In any personal relationship, building trust is a key ingredient. Without trust, there really is no opportunity to deepen the relationship or have it evolve beyond the superficial stage. The same is true for customer relationships. To build trust and, loyalty with your customers, three elements are needed: competency, integrity, and follow through. Basically, if you know what you are doing, keep your promises, and follow through to ensure that your customers are happy, they will trust you. Even more, they will be confident in your ability to deliver an exceptional service experience every time. Earn your customer’s confidence, reap the rewards.
Recently, I was invited to attend a gourmet food show, which featured a large exposition hall. Approximately one week before attending, I decided to call the customer service line to ask a few questions. First, I asked the customer service representative, “What time will the doors open?” She didn’t know. Then I asked, “Will anything be on sale?” She didn’t know that either. Finally, I asked approximately how many exhibitors will be in the expo hall. Her reply, “Sir, I don’t know. I only work in a cubicle in the customer service department.”
There is no substitute for being competent. If you don’t know the answer to a question, then find out. If your goal is to build a culture of service excellence, then, “I don’t know” is never acceptable
Action Step: Assess your own role, and take note of everything you ought to know. Brainstorm potential questions that customers may ask. Immerse yourself in the intricacies of your role, your team, and your organization. Be competent.
It is commonly understood that you should do whatever you say you will do. Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly common for people to do the exact opposite. Recently, an auto body technician assessed my car’s damaged bumper and he promised to send an estimate to me by the following morning. I eventually got the estimate…over three days later. Have integrity. Think about how often businesses say they will call you, email you, or update you, and it never happens. Indeed, it is noticeable (and even admirable) when someone says they will do something and actually does it.
I recently had a question for the company that hosts my company’s online store. I spoke with Kaci, who did not know the answer to my question, but she told me that she would find out and get back to me by the close of the business day. Kaci did exactly what she promised, and I am confident that if I have a question, that Kaci or someone on her team can assist.
Action step: Do not overpromise and under-deliver. Commit to under-promising and over delivering. If you
I have written previously about the importance of problem resolution and follow-through. The follow-through aspect is so important that it is worth revisiting. In my article, the 100% principle, I noted that whenever you receive a complaint, that you should follow up until you are certain that the customer is 100% satisfied with the resolution. We often times receive a complaint or request, initiate a resolution, then assume that everything will magically fall into place, culminating in a happy customer. Unfortunately, it rarely works out that way.
My team recently re-ordered a supply of our popular commitment cards that are sold on our website. Unfortunately, there was a printing error that made the cards unfit to be sold. So after we informed the vendor of the error, they apologized, re-printed the order and shipped it to us again. Now, here is the problem. No one from the vendor’s office called or emailed us to follow-up and see if the new order was, in fact, printed to our satisfaction. Fortunately, it was…but what if it wasn’t? The customer should never have to follow-up with you first.
- Say you will own the complaint/request.
- Get the customer’s contact information (email and phone # should suffice).
- Get the customer’s preferred mode of contact (email, text, phone call).
- Begin the process of fixing the issue. Ensure that the resolution matches the complaint / request.
- If you need to pass the issue to another person/department , then do so. (But remember, that YOU still own it!).
- Proactively inform the customer on the status every 24 hours using the customer’s preferred mode of contact.
- When you’ve received confirmation that the issue has been resolved, then contact the customer to inform them.
- Follow-up to ensure that the customer is, in fact, happy with the resolution.
I realize the key points in this article can be deemed as common sense. If they are common sense, then why aren’t they commonly done? Being competent, having integrity, and following through are essential to building a relationship and earning your customer’s confidence. Continuously assess yourself, and assess your team to note where your strengths and opportunities for improvement are. If your customer’s are confident in your ability to serve them, they will use your service more often and refer others to you as well. Perhaps, in the world of service, one of the most powerful phrases a customer can tell you is, I trust you and know that you will take care of me, regardless of the circumstance.” Earn your customer’s confidence and reap the rewards.