What, really, can you do to achieve “great customer service”?

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Michael Johnson
Wisconson plumber Michael Johnson “gets” the construction service concept. He’s with a client here.

How do you provide “great customer service”? This question has real importance, because there is increasing evidence that when you can truly “wow” your clients with excellent service, you’ll see much higher net revenue, less stress and greater business sustainability.

Yet, things are rarely as simple as they seem. I know businesses which proclaim in their marketing material: “We provide great customer service” probably at best, just get it okay. If the service truly is great, the customers will (themselves) tell the story, ideally through video and social media testimonials.

Sure, you can (and should) encourage your really good clients to tell everyone they know about how good you are, but I think we all need to go further – to discover the secret sauce that allows us to stand out from the crowd of “great customer service” businesses.

In a recent Globe and Mail article, University of Victoria professor Mark Colgate outlined a few ideas (I’ve elaborated and interpreted them a bit):

Make employment engagement a greater priority

If your employees are grumpy, we can safely ensure your clients will be treated in a grumpy manner. I mean, you can’t really truly force unhappy employees to smile and regard clients with incredible respect.

Define a clear vision and goals

It helps to have direction, though of course goals stated only mean something when you actually implement the necessary changes.

Make customer service an integral part of your brand

Well, that might not seem obvious for a drywall contractor or architect with a long-established practice. But maybe we can change things a bit – how could we redefine our behaviours sufficiently to change the way our clients really view us.

Build a system

Replication, yes, is important. But this can be a challenge when you design things, because you need to give your employees enough power and autonomy to think on the spot. Yet you also need rules, or things could just get downright chaotic.

Create cultural norms, not rules

What – a contradiction with my last expression. Well, in part, yes. Colgate says: “Letting employees do what they should think is best can be risky, but a rigid system of rules and scripts prevents them from being empathetic and creating a connection with customers.”

None of the businesses Colgate cites as having great customer service, by the way, are in the AEC community. I know of just a few worthy of this designation. Is yours one of them?

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