Regardless of your job title or industry, you represent a brand. And ultimately the goal of your work is to deliver a superior product or service to your company’s customers.
One of the most compelling examples of this is when an executive for footwear giant Skechers returned late and hungry from an industry conference, only to realize that his hotel’s room service was closed. The CEO of online retailer Zappos, who was staying at the same hotel, decided to put his own customer service team to the test with a little undercover operation. He dared his competitor, the Skechers exec, to call the Zappos customer service hotline to report his late-night munchies predicament while they all listened in on speakerphone.
Amazingly the Zappos employee put the unidentified caller on hold and returned with a list of local food establishments that were open late and would deliver to the hotel. The Zappos representative never asked if the caller was a customer. He simply represented his brand and delivered exceptional service.
In a closer-to-home story, one of our prospects initially declined our Letter of Intent and took an offer from a competitor. However, the competitor did not deliver on any of their promises throughout the due diligence process so the prospect backed out from the deal. Then the prospect called Gibraltar and expressed that their company was in a bind and needed capital quickly because they needed to deliver on their promises to their customers. We worked diligently over a period of four days, logging a lot of late hours, but closed the transaction in that short period. In many ways, this experience paid off our own brand—for example, that we are agile and creative and that we empathize with the human element of financial deals.
The point of these stories is that focusing on customer service will always be one of the smartest ways to build your brand—and your business. Integrating key tenets of customer service into your day-to-day tasks will ensure you not only gain customers (and perhaps be the hero), but also that customers come back for more while increasing your own value and securing your position in your company. Whether you’re selling shoes or delivering financial solutions like Gibraltar, characteristics of successful customer service are the same. Here are four places to start:
Empathy: Treating a customer as real person that you’re concerned about rather than someone you have to “deal with” for work will help you connect. Try imagining he or she is a friend or family member. Listen and only think about how you want to respond after the person has finished talking. Try this clever quiz from the Greater Good Center at Berkeley to see how well you read other people in face-to-face situations.
Positivity: Simply starting to replace negative words with positive ones will help soften the blow of bad news that inevitably you will have to deliver to a customer at some point. Also, never end a conversation without confirming satisfaction with the outcome. Sincerely making a person feel important and appreciated, even if the outcome is not optimal, shows you care (remember that empathy part?).
Clarity: If necessary, clarify and rephrase what you’ve heard to confirm you understand the issue your customer is asking about. In responding, consider how you would you explain it to a third grader. (Of course, don’t actually treat the person like an 8-year-old, but use straightforward language.)
Reflection: Tracking metrics such as average reply times as well as anecdotal feedback will help you measure how you’re doing on the customer service front. Take that a step further through reflection: How did you handle a challenging issue? What you could have done better? Use this insight to develop tactics for improving your service style. It will make you stronger and more productive in your role while demonstrating to others that you are delivering.
By Agnes Del Rio, Gibraltar Business Capital Portfolio Manager