Great Customer Service is Like Paying It Forward

Great Customer Service is Like Paying it Forward. www.sociallysupportive.com. Photo by socialprecision.com

Great Customer Service is Like Paying it Forward. www.sociallysupportive.com. Photo by socialprecision.com

Here’s a thought: Great customer service is like paying it forward. I spend quite a bit of time researching great customer service. I think about my own customer service experiences and I hope to deliver great customer experiences. So I ponder which events and experiences leave me with the biggest impression. I was having a discussion with a colleague today about paying it forward and how great that is for the universe, and then it occurred to me: great customer service is like paying it forward.

If you think about the last time you thought “Wow, I am truly impressed with the experience I just had,” I bet you’ll think about someone who went above and beyond. Look at this list:

Above and Beyond

  • She was nicer than anyone else I’ve spoken to there
  • He showed more enthusiasm that I’ve ever seen
  • She took more time to answer my question
  • He seemed more interested in what I had to say
  • She was the best listener
  • He was more patient than the other one

Do some of these ring a bell? All of these have in common that someone did more than the bare minimum while completing a task. Now, combine this with anticipation. If you provide more before you are even asked, this is considered anticipating customer need.

Anticipating Customer Need

  • A hotel worker notices a guest walking toward the door dressed professionally, without an umbrella. The hotel worker runs toward the guest, umbrella in hand, to lend assistance.
  • A drive-thru worker takes a paper towel and wipes droplets of soda from the cup before handing it through the window to a customer.
  • A service writer at a local repair shop hands a coloring book and crayons to a five-year old boy

These are the interactions we remember. These actions create the brand. And in none of these cases did a customer ask for something. The employee is just… paying it forward. The employee is doing something unrequired and unexpected out of the kindness of his or her heart, with no immediate hope of compensation for that act. Paying it forward.

So, as we talk to our employees about giving something that “extra touch,” or “smiling at people,” or whatever else we say, maybe we should talk about paying it forward. Maybe we say that by thinking about what we would want in that situation and offering it to the customer before asked, we can really make another person’s day better. If I have a better day while patronizing your business, doesn’t it make sense that I will associate your brand with feeling good?

Be Real

Don Draper of Mad Men works on Madison Avenue

Don Draper of Mad Men works on Madison Avenue (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’ve all been talking quite a bit in the social media world about being transparent and authentic. Those are the go-to buzz words. I think that really breaks down to getting real and being honest. People typically have little interest in being your friend or following you if they get the sense you aren’t genuine. Let’s face it, do any of us need friends that are only there when it’s convenient for them, or friends that don’t tell us the truth? For me, I think time is short, and I have little time for fair-weather friends or folks that are rarely truthful. For those Mad Men fans, Don Draper is great, but all that evasiveness and secrecy causes his personal and professional relationships to suffer greatly.

In the world of corporate social media, executing on “transparent and authentic” can be challenging in controversy. How transparent should you be? Where do you draw the line? I’ve discussed some of these ideas before, but generally, I think you should always try to answer. And the answer should be meaningful and real. Sometimes even saying “I don’t know yet, I’m still checking,” is meaningful enough because it lets the person know that you are still engaged.

What if it’s controversial and you don’t really want to answer? Can’t you just block the person? Well, yes, you could. But if you play it out in your mind, if you have a person that is very vocal on say, Facebook, asking you a question that would be uncomfortable to answer, what could happen if you block that person? That person might just take that same original problem over to another channel, like Twitter, where you can’t block him. And now he not only broadcasts his original problem, but also talks about how you blocked him from Facebook to avoid answering him. And that can make your audience think you’re a fair-weathered friend. Of course, there are times when private or sensitive pertinent data cannot be shared publicly. But if you are responsive, and real, and say what you can, I believe chances are that reasonable fans and followers will see that you are making a valid attempt to address the situation as best you can.

Remember when Dan Hesse had that bad image of Sprint’s to deal with? I thought it was great the way he stood right up and made commercials to be real about the changes they were making. And, as a Sprint customer, I can tell you I have seen the changes. J.C. Penney has also seen some positive press coming off of their openness about their recent changes that didn’t sit well with customers. They were open and spoke simply and clearly about what they felt was wrong and how they intended to fix it. Dell, with the battery issue? We as humans respond well to people that will address things.

So, where you can, I encourage you to be courageous enough to be real.