With Black Friday and Cyber Monday quickly approaching, millions will be shopping online and in person--and each and every one of those customers will be expecting excellent customer service throughout the entire process.
ICMI (International Customer Management Institute ) recently celebrated its 2012 Spirit of Service Awards  with a live webinar from New York City featuring my presentation, “Find Your Inner Rock Star .” Here are some of the customer service questions that followed:
Have you heard of the common theme, 'Do right by the customer'? I have heard this theme in a variety of settings, and am curious if you've heard such as well. What is your interpretation?
To me, this is a variation on “the customer is always right.” You are in business because of the customer. You get a paycheck and have benefits because of the customer. You get to have a roof over your head, put food on the table, pay for utilities, have transportation, and maybe even go out to eat and take a vacation because of that customer. You should do everything you can to not only make the customer service experience the best ever but also acknowledge and fix problems for customers immediately in every way you can. Period.
How do you motivate your team to be passionate about customer service?
First, let them know clearly what your customer service expectations are. Conduct regular staff meetings where everyone contributes to the customer service conversation, maybe citing examples of what worked and what didn’t in the last week. Invite your team to be a part of the process and listen to their ideas, ALWAYS utilizing some of them. Together, learn what works and what doesn’t in your customer service department. And, never forget to praise your team and say thank you. It’s the old saying “You get more bees with honey.” Free food and candy, the occasional paid for lunch, and trinkets go a long way in creating a team that would do anything for you and the company. Don’t you like happy surprises? Well, so does your team. And, your customers.
What tips do you have in recruiting rock stars, those who have the passion to embrace the customer?
First of all, know what sort of person you are looking for--attitude, background, what others say about this person. You are in the business of customer service, you know what sort of personality works and what doesn’t. Then speak up and let everyone know what you are looking for. Let coworkers know, your employees, utilize social media, talk to friends and family. If you know what you want and let others know, you will be amazed at how much recruiting they will do for you. Then, follow your gut in that face-to-face interview. Still not sure? Call them back for another interview, maybe in a different situation or location. You will know then.
How do you maintain that rock star mentality when your organization is going through major changes, i.e., layoffs, restructuring, etc.?
We do something at the dinner table every night with our kids; we play “Three Good Things.” No matter what sort of day you have had or what you are going through, you can always find three good things to talk about. Once we have gone around the table and everyone has had a chance to vocalize their three good things, the mood is always upbeat and hopeful, even for the one that is grounded. Life and work are not always rainbows and unicorns but you can always find the good in any situation. Find the “Three Good Things” about your job every day on the way to work. Even better, get the staff to start verbalizing their three good things each morning. It’s such a nicer way to start the day than a bitch-fest in the coffee room.
What do you do if you feel the passion fading away?
Think back to why you took your customer service job in the first place. What were you passionate about in the beginning and how has that job changed with technology, your workplace, and the economy. Are there other positions that weren’t around when you started? Take a look at all of your options within the company and see if there is another position you would feel better suited for--then research that position and create a list of reasons the company should put you there. Remember, it’s not about you, it’s about the company--what do you bring to this new position that will increase the company’s bottom line?
Also, I’ve been there on this one and it might be time for a bigger change. I had a great job with high pay and good benefits, yet I was increasingly losing my passion for the job and making life miserable for everyone around me. So, I started a nightly journal. Each evening, I wrote where I was most content that day, where I was happy doing something. I did this for six weeks and then went back and read the entire thing in one sitting. I discovered a pattern--that I was happiest folding clothes, cooking, having lunch with my kids at school, and writing and creating in my home office. I spent the next six months eliminating expenses so that I could stay home and run my own business on my terms. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done.
What is the one thing that you attribute your success to?
I have to agree with Gene Simmons of KISS  on this one--I read! I read everything I can get my hands on, every day, from world news to pop culture to sports. I have RSS feeds set up for news sites, magazines, favorite bloggers and more that I read every morning before I start my day. There have been so many opportunities for me to succeed in my past that simply came from something I read and followed up on. For example, I read an article about an event a group of student activity directors were putting together last summer at Rutgers University, a conference to shake things up and get people to think differently in higher education . I tracked down the organizers, offered to speak, and had one of the best presentation experiences I’ve ever had. A bonus: several university systems have booked me to speak since that appearance, opening up a whole new market for me.
Years ago, when I created The Space Store , I preached constantly to my employees that the three most important things they could remember every day were:
1. Customer service
2. Customer service
3. And, customer service
Customer service beats marketing, advertising, and promotion any day of the week. It is the single most important component of your business. Feed it good people and good ideas every day.
[Image: Flickr user Paul G ]