The Five Features of Five Star Customer Service
[4 min read]
How to manage and exceed client expectations.
It is a known fact that 68% of customers stop doing business with a company because of poor customer service, yet 95% of dissatisfied customers would continue to do business with a company if their problem was solved quickly and satisfactorily (source: International Customer Service Association). And we also know that it is 6 to 7 times more expensive to gain a new customer than it is to retain an existing customer (source: Bain & Co study in the Harvard Business Review). Hence, not only is it logical to look after our existing customers from a financial perspective, strong and long-lasting business relationships with our clients also provide us with a significantly higher job satisfaction.
We could define quality customer service as: “The act of taking care of the customer’s (internal and external) needs, by providing and delivering professional, helpful, high quality service and assistance before, during, as well as after the customer’s requirements are met.” Hence, providing 5-star customer service means going the extra mile for our clients, and making sure that they are being serviced timely and in a pleasant manner and are happy and satisfied with our products or services.
Digging a little further into what quality customer service entails, we can identify two different parts: the content, or in other words WHAT we do (our operations, decision making, seeking feedback etc.) and the people, or HOW we do things (the care factor, fulfilling expectations, conflict management, and dealing with emotions). This article takes a closer look at how we can improve our personal interactions with our current and potential clients to deliver outstanding customer service.
There are several useful and highly effective strategies that can assist us with our interpersonal skills and help to explore and successfully fulfil customer expectations. In fact, we identified FIVE FEATURES to deliver FIVE STAR CUSTOMER SERVICE.
Feature 1: Fostering a supportive environment
The key to quality customer service is building solid, long-lasting relationships with our clients by promoting a positive, friendly and helpful environment. And the environment we are creating is not just for our customers. If the entire workforce experiences an environment where we can be at our best, we will be able to much better connect with clients and serve customers with our own authentic and genuine being.
“Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.” ~ Simon Sinek
A positive, supportive organisational environment is one where people (employees and customers) wholehearted feel that they:
- Can contribute
This empowers individuals, and not only creates accountability for their own performance but furthermore the outcome of the entire team. Thanking the customers to show them that they matter and promoting a positive, helpful and friendly environment where they belong will ensure they leave with a great impression. A happy customer will return often and is likely to spend more.
Feature 2: Managing our internal conversations
Customer Service is being delivered by us. Therefore, we need to be at our best to be able to provide 5-star customer service. In other words, the more effectively we can manage our internal dialog (how we think and how we interpret things in our life) the better we become at customer service.
Our thoughts are made up of words, which have an incredible impact and immense power. They have the power to crush us, to make us feel exhilarated, or to encourage us and improve our confidence. Language provokes wars, is a source of controversy, creates diplomacy, fosters love, hate, confusion, and can make or break customer service. Learn to manage your internal conversation in our article “A penny for your thoughts: how to enhance your silent conversations”.
Feature 3: Fulfilling customer needs in a positive way
Customer expectations are influenced by the company brand (image and reputation), as well as customers’ needs. If we explore our customers’ drive or motivation to buy or consume, we can successfully fulfil their expectations and needs at the core. To explore these needs, we can lean on the ‘6 Cs’ model which is based on Maslow’s Pyramid and further work by Anthony Robbins.
The model explains that every human being (regardless of gender, age, race, culture etc.) has the same 6 desires (or human core needs) and is driven to satisfy all of them. This is valid in all different areas of our life such as business, family, relationships and in the way we spend our spare time. The priority on any of these desires will be different depending on the part of your life, but for us to be fulfilled in these individual areas, all deepest desires have to be met – and it is exactly the same for customer service.
Whether we can satisfy the ‘6 Cs’ in a resourceful (high quality) or in an unresourceful (low quality) way will define the level of customer service we can deliver. The 6 Cs are in detail explained in our specific article.
Feature 4: Building rapport to strengthen relationships
The major benefit of building rapport with someone is that they will be much more likely to want to interact with us, share information, listen to us, support our ideas and collaborate effectively.
“Business, after all, is nothing more than a bunch of human relationships” ~ Lee Iacocca
We can define rapport define as: “A state of trust and responsiveness where your words become the other person’s thoughts.”
Apart from the supportive environment we already covered, any initial resistance can be overcome through mutual respect, embracing diversity, mindfulness, acceptance, open and transparent communication, and ‘speaking the other person’s language’.
How effective our rapport building methods and communication skills are, often becomes evident in the responses we receive. If we feel that we are not getting heard or that our message does not create any impact, we must change our approach to the way we communicate. You can find out more about rapport building in our article “Building rapport with anyone: 5 hacks that work”.
Feature 5: Structuring client conversations for productive outcomes
We communicate with our customers each and every day through conversations, expressions and body language, social media, email, phone etc. Since we communicate so frequently and through a range of channels, we should be experts – but we are not.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” ~ George Bernard Shaw
Conflict situations are inevitable and when they are not being managed promptly, they can very quickly deteriorate and negatively affect communication, productivity and ultimately customer service. Setting up these challenging conversations with a clear structure is a sure way to swiftly turn dysfunctional situations into productive outcomes. Because they create greater awareness, choices and more ecological outcomes for all involved parties.
There are a range of options to address and successfully overcome communication barriers, and the quite possibly most important one is genuinely listening to the other person (or people).
Sadly, this is often overlooked. People tend to focus more on what they want to say rather than listening to what is being said. Active listening skills helps us and our customers to have more open and fruitful conversations, where everyone is heard.
How to listen:
- Focus completely on the other person
- Listen without interruption, judgement, or assumptions
- Listen with empathy and beyond what is said to understand the meaning behind it
And if we are not sure about what is being said, then we must clarify what we hear and acknowledge what we understand without assumptions or judgment.
Luckily, there are a range of tools and strategies to successfully structure a conversation to provide us with the skills and confidence to stay on course and turn a dysfunctional situation into a positive outcome.
- Focus on solutions and ask high quality, empowering questions
- Listen and rephrase if required
- Use the GROW model for call control
The GROW strategy is a four-step process that can be compared to planning a journey; establishing a goal (where we want to go) and determining our reality (where we currently are). Then it is about exploring the options (various routes), and the last step is about the way forward, in other words establishing the commitment to making the journey.
Following are a few practical questions we can utilise at each step:
Examples for G: How would you like this situation/issue to be? How will you know that you have achieved the outcome/goal?
Examples for R: What have you attempted to do so far to transform this situation? What results did you get?
Examples for O: What could you do if you had total certainty about the outcome? What could you do if you knew you could not fail?
Examples for W: Looking at your options, which action(s) stand out as being the action(s) that would bring you just one step closer to your outcome? When will you have completed these first action steps?
To ensure we provide the best customer service possible, we must:
- Know what our customers consider to be good customer service
- Take the time to explore our customers’ expectations
- Follow up on both positive and negative feedback we receive
- Ensure that we consider customer service in all aspects of our business
- Continuously look for ways to improve the level of customer service we deliver
We must remember: Customers are not people to be tolerated so that we can do our thing – they ARE our thing! They are not an interruption to our work but the PURPOSE of it.
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