In the first part of our series on how to provide excellent customer service, we looked at some of the classics, such as Nordstrom’s, Drybar, and Virgin Atlantic Airlines. Each with a slightly different twist, but the ultimate goal of complete customer satisfaction is maintained. In this portion of our series, we will examine a few additional examples of elite customer service from some of the more familiar corporate brands.
I often wonder whatever happened to planned obsolescence in manufacturing. You remember the days not long ago when your washer or dryer would suddenly die on the day your warranty expired. Not today. Everything is made to last. Product reliability and quality have become virtual commodities in our world. The challenge then, for a business, is to find another way to differentiate themselves. One of the best ways to truly engage customers is to connect with them via superior customer service.
I have to begin with Starbucks. I use to be a heavy hitter there, until I could no longer afford it. I only drank regular coffee, not one of the Italian versions I cannot pronounce. Anyway, Starbucks, in my humble opinion, is not just great at customer service, but it actually is over-the-top. What has the world come to when one worries about the design of the caramel on top of their macchiato? Starbucks has a precise pattern of caramel sauce: a lattice of seven vertical and horizontal lines with two full circles around it.
This standard provides more than visual consistency, it also ensures a small amount of caramel sauce in almost every sip. It also ensures that it makes me want to puke. I can just imagine the poor barista who only managed to swirl six lines of caramel on the macchiato and was met with a verbal thrashing by a highly caffeinated customer. And those wooden stir sticks? They source them from a specific variety of birch tree that company testing has shown won’t interact with the flavor of a coffee drink. I can just picture the focus group of coffee fanatics licking an arboretum’s worth of trees trying not to gain any flavor. Okay, you get the point.
As a customer of USAA, I can attest to their stellar customer performance. While many companies gratuitously jump on the military bandwagon, this is actually the mission statement of USAA. They serve the military and their extended family. There are very few businesses I will ever pick up the phone and call for help, because of the utter chaos on the other end. With USAA, there is virtually no wait time, and they are always more than pleased to help you with whatever your insurance or banking needs may be. In a novel approach, USAA has a mindset that every USAA employee is also a customer. Employees are encouraged to be on the lookout for how to improve the experience of customers; in other words, themselves. Bravo USAA.
The truly great customer service companies have commonalities that are reflected among their employees. Take a look at a few of the following:
- Availability of user-friendly FAQs and self-help content.
- Prompt response to customer queries, complaints, or requests.
- Easy access to customer care/support representatives via a multi-channel approach (online, email, SMS, chat, social media, video call, mobile, etc.).
- Smart use of relevant technologies such as CRM, data analytics, AI, and machine learning.
- Seamless alignment with an overall customer experience strategy.
- Authentic, motivated, and highly trained customer service professionals.
Incorporate these ideas into your customer service department. In the next installment, we will look at some major company faux-pas’ and how they not only handled them, but turned them into positive public relations for their firm. Stay tuned.