Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Secrets for Exemplary Customer Service

Every business is trying to stand out in today’s social economy. But how can businesses do that? Can a lower price guarantee more customers? Can a more varied product choice guarantee more customers? No, the answer is so simple that many executives won’t even think of it.

In today’s social economy, the key to standing apart from the competition is the ability to provide exemplary customer service. In fact, in the words of Jerry Gregoire, CIO of Dell Computers, “The customer experience is the next competitive battleground.”

Since customers want memorable and positive customer experiences, how often do you, as the top leader or overseer of management teams spend time in the customers’ shoes? Do you know what your customers like about your product or service as well as what they don’t like? How often does your business survey your customers? Lastly, how often do you refresh your brand?

I reached out to my 20 favorite customer service experts on Twitter and asked them, “If you could share one secret for creating exemplary customer service, what would it be?” Here are their insights.

Shep Hyken (@hyken): Don’t get caught up in technology, social media, Big Data, or any other “state of the art” way to enhance the customer experience. In the end, all of that won’t help if you don’t have the people side of the service equation. A customer service company focuses on people – both customers and employees. Treat employees like you want the customer to be treated (maybe even better), because what is happening on the inside of a business is felt on the outside by the customer.

John Freshney (@WiseCrow1): Get emotional with customers. Listen with your ears, eyes, and heart. Success is learning to walk, dance, laugh, and cry with your customers.

Bill Quiseng (@billquiseng): It’s not the one big WOW to one customer that wins the day. It is the one little WOW delivered consistently to every customer. Anyone can do it once. It's all about delivering WOW consistently.

Marilyn Suttle (@marilynsuttle): The secret to providing exemplary customer service is making it the priority and part of every employee’s job description. Commit to it in writing, measure it, and celebrate successes so service excellence becomes the expected way things are done, and a cornerstone of your corporate culture.

Melissa Kovacevic (MKCallConsult): Coach reps to engage and make customers feel valued from the start. Engage first, process second.

Jeanne Walters (@360connext): Get top brass to experience the customer service flow several times a year. Live it to learn it!

Greg Levin (@greg_levin): Treat your employees like the most valuable customer, and the rest takes care of itself.

Kate Nasser (@KateNasser): Deliver exemplary customer service. Make every word and action honor the customer with trust, integrity, and ease. Also, customer service leaders: Inspire teams to care before you teach them to smile.

Vala Afshar (@ValaAfshar): The best way to improve the customer experience is to improve the employee experience.

Flavio Martins (@flavmartins): Transform generic and typical responses by delivering them in a personal, unique, and memorable way.

Annette Franz (@CXJourney): Abide by the golden rule. We’re all human, we’re all in this together. Treat others the way you want to be treated. It’s just common sense.

Denise Lee Yohn (@deniseleeyohn): Teach employees to love bringing their brand to life for customers.

Kim Garst (@kimgarst): Customer care is care driven. Showcase care, fix problems if there are any, and always lead with value.

Richard Gallagher (@gallagherPOC): Teach customer service as “skills” not “attitude.” Learning how to handle the very worst customer service situations helps people to give awesome service all the time.

Roy Atkinson (@royatkinson): Hire the heart and train the brain. Hire for qualities like empathy and train on product and technical knowledge.

Steve Curtin (@enthused): Exceptions create opportunities to deliver exceptional customer service. In most cases, when customers operate outside the norm, they are chastised (for example, So you didn't know the buffet ended at 10:00?) rather than accommodated (for example, Although our buffet ended at 10:00, I have a lovely table available and invite you to order directly off the breakfast menu).

CustomerGauge (@CustomerGauge): Start from within the organization. Understand the value that customers deserve, deliver value on all aspects, and always follow up.

JoAnna Brandi (@KeepEmHappy): When you truly believe in your ability to turn a Moment of Truth (any interaction where a customer has the opportunity to judge the quality of service you are delivering) into a Moment of Magic, you discover the power to really make a magical difference in someone’s life. When you sincerely add a little more energy, excitement, attention, enthusiasm, confidence, or appreciation in an interaction with a customer, it helps them feel a positive emotion. And if a customer feels that emotion for 20 seconds or more, it sets off a cascade of “feel good” chemicals in their body that helps them become healthier, feel happier, and even get smarter. Great customer care has a ripple effect, and your positivity sets it in motion. See yourself as a magician!

VeryGoodService @verygoodservice): Have a positive attitude.

Jennifer Moff (@jennifer_moff): I'm a huge fan of what I call "The Bookend Rule." When you read a book, you tend to remember the beginning and the end, but in life, first impressions stick out and so do your goodbyes. So, set a positive tone initially: smile, say hello, exchange names, and ask how you can be of service. Then at the end of the interaction, genuinely thank customers, ask if you have resolved all of their needs, and let them know you are always there if they need anything.

I thank all of the thought-provoking experts featured in this post and invite you to revisit this list of insights whenever you need to inspire anyone in your business who interacts with customers.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.


  1. These 20 tips on creating exemplary customer service are... exemplary! Honored to have a tip included in this list of some very notable customer service experts. There is something here for everyone and every business.

  2. How awesome would it be to get all 21 of us (you too Debbie!) in a town hall-like meeting publicized to make the case for better customer service? What a fantastic group of customer advocates. This is a great place to get quick inspiration on customer service work.

  3. Great list, thanks for asking us to participate

  4. Love the diversity of the recommendations, but one theme seems to hold true for each of us - treat people well! Thanks, this is a wonderful list!

  5. From: Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™

    Great list Debbie. Wonderful summary of ideas from diverse sources who are passionate and experienced in customer service and customer experience.

    I think it will be valuable for all customer service leaders who want to offer their teams a reminder for daily service excellence!

  6. Great list of contributions! Honored to be included, Debbie.

  7. Thanks again to everyone who contributed and for the kind comments above!

  8. Nice Blog , thanks for shareing the information

  9. Great tips! These are very useful information and I will definitely share this to my other colleagues. Thank you for sharing. Appreciated a lot.

  10. Nice Blog, thanks for sharing the valuable information.

  11. Customer service is very important for any types of businesses. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Thanks for sharing your insights. We really need to use different tactics to improve customer service.

  13. Thanks for the share Debbie? How do you feel about leveraging technology as a way of increasing customer satisfaction? I have been thinking about installing a few touch screen kiosks around the store for customer service purposes. I feel that this will not only help reduce any confusion in regards to prices or item location but will also lessen the inquiries to employees. What do you think?


Thank you for your comment!