Many of the most successful companies got to the top by maintaining a high level of customer service. While some organizations think that providing good service is an expense, it should actually be a major source of profit. After all, satisfied clients are much more likely not only to do repeat business but also to send referral business, lowering the cost of acquiring new customers. Providing great customer service is a four step process, beginning with meeting the customers' expectations and ending with amazing the customers by going far beyond what they ever expected.
Meet The Customer's Expectaions
The first level of customer service is primarily defensive. The bare minimum that your company can do is to give your customers what you led them to believe that they would get. Doing this won't build a relationship with those customers. All it does is prevent them from actively seeking a shopping alternative. It's worth noting that this step is the foundation on which all of the others are built. No matter how hard you try to dazzle customers, your mistakes will outweigh your moments of great service if you aren't consistently executing the fundamentals.
Exceed the Customer's Expectations
Given the low state of many customers' expectations, exceeding them is not a significant challenge if your company is focused on providing good customer service. To reach this state, your company simply needs to be friendly, responsive and must follow up after the sale. This might seem obvious, but think about how many companies you do business with that don't even meet this standard.
Gain Loyalty by Delighting Customers
The third step is to go beyond being good -- it's to be great. A coach class flight that lands on time with free beverages and a seat with adequate legroom exceeds the customer's expectations. A first class flight delights them. Once a customer is considerably delighted by your service, knowing that they will consistently get not just better service than they expect, but better service than anyone else would get them, delivered with a sense of caring, you have earned their loyalty.
Cement Relationships by Amazing Customers
Continuing the flight metaphor, it was probably pretty amazing the first time that a pilot unexpectedly congratulated a frequent flyer on his birthday over the plane's address system. Stories abound of amazing customer service events in just about every industry. If your company is executing well on every level of customer service, occasionally amazing the customer cements their loyalty while constantly moving your relationship with them closer. It bears repeating, though, that periodically amazing customers is not a substitute for providing consistent good service.
Steve Lander has been a writer since 1996, with experience in the fields of financial services, real estate and technology. His work has appeared in trade publications such as the "Minnesota Real Estate Journal" and "Minnesota Multi-Housing Association Advocate." Lander holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Columbia University.