By Chris Riback, freelance writer
As I consider everything I’ve read, written and discussed around delivering excellent customer service, I realize one thing: How difficult it can be. To help make it simpler, here are six key takeaways that I keep hearing from the experts:
Center yourself: All good customer service programs begin with a solid center. That means a strategy. Identify your business goal, and determine how your customer service operations will directly support and advance that goal. Then you can design tactics (call center approach, return policies, social media interactions, etc.). Too often companies start with the tactics — we need to be on Twitter! — without first centering themselves.
Focus on the details: Once you have the big picture, focus on the little things. While mundane, they often become the one thing a customer remembers. A couple of weeks ago, I took my kid to a Major League Baseball game. I couldn’t help but think about the experience as a customer service exercise. How were they treating me as a customer? While the team did a fairly good job, it wasn’t until the day after the game that they hit it out of the park—I got a thank you email from the club. The email came with a box score, link to video highlights and a thank you. It was so simple—saying “thank you”—yet it really stood out.
Use social wisely: Too often companies use social media to respond to immediate complaints, while they let phone customers languish on hold. What’s your social strategy? Allowing tech-savvy customers to jump the line in front of other callers, is not a winning strategy. Social is about sharing, listening and engaging. Make sure that’s how you use it.
Let your employees be human: Recently an online retailer wouldn’t let me order the return labels for a gift I had received. The call rep insisted that the gift giver had to order them. That was not a human response. Who would actually say that? She was, of course, following policy. I knew that. Indeed, I said to her, “I’m guessing that’s the policy you’ve been given, but I assure you that senior management doesn’t want you to implement it this way!” Once I escalated the call, the supervisor immediately went against policy and assured me I could order the return labels. Don’t restrict your people from being human. They represent your brand.
Listen: The customer who complains certainly isn’t the only one who has the particular issue they are calling about. Similarly, your call center employees are on the front lines, engaging with customers every day. Listen to your customers and your employees. What they know will help you improve your customer experience.
It ain’t easy: Customer Service is never simple. It’s much more complicated than the old adage—the customer’s always right. Great, consistent, scalable Customer Service starts with a strategy and tactics. Further, Customer Service is a living, breathing thing. Products change. Customers change. Communications channels change. Employees change. You must be nimble and continually evolve your approach to keep up with the times.
This post originally appeared on Forbes.