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Five reasons your customer service is letting you down

5th Jul 2010
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Michael Heppell, the author of a series of best-selling books on customer service, shares some tips on creating loyalty from customer service - and where companies normally slip up.

I’m going to be brutally honest - there are probably more than five for most businesses. And if you think that’s depressing, there’s probably one which is costing more than all the others put together. The scary fact is you don’t know which one is 'the one' so you’ll have to fill all the gaps to make sure you plug the biggie.
On a brighter note, your competition probably aren’t reading this article (you hope). So if you get your finger out and act on what you are reading here you’ll stand a fighting chance of building more loyalty with your customers. And you may just make some more money in the process.
Ah ha! Now I have your, attention let’s begin.
  1. Fixing what’s gone wrong
    The single biggest mistake people make when trying to provide great service is trying to fix things after they’ve gone wrong. Why not make sure that you have earned the loyalty of your customers? Then they are happy to forgive you on that one occasion that you dropped the ball. Obviously in the perfect world you would like your cake and eat it. The ‘cake’ being a plethora of wonderful customers who are always happy because you never take any withdrawals from their emotional bank account. But this is real life. You will have to take withdrawals; giving a customer their bill is a big one, so create lots of deposits FIRST. It’s not rocket science but it really is the number one mistake you could make.
  2. You think you're good  
    The challenge with 'good' service is it's rarely good enough. Here's something for you to consider.  When you are doing a good job you are probably fulfilling the minimum expectations of your customer.  No one is going to become a raving fan of the service you provide if you think good is going to be good enough. A few years ago I wrote a book called 'How to be Brilliant'. The premise is simple - why do a good job when, with a few tools and techniques and a healthy dose of effort, you could do a brilliant one? So start asking, 'What can I do right now to raise my game and provide a BRILLIANT service?'
  3. Forgetting who the most important person in the world really is
    I spoke at a conference last year which had Outstanding Customer Service as its theme. I asked the audience, who is the most important person in the world? Quick as a flash a bloke shouted out "the customer". I replied with, "OK, so you and your customer are on a desert island, there's food for one. Now who's the most important person in the world?" He looked confused for a moment before shouting back, "I'd eat the bugger". YOU are the most important person in the world, so start looking after yourself. Self-respect, self-help, self-worth are three areas to focus on. Only when you address those areas can you really create amazing five star service for your customers.
  4. Sharing your problems
    A problem shared is a problem halved. Rubbish! A problem shared is usually a pain in the butt. A new restaurant opened in my local town. I was excited and couldn’t wait to test out the food and service. So I waited until a month had passed so that they had a chance to establish themselves and iron out any teething problems. You don’t want to hear the gory details, but let’s just say the evening was pants. Warm white wine, cold food, desperate service and a bill that made me wince. Just as we were about to leave, one of the owners stopped by our table and asked what we thought of our meal. Because I wanted to help, I told her, in great detail. Her reaction was brilliant. She listened, took note and thanked me for the feedback. As we left the restaurant, the other owner stopped us and asked the same question. I suggested he talk to his partner, but he insisted I tell him. So I did. Or at least I tried to. After a few seconds he dived in and started to tell me about his problems. Details on how his chef had walked on Valentine’s Night, how he was finding it difficult to recruit good staff and on and on. Up until that moment I had considered returning to the restaurant to give it another chance, but who would risk going back for more of him? Not me. The point is, your customers only want to know what you will do to help them. Get it!
  5. Lack of service education
    You can’t be brilliant at customer service by only studying yourself. There’s a wonderful wide world out there bursting with ideas that you could adapt and use. By 'thinking transferrable' you can grab some amazing ideas very quickly from the likes of; the motor trade, education, specialist traders and dozens of others. If you like what you see, concentrate on tweaking them and adapting them to fit your organisation now. If you don’t you’ll lose business. Your customers won’t tell you why they’ve gone, they’ll just go. You’ll blame anything but your own less than brilliant service and never know how it could have been.  So take action. Get excited about raising your levels of service. You’ll witness your existing customers becoming your biggest advocates. You’ll be more successful and life will be brilliant!
It’s your choice.
Michael Heppell is the best selling author of five books including Five Star Service which is available now. You can find out more about Michael at

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By Ged Thompson
12th Jul 2010 10:35

Some great areas highlighted and I particular like the point about a problem shared….. In my experience at Sage, the key thing to understand is that customers want to know what you can do to help them and this is where to focus your energies during any service recovery conversation. Tell them what you can do, don’t give time to justifying what you can’t and deliver on what you say you will do.

I’ve found encouraging customer feedback is also important, create a simple mechanism (like the restaurant owner asking the question) for a customer to let you know what you’re doing well and where you can improve. Embed a culture where your team look for feedback and are properly equipped to deal with it when it does come in. When the feedback does come in, see things from a customer’s perspective and review whether internal processes need to be changed. If they do, challenge, review and implement.

Of course, to make this work, everyone has to be aware that Customer Experience\Service is everyone’s responsibility. Each area pulling in the same direction, with the business objectives aligned to deliver this.

Ged Thompson

Sage (UK) Ltd

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