startup, or a large, established organization. When you create a relationship with a client—when you show them you care about them and are looking after their interests—you create a memorable experience. That customer will refer their friends to you and will want to do business with you again. Why? Because they will remember the way you made them feel. You have established a culture of service with them.
If you’re an independent salesperson, you may wonder if it’s possible to establish your own culture of service. The best way to start is to create a personal service vision you can believe in. Here’s how:
- List five to six positive characteristics that describe you. Circle the two characteristics that you value the most about yourself. (Example: enthusiastic, creative.)
- List three to six ways in which you successfully interact with people. Circle the two behaviors that you feel are the most important. (Example: educate, encourage.)
- Complete this sentence: Through my service, I hope my clients will… (Example: use my services to make their life easier and feel happy and secure.)
- Now put those characteristics, behaviors, and desired outcome together as you fill in your service vision statement: “My service vision is to use my enthusiasm and creativity to educate and encourage my clients so they will use my services to simplify their life and bring happiness and security to their world.”
You will differentiate yourself from others by focusing on outstanding customer service—Legendary Service. Does this approach work? You bet it does! As Liz explains, “To me, the CARE model represents the best way to do day-to-day business. I don’t have to chase customers around. I can be my authentic self. I want my clients to understand that I will give them my full attention and my highest level of service regardless of how much they spend—because I will.”
In this day and age, sales is a tough business—but customer service doesn’t have to be. I hope I’ve been able to introduce you to a fresh way of thinking about the way you serve your customers. Now go out and make a positive difference in somebody’s life. And don’t forget: The key is to care!
Editor’s Note: For a deeper discussion about legendary customer service and how you and your organization can ensure your clients feel cared for and appreciated, read Legendary Service: The Key Is to Care by Ken Blanchard, Vicki Halsey, and Kathy Cuff.