To explain these lessons, we need to tell you a little about our business. We provide services to business-to-business companies designed to help them measure, manage, and improve customer service. Typical clients include distributors of construction and power systems equipment (Caterpillar), large material handling companies, and manufacturers such as AGCO Corporation and Okuma North America, among others.
One thing that typifies the relationships our clients have with their customers is they tend to be long lasting. Like any long-term relationship, things can happen to the relationship over time. Customers can either be taken for granted, and/, or our clients assume they know what the customer wants. Both are potentially devastating to the business relationship.
There are two critical things we have learned after having conducted more than 500,000 interviews in this market place. First, the old axiom in real estate is location, location, location! In this case, the axiom in customer service is communication, communication, communication! This is a constant problem for most of our clients. Even though there are many tools that supposedly help improve communications, in too many cases, they are not being used or being used inappropriately.
Second, whenever you do anything, be it go to a restaurant, visit the doctor, or buy a piece of equipment, you, the consumer, have expectations. Those expectations could be correct, or they could be incorrect. For example, you visit the doctor for an 8:30 appointment and you assume it will happen on or about 8:30 unless someone tells you otherwise. It is the responsibility of the service or equipment provider to make certain that the customers’ expectations are understood and are corrected if needed. Sometimes correcting assumptions is not pleasant such as when you need to call a customer and say the service tech is not going to arrive as promised. We know it is far better to communicate early in the service experience and correct customer expectations than wait until you have an upset customer.
If you are working to improve customer service, improving communications with your customers, training employees to understand customers’ expectations about a service, and keeping customers in sync with the reality of what can be done are essential skills for any great customer service experience.
If you have the time please share with us in the comments section about why it’s been important for your business to offer an experience to customers that they cannot get anywhere else? What lessons have you learned from your experience? What worked for you and what didn’t?