Great customer service is provided by attentive, driven, dedicated and empathetic employees who naturally want to give clients a wonderful experience. It takes more work, and more time to be truly great in customer service. Here are 4 steps to make you great at customer service.
1. Hire Strong Soft Skills
When we hire at Backflip we look heavily for these skills which are sometimes called 'soft skills.' There is no certification for 'will work until customer is satisfied,' or likewise 'polite in the face of adversity.' While there is no certification for these traits, they can be gleaned from an applicant in several ways. Read our hiring blog post to learn how we approach this.
Often as a manager, you inherit a staff, or even when you hire one, the employees will have strengths and weaknesses in regards to customer service. Your first consideration should be how to play to the person’s strengths. Some are more articulate and great in person. They can be very useful and involved in more client or potential client meetings. Others will have different gifts which you can suss out. The key is to talk to these employees and listen to what they have to say. Observe them in their interactions and challenge them to help understand their strengths and weaknesses.
2. Keep Coaching and Training
The second step, once you understand your employee, is coaching and training. It involves management time, but it can be done on the fly in bits and pieces as things come up. Spending that time helping to word something just right, or saying what they did really well in a meeting, or pointing out one thing that wasn’t as helpful and why, will quickly snowball into a customer service mindset.
General group training can also be fun and help set the tone for customer service. At Backflip, we have started having regular meetings to go over our success and challenges in customer service. This allows us to review together what we collectively think as a group. And as managers it allows us to set some basic ground rules and jumping off points.
Through all this, here are a few of the simple takeaways we've learned. While they may be simple or seem like no-brainers, they are fundamental to our customer service approach.
3. Understand Communication is Key
- Under promise, over deliver
Early on, we learned that one of the worst things you can do is Over promise, or Under deliver. In both cases you've set an incorrect expectation that has left the client saying 'this isn't what i've paid for.' When you flip it, and under-promise and over-deliver, then you will be able to exceed your clients' expectations. Yay!
- “end of the week” to a client means “by Friday noon” internally - how often does end of day or end of week mean next day or next week to you? That breaks your clients expectation.
- “end of the day” means “2 pm” internally - same thing here, you probably need time for internal review anyway so why not just get it done sooner?
- beat the schedule (when possible) - this can be tough for creatives. They often set deadlines for when they know they can get the work done. Instead, set the deadlines out further so you can actually meet or beat it. Things always come up and get in the way of deadlines, so how about we plan for it in the beginning and set our deadlines so we can beat them!
- Don't delay, respond today (RIGHT NOW)
- respond to messages ASAP - this one might be divisive. The moral is to respond right away. Don't wait for later, you're more prone to forget.
- the #1 thing we hear back from clients is that they value quick, accurate, steady communications throughout a creative project or campaign
- Even if something isn’t going to get done right away, still acknowledge the client’s message so they know you saw it and are “on it.”(EDITOR'S NOTE: This was the toughest lesson for me to learn. I always wanted to do the thing before I replied, which lead to 'where are we at' followups. With this tool I can respond right away: 'Hey Steve, I got your message. We're out on a shoot for two days. I'll take a look on Wednesday and let you know if I have any questions.' Boom, client has a response. The ball is still in our court, but we've let them know what to expect. I've also set the expectation low so that when I provide feedback on my second shoot day, they're pleasantly surprised!)
- Go the extra mile every time
- Do as much of the digging, and the thinking as we reasonably can. This makes things better for clients throughout any project.
- For instance, schedule with empathy towards clients when picking dates/times to meet. Take the burden of scheduling off their shoulders to make it as easy on them as possible.
- Sometimes this means figuring out when they're most receptive and available to a meeting at their office. Understand as much of their schedule and workload as possible to help them be amenable to your process.
- Other-times this means encouraging them to visit us at Backflip for a meeting. This helps keep them from being interrupted where they work, and can move the project along even faster.
- Treat each client individually
- As much as we try to standardize our approaches, we have to keep in mind that each client is made up of individuals.
- Learning about their specific needs and what’s of importance to them will only make your relationship and your projects stronger.
- In meetings, ask potential clients what is important to them (100% of the time!)
4. Make Feedback a Regular Practice
Feedback is King. The best way to know how you're doing in your clients eyes is to ask your clients.
We all have personal blind spots and organizations also have the invisible areas. So, ask, survey, have informal check-ins (normals call this conversation) with how you are doing in the client’s eyes. Soliciting feedback is a great way to show you care and to find ways you can improve.
We are all imperfect humans so even the most articulate person will be misunderstood from time to time. Take moments like that to learn and grow and move forward positively. If it doesn’t kill you, it only makes you and your organization stronger!