Customer service is the manner in which the product or service is delivered to the customer. Most people would probably agree with the generic definition of good customer service: prompt and courteous attention delivered by smiling, friendly employees. But is it? And what if a business wants to kick it up a notch? What is great customer service? Well, here the definition gets a little fuzzy.
Have you’ve ever been to the irreverent restaurant chain, Dick’s Last Resort? Your server will act like a jerk, on purpose. They will throw a napkin at you, ask you what you want to drink in a tone that suggests they have better things to do. On one visit, a magician was performing table-to-table and he pilfered my friend’s watch (he later gave it back). The service at Dick’s is not polite, not even prompt. In fact, I don’t think it’s good customer service at all, I think it’s great customer service.
Conversely, I recently had to call Apple Care because my iPhone had decided it no longer wanted to sync with Outlook. I spent two hours on the phone with two very courteous, and eager service representatives who spoke perfect English. Despite their diligent efforts, they couldn’t help me fix the problem. At the end of the conversation, the Apple rep politely suggested I call Microsoft to fix the problem. He was courteous, he was polite. But was this good customer service?
I think good customer service is product delivery that is in total alignment with the brand’s promise. In other words, good customer service is accurate/exact brand delivery. The level of customer service is defined by the level of accuracy in which brand expectations are met. To get great customer service however, you need to go two steps further.
First, great customer service is delivered by companies that build it in to their company culture. Marketer John Moore likes to say that companies bake it inside how they do business every day. Second you give your customer service a personality, a life of it’s own. I suggest you characterize it, but not by using the words; good, prompt, fast, courteous, or attentive. Instead characterize it by words that make sense for your brand. Use adjectives that describe how you want your brand delivered.
– Online shoe retailer Zappos baked great customer service into a billion dollar business. They have characterized their service with the words, “personality” and “happiness.” That might seem a little abstract, but not at Zappo’s, where employees and CEO Tony Hsieh have clearly defined happiness.
– My friend Steve Woodruff recently celebrated his anniversary at a local restaurant. He called the service “exceptional” and the experience “epic” at Tabor Road Tavern of Morris Plains, NJ: I would characterize is as “personalized.”
– Geno Church refers to the service he received from online tie purveyor, Pierrepoint Hicks, as “unexpected.”
You don’t have to go as far as these examples. You can keep shooting for good customer service that’s polite and prompt. But if you’re wondering how to get people talking about your great customer service (or blogging about it) look at the above examples for inspiration. How would you characterize your customer service?