(picture from the collections of Helsinki City Museum)
Retail in some form has been present at least 5000 years. This means that customer service have also been available about the same time period. So you would think that customer service should be honed to excellence – we have had time to develop it at least 5000 years. Well, we all know that reality is different. Some people say that the digital solutions should solve the problem. They have clearly assisted, but not solved the problems of customer service. Good customer service can utilize digital solutions and hone the experience by personal human touch.
Based on my experience I have crystallized the essentials of the customer service under following headings.
Make a customer promise that you can keep. Good service does not necessarily mean that you have to offer customer everything. Make a simple promise and deliver what you promise. This is the first step in building trust to your skills.
We all are living on the fast lane. Therefore on of the key elements in customer services should be swiftness. I do not mean that everything should happen in split second, but customer should get the feeling that service – whether provided by algorithm or person – is not wasting his/hers time. Naturally the importance of speed varies depending on the service – I do not expect my waiter to run in the evening restaurant. But swiftness is essential or at least the feeling that nobody wastes my precious time.
I understand that the service persons / algorithms task is to sell more. However, the best way to sell more is to first solve the need customer is looking for. As a customer I want my problem solved – as good as possible. After that is done, I may be interested in other offers. Focusing on customers’ needs means that the service staff listens, is empathetic, understands the customer’s situation and makes every effort to solve the customer’s problem. In order to be capable of focussing your actions you have to know how to prioritise.
I admire people who really show that they like their work. It does not matter what they do, but if they love their work, they show their passion and that leads to great things. Best service experiences I always have had when somebody with passion is delivering the service. Passion means that you value your work and aim to do it as well as possible. When your mind and heart work together, you will have passion. In service tasks passion is best shown in those countries where service sector is valued as an employment.
I am a regular customer to many retailers and service providers. For some it is because it is convenient, for some because it is rewarding and for some since there is no option. I guess I am quite an easy customer, not expecting too much pampering. But I do expect consistency in customer service – I understand that not every customer servant has always a good day, but it should not affect on the service process. If I get the expected service, but the person serving me does not smile, I can live with that. But if service varies a lot and there is lot of bad experiences I switch the service provider.
Some good examples of consistent and good service providers from my experience are e.g. Elisa, Amazon, Volkswagen, Vianor, Camper and last but not least the Finnish Tax administration.