Excellent Customer Service=Meeting Needs and Exceeding Expectations
Here is something I have always found a little odd. Most businesses are aware that meeting customer needs is critical to their survival. As a matter of fact, on the sales and marketing end the focus is strongly tied to understanding what the customer needs so product solutions can be offered that are meaningful and valuable to him. Why is it then, that so many companies ignore customer needs when they design their customer service models? If it was important on the sales end, shouldn’t it still be important on the service end? Of course it should. If you are looking to improve your customer service program, look no farther than this vital principle: The key to excellent customer service lies in partnering with your customer to help him achieve his goals, to help solve his problems, and to address his needs. When you work hard to help your customer find solutions that will satisfy his specific needs, you are not merely solving a problem, you are solidifying a strong business relationship that can last for years.
So the next question is: How do you go about identifying your customer’s needs? Believe me, the last thing you want to do is run the risk of assuming you know what his needs are before you give him the time to tell you. So, you must start by asking a set of clear, specific questions covering issues like his problems, expectations, results, timetables, people, fund allocation, and level of tolerable disruption related to his organization or his life. For best results, listen patiently and carefully to the answers rather than simply quoting company policy. This is the first step in working with your customer to find real solutions to his problems.
There is another important principle to remember when it comes to providing outstanding customer service. Great customer service certainly means meeting the customer’s business or practical needs, however, what many customer service representatives fail to recognize is that they must also meet their customer’s personal needs. Many times, his own personal needs are more important to the customer than the business solution you help him to search out.
Each of your customers has four main personal, or “human,” needs:
1. The Need to be Understood – when someone contacts customer service, the first need they have is to be heard. They need confirmation that someone is taking the time to really listen to them in order to respond to their need.
2. The Need to Feel Welcome – anyone doing business with you who end up feeling like an outsider will not return. People need to feel that you are glad to help them and that their business is important to you.
3. The Need to Feel Important – ego and self-esteem are powerful human needs. We all like to feel important. Anything you can do to make a guest feel special is a step in the right direction.
4. The Need for Comfort – customers need physical comfort: a place to wait, rest, talk, or do business. They also need psychological comfort: the assurance they will be taken care of properly, and the confidence you will meet their needs.
If you intend to provide the kind of service that will keep customers coming back again and again, then your highest priority must be to focus on these needs.
While many aspects of customer interaction have changed over the years, especially with the advent of the Internet and email, there is still nothing more valuable than building a good relationship with your customer.
A strong customer relationship consists of the following four key elements:
Rapport – rapport is not as simple as just “getting along” with a person. Rapport is a mutual understanding and compatibility between you and your customer about each other’s key goals, problems, and needs.
Value – your customers need to see that building a relationship with you is valuable to them, both in business and personally. Developing effective solutions that truly solve their problems and address key needs enhance your value as a consultant.
Respect – also, your customers have to respect you in order to seek your advice as a consultant. It is impossible to build trust or a relationship if others do not respect you or your advice. Respect is built by exhibiting competency and consistency in everything you do with your customer.
Trust – if you consistently offer your customer rapport, value, and respect, you will EARN his trust completely. Trust is vital for establishing a long-term business relationship, but it is not something you can demand from your customer. Instead, it is something that he extends to you as a result of the way you respond to him over time.
If you want to build a solid bond of trust between you and your customer, then never deliver less than he or she expects of you. The better you fulfill their expectations, the higher the trust level they will have for you in the future. And don’t forget: it only takes a few incidents of failure to meet their expectations to cost you their trust, respect, and most likely their business as well.
By James A. Baker
Author, The Anger Busting Workbook,
Finalist, Book of the Year, Foreword Magazine
Founder and CEO,