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The News Chair

Great Customer Service Stands Out

My husband and I are about to complete an almost 18-month process of selling our existing home and building a new home. We were fortunate to choose a customer-focused realtor to sell our home and a customer-focused builder to construct our new home. Part of our success with finding good people was the research we did, but much of it was luck. This process started me thinking about the value of good customer service in every industry. If you are in business and rely on customers, what are some best practices?chrisM

According to Lee Cockerell, former Disney World executive, in his new book, The Customer Rules, there are 39 rules he shares on how to create a service that keeps customers coming back for more. The book claims that the principles work in companies as large as Disney to those as small as a local coffee shop. A couple of my favorite rules are:

Rule #1: Customer service is not a department
Rule#2: You win customers one at a time and lose them a thousand at a time
Rule #21 – Make yourself available
Rule #25: Treat every customer like a regular
Rule#30: Be relentless about details

Looking back at our selling and building experiences, I will tell you what mattered to us the most. During the selling process, our realtor kept in constant communication with us. Since it took more than a year to sell our house, he would stop by in person from time-to-time to give us a market update. He made us feel like our house was his only listing. He was very professional when the offer came, and it was obvious he had our best interests in mind.

We also felt included and important during the building process. Everyone asked for our input and really listened to us. We were impressed with the professionalism we received from all the building trades. For example, our electrician walked with us room-by-room to make sure our electrical outlets and switches were placed in the right positions. I can see why this builder has been so successful—he hires customer-focused contractors. When we first met our site contractor, he gave us his cell phone number, which was the best way to reach him. We were encouraged to call him any time with any concerns. We were careful not to abuse this privilege, but it was still nice to know we had access.

My favorite rule from the book is #37– Surprise them with something extra. If companies can deliver good customer service with a little something extra, it will make an impression on the customer, which may lead to a lifelong patron.

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Customer Service with a Smile

Just less than two weeks shy of my wedding day, I found something that translates from pre-wedding “goof ups” by vendors to public relations, marketing — and the world at large. And that is customer service.

Just as each vendor should bend over backwards to fix their mistakes and make my order correct, so should we in the public relations/marketing industry do so for our clients. Courtesy of About.com, here are a few ideas to keep in mind:

  1. Don’t make promises unless you WILL keep them. Not plan to keep them. Will keep them. Reliability is one of the keys to any good relationship, and good customer service is no exception. Think before you give any promise – because nothing annoys customers more than a broken one.
  2. Listen to your customers. Let your customer talk and show him that you are listening by making the appropriate responses, such as suggesting how to solve the problem.
  3. Deal with complaints. No one likes hearing complaints, but if you give the complaint your attention, you may be able to please this one person this one time – and position your business to reap the benefits of good customer service.
  4. Take the extra step. Whatever the extra step may be, if you want to provide good customer service, take it. They may not say so to you, but people notice when people make an extra effort and will tell other people.
  5. Throw in something extra. Whether it’s a coupon for a future discount, additional information on how to use the product, or a genuine smile, people love to get more than they thought they were getting.

So the next time, remember customer service with a smile — and hopefully the rewards will follow. [I wrote a thank-you e-mail after a company promptly corrected their mistake and rushed my order — they said how appreciative they were to get the good news!] 🙂

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