Picture of Cindy Solomon

Cindy Solomon

5 Secrets to Mind-Blowing Customer Service


We’ve all been there: The company whose customer service was so bad you wanted to throw your phone against the wall or yell something really unpleasant at the “customer service” rep (maybe even suggest a new title for their job?).

Contrast that with the company whose service was so good, you walked away thinking, “Did that really happen?” We all know which company we want to be.

But sometimes it’s harder than you would think because the answers don’t always lie where you would expect them.

Check out these five secrets to creating a mind-blowing service culture.

Secret 1: Know who your REAL competition is.

Surprise! It’s actually not the guy down the street doing the same thing as you are. Sorry, it’s worse: It’s every other company that’s offering rock star customer service.

For me, one of those “gold standard” companies is Amazon. I happily pay that Prime membership each year because Amazon makes good on its promises 100% of the time: It gets my product to me when I want it. Always.  If something’s wrong with the product, it offers me instant gratification, no questions asked. Just recently I had to return something, and before I even got it in the mail, Amazon had already sent a replacement.

That’s an example of how our expectations as customers are escalating every single day. And that means that your competition, as it relates to the benchmark of service, is whoever best last served your customer.  So you might want to think about who best last served you, and then bounce that up against how your team serves customers.

Secret 2: Time is the new currency.

I cannot stress this enough: In today’s go-go, 24/7 world, time is everything. Your process must be seamless.

In fact, I’ve heard that 90% of us would pay more for something that is easy. I would venture to go even higher. Sometimes I ask my audiences how many of them are willing to spend a little bit more on something if it’s easy and saves time, and 100% of the people there raise their hands. (I’ll wait while you do, too.) It’s easy to see why: Time is the only commodity that we can’t get more of.

So if you want your customers to love you, save them time. One of my clients, Alaska Airlines, implemented a simply brilliant strategy with its “20 minute baggage guarantee.” If you’re not lucky enough to be in an Alaska market, here’s the gist: If your bags are not at baggage claim within 20 minutes after your plane reaches the gate, you receive a $25 discount code for use on a future Alaska Airlines flight or 2,500 miles, your choice.

The reason they did this is simple: Passengers are often reluctant to check their bags because they don’t want to wait around for them or risk having them sent to the Bahamas while they’re stuck in Cleveland. And they certainly don’t want to pay for it! Alaska was able to turn this pain point into a competitive advantage by saving their customers time.

Secret 3: Focus your team on what matters.

It’s tempting to talk about success in terms of metrics, stats, costs, blah blah, but how much are you talking about the customer in day-to-day interactions? I often find the biggest disconnect here is with internally facing teams. For them, it can be easy to lose sight of the company’s mission towards its external customers.

You can fix that by making the customer real – even if they never interact with them. That will allow them to make better decisions inside the company, which will help those who are serving the customer outside the company. Companies usually don’t set up challenging processes on purpose – they just don’t realize their processes are creating stumbling blocks if no one tells them.

So, if you’re in accounting, remember that your customer is not your boss who wants the reports on time. It’s the customer who wants to make it seamless to send invoices and check their status so they can mind their budgets and P&L.

Secret 4: Pick your priorities.

Every company has to spend their time on their biggest priority, and that’s harder than it sounds because it can be an easy knee-jerk reaction to put time against either problems or areas of opportunity and lose sight of your core.

That’s why companies need to constantly remind themselves what they are best at and put the right people in the right place to play to their strengths.

Back to Alaska and that baggage plan: It totally worked because they were able to focus on their strength of operations, which is what they do extraordinarily well. A lot of things have to happen to get those suitcases to baggage claim on time so they had to completely retool some processes that impacted the whole operation, but the whole organization was all in.

For example, if T-20 starts when the plane gets in the chocks, people above and below the wing have to be ready to swing into action. Alaska also had to partner externally with the airports and their operations, which helped bolster those important relationships and frankly made the airports themselves improve, a win-win for everyone.

Secret 5: Live what you say you will.

The key here is to know your company strengths and identify them to the customer, with each and every interaction. This is known in marketing buzz-talk as “brand promise.”

So if you are all about seamless technology, then it better be seamless 100% of the time. If your self-identified strength is your people, then ensure they’re able to perform every day to meet that expectation.

Take what you’re saying about your company and how you’re acting and make sure they are in alignment. Otherwise, customer expectations are violated.

Think about it: When your brand promise is “fly the friendly skies,” and well….’Nuff said.

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