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David FullerUnfortunately, really great customer service is hard to find.

North American consumers say we want a wonderful customer service experience. But in fact, we’ve come to expect something much less.

Sometimes we get exceedingly bad customer service and we rant and rage. We believe that when we’re doing business with a company, that company should have our interests in mind, not the bottom line.

Keeping customers thrilled so they want to do business with a company again and want to tell their friends about how great the experience was is an elusive goal.

Customer service is that awkward thing that few companies really do right.

Businesses train staff on customers service … about once a year. We tell our employees that the customers are always right but we act as if they’re never right. We say we want to focus on the customer but we’re always focused on the numbers.

One day we have great customer service because Happy, one of our employees, is really good. But the next time our customer comes in they get another staff member, Grumpy, who really doesn’t like people.

Business has been pretty good for most industries over the last decade. Stock prices are at all-time highs and many companies are making good profit. It seems that in many markets, it’s hard to fill jobs with qualified people.

However, with changes in technology, competition and expectations, many businesses are having to look again at their customer service to ensure they stay viable.

If we aren’t creating value for our customers, if we’re treating them badly or if our competition gives them something over and above what we’re doing, they’re going to walk. So much for profits!

So what are the keys to customer service that many businesses have forgotten while the good times were rolling?

Customers want to be served by people who like people and do their job.

Author Scott McKain says that 68 percent of customers leave a business because they were put off by an employee’s bad attitude. Only four percent of customers will ever report it; the rest just leave.

We need to hire people with the right attitude and train them appropriately. Our employees need to be consistent and congruent. They need to keep their word and give the same great level of service to customers every time.

This can’t be done without systemizing the steps to ensure our customers go away raving rather than raging about the service they received.

Grow a backbone and keep your employees accountable.

Unfortunately, many of businesses overlook the crappy attitudes of some employees.

We say things like: “Oh, that’s just Mrs. Jones complaining … she always complains. James isn’t really as bad as she says.”

We get tired of hearing the complaints from customers about James and we block them out. We don’t want to do anything about James and how he treats customers because we don’t want to rock the boat. We’re scared of having a conflict with James – and that, according to writer Patrick Lencioni, is one of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

Unfortunately, because we don’t keep our employees accountable, Mrs. Jones, her friends and their friends will just have to take their business elsewhere.

About James … well, it’s really hard to find employees so we just leave James doing what he’s doing: running our business into the ground.

Figure out how to exceed your customers’ expectations.

You and your team know your business better than anybody else. You know what your customers expect from past experience, or at least you should.

So figure out how you can exceed your customers’ expectations. Do they want simplicity, speed, value, experience or something else?

If you don’t know, just ask them! What can you do that your competition doesn’t that will really make your customers say “Wow! That was really great customer service. I think I’ll tell my friends.”

Customer service isn’t rocket science, but it takes the same commitment it took to put a man on the moon. It needs a serious, consistent approach that’s firm in its resolve to give customers reasons to keep doing business with us.

When we forget the key reasons why we’re in business – to serve customers and create value for them – all will be lost quickly and we’ll be looking for something else to do.

Dave Fuller, MBA, is an award winning business coach and a partner in the firm Pivotleader Inc. Comments on business at this time? Email [email protected]

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