Author: by Steve Zipkoff
A true story – on July 19, 2009, a man in New Hampshire went into a gas station to purchase a pack of cigarettes and was charged $23,148,855,308,184,500 on his debit card. When he saw the stunning 17-digit number he called his bank to sort out the problem and to eliminate the $15 overdraft fee. To his chagrin, it took over two hours on the telephone to convince the bank employee the cigarettes did not cost $23 quadrillion and he should not be charged the $15 overdraft fee. The bank finally corrected the error…the next day!
Although this is an oversized example of a transaction gone haywire and a double dose of bad customer service, it is also an example of something that’s wrong with businesses today. Employees are afraid to rectify customer service issues because they are worried about the repercussions if they make a mistake. What would your colleagues or staff have done in a similar situation?
What the bank employee should have done is instantly correct the error. The bank should have taught their employees that no one will ever be punished for using good judgment and common sense when trying to accommodate a customer’s needs, no matter what the rules are.
So what can be done to improve customer service? Retain your customers by delighting them. Here are two tools to begin the journey to delighting your customers.
Tool One…See Yourself as a Service Provider
You don’t just sell a product, you sell a service. For those in healthcare, you don’t just provide medical care, you provide comfort, ease of mind and knowledge – along with the ability to treat and cure illness. No matter how accurate your diagnosis might be, if it’s delivered in a way that confuses or in some instances alienates the patient, the patient won’t be delighted and might not follow your directions leading to a lack of compliance. Ninety percent of patients change doctors because they feel the doctor is aloof, abrupt, inattentive or evasive.
Every person in your employ must realize that being a service provider means that each and every one has the ability to assist customers in delivering uncompromising service – and that begins with your leadership and clear communication.
Several years ago my wife became paralyzed, and she sees a neurologist for check-ups. At the scheduled appointment time we went to the doctor’s office. After 30 minutes we were still waiting to be called. After speaking to the receptionist, she told us she would find out why there was a delay in seeing the doctor. After another 30 minutes had gone by, still no answer about the delay. The receptionist got angry because I was asking why the long delay with no explanation. We left the office without seeing the doctor. Later there was a call from the doctor’s office to apologize for the receptionist’s behavior. My wife now sees another neurologist, one that empowers their staff to communicate clearly and is patient friendly.
Being a professional service provider means the customer’s needs take precedent over almost everything else. Your staff will watch you to see how you treat the patient, and they will follow your lead.
Tool Two…Create an Adaptable Environment
Learn how to change based on the needs of your customer. If your client asks for something and the request is reasonable, consider the request. In the example above, the receptionist should have found out how long the delay was going to be, provided an explanation and offered alternatives such as…continue to wait, reschedule the appointment, perhaps even offer lunch while we waited.
Be flexible and honor requests when it makes sense. If you wait for the customer to provide solutions, you often won’t like the options. Before the situation gets out of control, provide choices – they ease customer’s minds and provide your clients acceptable solutions to problematic issues.
Delivering customer delight is an on-going journey and the journey never ends. If you deliver delight customers will return again and again.
Steve Zipkoff is the President/CEO of Zipkoff Solutions, and an Adjunct Professor at the SMU Cox Graduate School of Business in Dallas.
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