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1. First impressions matter. Walk up to, and into, your establishment with the eye of a customer. A customer perception is his reality, and a first impression is important because it tends to linger in a customer’s memory. Ditto if that fist interaction is on the phone, via chat, or via mobile.
2. Impressions before the first impression matter. Of course, there is no “before the first impression.” But the first impression is very likely happening before you realize it: how you’re portrayed online, how your grounds look well before the front door. Disney even obsesses over the route to their parks for this reason.
3. Last impressions matter. It’s so easy when you've “completed” an interaction with or project for a customer, to rush on to the next one with the next customer. Doing so can erase all the goodwill you created. The “goodbye” is an important stage, one of the most important, because (like a first impression) it tends to linger in a customer’s memory.
4. Are you easy to use? You won’t know until you try. Try your own website without your auto-log in. Is it easy? Or a pain? Come in the front door and see if the door swings open easily, or whacks you on the shoulder. And so forth.
5. Do you offer self-service options for your customers? Many customers want them today: unless you’re open 24/7 or at least all conceivable business hours in all time zones in which you have customers, you need such options. And even if you are open ‘round the clock, many times customers today just want to handle it, or at least be able to check up on it, themselves.
6. Do your self-service options include escape hatches? For when the self-service isn’t working or the customer isn’t in the mood–there should be an easy way out, to reach a human. Make it obvious, like hitting “O” on the phone.
7. Do your customers have to ask you to answer questions for which the answer should be obvious? Customers don't like to be burdened to contact you for items that could easily be provided for them on a self service basis. Do your FAQ’s actually include the questions that customers want the answers to? Or were they written six years ago by your web developer? Do they get an auto-confirmation when they order or do they need to call to ensure their order wasn’t lost in the ether? And so on.
8. Timeliness: Are you considerate of your customer’s time? This is a big, big, big one. A perfect product or service delivered late is a defect.
9. Commit to continuous customer service education. Education is an investment in organizational development.
10. Get rid of the fine print. To a customer, fine print is where a company hides something that will protect them from a dissatisfied customer. Better to fix it than hide it.
11. Define a simple service recovery process. Things will go wrong. Either objectively (whatever that means) or in the eyes of your customer. Either way, you need a plan. Consider my ARFFD approach, for example.
12. Consider the feedback you receive from your customers “free customer service consulting”–this is info of great value, not an interruption of your day. What could be better than to get information directly from your customers? And yet, responding to it, reviewing it, acting on it can feel like an interruption of our work if we don’t carefully check our attitude. Also: Don’t batch your surveys and then review them at the end of the month—scan them right away to see who needs to hear from you now.
13. Reward and Recognize. Acknowledge the contributions of individuals and teams with formal and informal recognition.
14. … But don’t think that’s why they’re working for you: Incentives for your customer-facing employees can’t replace the general value of hiring people who like people, and treating those people every single day like the professionals who they are.
15. Benchmark outside your industry. If you sell furniture, don’t just benchmark other players in the furniture industry to figure out how fast, easy to use, nice your company should be. Your customers’ expectations for manners, timeliness, quality… come as much from Starbucks, Apple, and other great consumer brands as they do from the others in your particular field.
16. Commit to continuous improvement. Ask yourself at the end of the day, “What is the thing you are going to do tomorrow to make your team better.”
17. Language matters. It is extremely easy to say the right thing, but to say it wrong. Actively work on the language that is used in customer interactions
18. Standards matter. For example, a doorman at a great hotel is rarely blindsided by a guest trying to enter while the doorman’s back is turned. How can that be? Standards. In this case, the standard is usually that ‘‘doormen work in teams.’’ They simply face each other and subtly tip each other off if someone is coming from behind. They quite literally have each other’s back, leading to a consistently comfortable, welcoming, hospitable experience.
19. Empowerment matters. You can’t write a standard for every eventuality. Your employees need empowerment–autonomy–to deviate from it if the case, the customer, requires a different approach.
20. Fight actively–every single day, every single shift–against getting in a rut. The principle of hedonic adaptation means that your hundredth day on the job, naturally will not be as intense–as exciting, stressful, and so forth– as the first day. This is good to some extent, but it means that you have to actively strive to remember that this same day is the first interaction your customer has had with your company, and you need to keep your attitude fresh to match theirs.
[Credit where credit's due: In addition to the tips that lurk in my own mind, I want to thank Bill Quiseng for helping me brainstorm this list; you should follow Bill at @billquiseng for more.--Micah]
Micah Solomon is a customer service consultant, customer service keynote speaker and the bestselling author most recently of High-Tech, High-Touch Customer Service