Jun 12

Shazam! Surprise and delight with good customer service

Every Saturday morning, I read the online edition of The Grand Rapids Press, scan the headlines of the Grand Rapids Business Journal e-blast and then listen to Michigan Radio while I prepare my business bank deposit for the week.

Saturday seems to be the only day I can reliably make deposits, and my longtime banking partner, Macatawa Bank, obliges me with Saturday hours. Creature of habit, I’m usually on their doorstep around 11 a.m. – just after “Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me” ends – but not too close to their noon closing hour.

Tellers and managers rotate each week, but they are constant in their cheeriness and efficiency. I close just about every transaction with a thank you for their willingness to work on a Saturday.

The reaction to this is often surprise. It’s my job, one teller said. It’s only a few hours, said another. But last week, one of the tellers stopped me and said thanks in return for my acknowledgement. “You know,” she said, “I look forward to hearing that when I see you. It’s so nice of you to tell us that every week.”

Why wouldn’t we recognize and applaud good customer service? As someone who leads a business that lives – or dies – in large part based on our customer service, I know how much my team and I appreciate those atta-girls and –boys from clients who recognize and appreciate going above and beyond.

Unfortunately, the bar seems to be set fairly low these days. I’ve lost track of the at-bats we’ve gotten with prospects simply because we returned a phone call or email when my competitors failed to do so. Good customer service should really be more than that, shouldn’t it?

It should – and that got me started creating my own list, plus examples, of stellar client service.

  • Seeing the problem through. All too often when I call a toll-free company with a problem, the customer service rep on the other end can’t wait to transfer me to another department. And all too often, the call gets dropped and I find myself back in the hold queue, waiting another 20 minutes to tell the same story to someone new. That’s the prime reason I’m no longer an AT&T customer. And it’s one of the things I admire about Priority Health. They have a policy that no matter who answers a call, that initial person will make sure of a smooth handoff to another department and stay connected until the issue is resolved.
  • Taking things off my plate. I’m in process of selling my first home, a sweet bungalow in Alger Heights I have been attached to for 17 years. While friends counseled me to do a “for sale by owner” since the housing market is so hot, I opted to engage a Realtor® – and it was a superb decision. Kristine Dozeman of Coldwell Banker came in with knowledge, practicality, experience and efficiency. She gave me a modest to-do list to prepare for showing, but the combination of work + May proved to be challenging – so Kristine oh-so-smoothly took things off my plate. One of my favorite texts from her was this: See email for fabulous offers to get jobs completed! Shazam!
  • Communicating – in the right form. This should be a no-brainer, but it’s surprisingly not. There’s nothing worse than waiting, waiting, waiting – whether it’s for a status update on a project or affirmation of a new client relationship. Who likes to think their project is, as one client once joked, put into the bottom drawer of a file cabinet where it falls into a black hole? It’s critical to manage expectations through communication – and Kristine again goes well beyond expectations. She texts when she needs something immediate, emails when it requires a longer response and calls to avoid too much back-and-forth via email or text.
  • Going that extra mile. Sure, most of us in the service business aim to deliver good work, on time and at a fair price. Going beyond that to, in the words of the former Prince Corp. in Holland, “surprise and delight” the customer, is the ultimate measure of good service. My husband and I were walking back to our car after a late mid-week dinner at the Schnitz in Ada and noticed that the “open” sign was still on at Scoopers. Never happens to us; we are never early enough. We approached the counter just as the high schooler behind that counter was reaching to turn off the sign – and yet she opened the window, graciously asked what we wanted and made a couple of cones for us. We rewarded her with a “keep the change” from the $20 we handed to her. “Are you sure?” she asked, quite surprised. Yes, for good service, that’s a small price to pay.

When it comes to great customer service, what is on your list?

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