Are you overlooking a critical piece of customer service?

I think we can all agree customer service is important. Statistic after statistic has shown consumers are willing to spend more on a service or product if they believe it will result in a better overall experience. Yet, there seems to be a key component of the customer experience movement being missed in the discussion—the importance of delivering consistently great service.

The Tale of Two Receptionists

First off, let me state I’m a terrible patient. I had been experiencing a pain in my knee for several months, but waited until it had become debilitating before scheduling an appointment with a doctor. Naturally, I wanted to get in as soon as possible as I was in a great deal of pain and was having trouble walking. I explained my situation to Receptionist #1 over the phone, hoping my positive tone would endear her to me and result in an early appointment. Receptionist #1 spent several minutes going through the schedules of all her doctors, but was unable to find anything earlier than a few weeks. I thanked her, took the later appointment and hung up.

15 minutes later, Receptionist #1 called back and said she’d had an appointment cancellation for the next day, but it couldn’t be reserved ahead of time as they hold cancelled slots for “day of” calls. She explained I’d have a good chance of securing the appointment if I called right at 7:00am the next day. I thanked her profusely and set a reminder. It was a wonderful example of an employee going above and beyond to help a patient in need.

Sure enough, I was Receptionist #2’s first call the next day. I shared my story and let her know I had an appointment in a few weeks, but was hoping to get in sooner. She mentioned the cancelled appointment, at which point I exclaimed my thanks to Receptionist #1 for sharing the information with me.

Her tone immediately changed.

Receptionist #2 became very upset with me, explaining her colleague wasn’t supposed to give out that information and I really shouldn’t be allowed to take the appointment. After apologizing for several minutes and promising I would never do it again, Receptionist #2 allowed me to schedule the appointment.

Consistency is Key

More disappointing than having a poor experience with Receptionist #2 was that it had immediately followed a fantastic interaction with Receptionist #1. I had begun to build trust in the practice, started making connections with the staff—yet, now I felt awkward even walking into the building. All it took was one bad call to immediately throw me back to square one in the customer-provider relationship.

Committing to delivering great customer experience means making sure you can live up to what you promise every day, in every interaction. You don’t have to go above and beyond every single time—as that in itself often creates inconsistent expectations. Instead, always do you what you say you’ll do. Being consistent in your tone and interactions establishes a baseline for the relationship and helps clients feel comfortable. Plus, it lets you learn about your customers so you begin to discover what they need even before they know it themselves.

If you’re truly committed to delivering great customer experiences and developing a culture of service, consider these tips for creating consistency:

1. Develop a “Service Pyramid.” Like Maslow’s pyramid, service fundamentals are at the bottom, with the finer customer service practices at the top. Only when the bottom levels are mastered can the higher needs come into play. Feel free to use Ruby’s own Service Pyramid as an example!

2. Become a customer! Sometimes the best way to determine if your company is set-up to provide great service is to experience it yourself! Walk through your client onboarding process, review your website, audit your email templates and make sure all these pieces together are creating a consistent experience that sets your clients up for success.

3. Focus on your strengths. It can be tough to be upbeat and patient with customers when you’re running a million miles a minute trying to build your business. Acknowledging your strengths are in tasks like completing orders, writing briefs, or designing websites (to name a few!), versus talking to customers, is the first step to delivering great service. Consider hiring a virtual receptionist to handle incoming calls or investing in a lightweight marketing automation platform to create and deliver eye-catching, simple customers emails. Then, you are freed up to focus on delivering consistency with your strengths.

There will always be a hard times that come along with the good. However, it’s only when you’ve put in the time and delivered consistent service that customers will understand a bad experience isn’t the norm.

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