More than two weeks ago I ordered something from the online version of a brick and mortar retailer. I received a notice that the items would be delivered in two days. Two days came and went and the package didn’t arrive, though the post office notification system said it was out for delivery for 12 hours that day.
By the next morning, that notification had been deleted from the post office system, reverting to “arrived at postal facility”. Days later, with no change, I contacted the post office and was told that the package had been delivered the wrong distribution center and an inspector would contact me. The inspector called a few hours later to say that somehow the package got routed incorrectly and it would be delivered eventually (she couldn’t estimate when) and asked if my case could be closed since I now had that information. I responded that I wasn’t sure since the package hadn’t been delivered so the case wasn’t really resolved.
It is now one week after that call with the inspector. The USPS notification system still shows the same message: in transit to facility. This time, I reached out to the retailer and explained the situation. The customer service agent was understanding, apologized for needing to put me on hold while he accessed my account and looked up the package tracking. He apologized again that I haven’t received the package that was shipped on a two-day delivery guarantee (even though it wasn’t the retailer’s fault), and he promptly refunded my money and said that if the package ever did show up, to go ahead and keep the merchandise. He made sure I understood when the money would be credited back to my card, that I had to do nothing further with the e-mails I would be receiving, and asked if I needed anything else.
I provide both of these are examples of customer service, and as a reminder that sometimes it takes very little effort to make an effective difference.
In the book The Go Giver, Bob Burg and John David Mann mention offering something of value to those we interact with and that the something of value can be a small gesture or a heartfelt message. When I read this book I made notes to myself on ways I could do this in my businesses, and I’ve reached out to others to see how they instill a more personal touch in their customer service. After all, studies have shown that being in service to others can boost our own happiness and this is one of the biggest takeaways the main character of in The Go Giver learns.
These are the five ways you can instantly boost your customer service in your practice or business.
- Handwritten/designed notes. Rick Schank, of Purple Couch, says to every client and potential client, he sends a hand designed and hand written note. In the age of e-mail, sending snail mail sets him and his business apart from other companies. Writing a handwritten note takes only a few moments longer than typing an e-mail (depending on your typing speed), and it provides a more personal interaction with the recipient.
- Send a small gift as a thank you. One of the things I started to do after reading The Go Giver was to send a small yearly gift to the tenants in my rental properties (whom I’ve never met) and to some of my regular clients. The size and price of the gift doesn’t matter; the gesture does. The note that I attached to the gift says, “I’m grateful for you. Thank you for X.” The gift could be food items, a coffee mug or pen with your company logo or whatever. The point is to show gratitude and appreciation. (And if you’re concerned about the cost, the items and their shipping can be deducted as a business expense from your taxes.)
- Be willing to listen. In The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully, Frank Ostaseski writes, ” There’s an old Yiddish saying: ‘Sometimes we need a story more than food.’ Telling our stories, and having others listen, is a powerful way to gain new understandings and fresh perspectives on our lives.” If you’re a therapist, you may understand how this is true for your patients/clients as listening to people is a vital part of your practice. But when we move beyond the therapy session, sometimes our listening skills go from active to rushing people a long or maybe even argumentative listening (where we are forming a rebuttal to what they are saying as they are talking instead of listening to their words and tone). What separates great customer service from good or mediocre service is the speaker’s perception on if they are being heard and understood. In the opening examples in this blog, the company who understood the inconvenience of the items never arriving and did something about it has won my loyalty as a customer. Sometimes we learn the most profound things about others, ourselves and our businesses if we stop the script in our brains, focus on the person speaking and project that they are being heard.
- Repeat things for clarity. “What I heard you say is….” is a very powerful phrase. It shows you are actively listening, can diffuse hostility and provide the opportunity for someone to say yes or no to the meaning (since sometimes we use words or convey attitudes that aren’t exactly what we mean or how we feel). The phrase can ensure the listener and the speaker are on the same proverbial page, and on a subconscious level, the phrase makes the speaker feel more important and heard. Toward the end of my phone call with the company mentioned above, the customer service rep repeated that I ordered three items more than two weeks ago that were sent with a two-day arrival guarantee but they never arrived. Because of the delivery failure, I had not received the items so they were issuing me a refund. He told me to check my e-mail as soon as we hung up as he had already initiated the next point that elevates customer service.
- Send a follow-up message that thanks the person and reiterates what was discussed or decided. The message thanked me for my past business and for contacting them, said they were refunding my money for the three items and to expect the debit on my credit card within 7-10 days, and to please call back if I need further assistance. This may seem simple but most of us conduct numerous transactions throughout the day without ever following up to ask how our service was or if the person needs anything else or even to say thank you.
These four things are not an exhaustive list but they will make a difference in your business. Ross Perot advised talking to customers face to face saying, “You’d be amazed at how many companies don’t listen to their customers.” Yet it is these same customers or clients that can determine the longevity of our businesses.