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Defining Customer Service for Your Business

We are currently consulting with a husband and wife team that has built a successful $2 million a year security business in just a few short years. We are consulting on a broad range of issues. We meet every Wednesday afternoon for 60 to 90 minutes to cover a specific topic each week.

Defining Customer Service for Your Business

This past week, the topic was customer service. In gathering material for the session, I Googled “definition ofcustomer service.” Candidly, I was disappointed with the results. For the most part, the search yielded one- or two-sentence definitions that generally said something about satisfying customers or making them happy.

Hmmm. It seems to me that customer service needs to be defined not in a neat little sentence or two, but instead based on the nature of the business, the needs of the target customer, and probably, many other factors.

And so, for last week’s customer service meeting, we created an exercise that enabled our client to consider a range of words and phrases that help define customer service in the context of their business.

We thought we would share that with you and suggest that you re-define these words and phrases as they relate to customer service for your business. We present our list alphabetically so as not to suggest one idea is more important than another:

  • Accuracy – Be detailed and accurate. Proofread. Re-calculate. Be precise. Write it down!
  • Anticipate – Anticipate questions, concerns, problems, pushback.
  • Apologetic – Apologize for mistakes and make them right.
  • Appreciate – Appreciate the business, the relationship, the customer, the opportunity, the order.
  • Attitude – Taking care of the customer is much more than just your job.
  • Caring – Caring about the customer. Caring about doing a great job.
  • Competence – Be competent. Know what you are doing.
  • Confidence – Show that you have confidence in yourself and your company. Be confident in what you say and do.
  • Cross-sell – How do you know that the customer doesn’t need another product or service unless you ask?
  • Desire to belong – Make your customer want to be a (“your company here”) customer because being a (“your company here”) customer means you get all of this stuff and because it makes the customer feel cool and proud…proud to be your customer. While you are at it, see if you can make your employees feel the same way.
  • Enthusiasm – Be enthusiastic about the customer, your job, and your company. “It’s a great day to work for (‘your company here’) and to have you as a customer.”
  • Empathy – Show that you care.
  • Follow Up – Did it happen? Did it happen the way your customer expected? When the customer expected it to happen?
  • Helpful – Answer dumb questions as if they are brilliant questions you never thought of.
  • Out-serve – Beat the crap out of the competition. Compete on service, not price.
  • Professional – Represent yourself and (“your company here”) the way you want to be perceived.
  • Problem-solving – Turn a customer problem into a customer victory.
  • Product awareness – Product knowledge. Even the people who work in functions like IT and accounting.
  • Pride – Be proud of yourself, of working for (“your company here”), and of the opportunity to serve the customer.
  • Reliability – Do what you say you are going to do. Keep promises.
  • Responsive – Do it now. If not, when? Return that call responsively. Be on time.
  • Relationship – Build a relationship with every single customer. Not just a customer, a friend.
  • Support/supportive – Be the customer’s advocate. Take the customer’s side or point of view.
  • Train – Train, train, train the (“your company here”) way up and down the organization.
  • Urgency – Show a sense of urgency. It may not be urgent to you, but it probably is for the customer.
  • Virtue – Be ethical: have high standards for yourself and for (“your company here”). Be honest at all times. No BS.

Our clients enjoyed this exercise and indicated they would share it with their staff of eight, some of whom work in the office and some in the field. That should generate some different answers.

I learned a lot from this exercise, as well:

  • The definitions above are mine, not the client’s. I learned that, while many of the words generated similar answers, many did not, and that is the way it should be. Customer service, as defined by a security company, should be quite different than customer service as defined by a consulting firm.
  • This list is not all-inclusive – far from it. Create your list based on your experience, the nature of your business, and target customer requirements.
  • I learned that if you can define customer service in a catchy sentence or two, then it is probably not that important to you.
  • I learned – maybe not learned, let’s say confirmed – that I can provide excellent customer service to clients just as effectively by teleconference as I can physically, face-to-face.

How do YOU define customer service?

Jimmy's background includes over 40 years in international, commercial, and investment banking, and nearly a decade as the principal shareholder and CEO of a rapidly growing manufacturing and distribution business in California. Today, Jimmy spends his time advising and consulting with entrepreneurs on matters related to business planning, as well as capital markets and funding strategies. Jimmy works with clients throughout the world in industries that include financial services, real estate, manufacturing and hospitality. View details.

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