According to Google the definition of customer service is the assistance and advice provided by a company to those people who buy or use its products or services. My instincts tell me that people really don’t know what true customer service is. If you were to ask 10 people what their definition of customer service is, do you believe they would include the proactive part of the definition? The proactive part I am describing is “and advice.” See, too many people believe customer service is about what I can give away for free. For example, if a customer is not happy with their food, let’s take 20% of the bill. If a customer isn’t happy about their rental car experience, let’s take 10% off their bill. To me that is poor customer service. Being reactive and price gauging your product will never create a happy ending for either side. What happens is the customer leaves knowing they just pulled one over on the company. In no way shape or form am I saying we shouldn’t care about the customer. What I am saying is we do a lousy job painting the customer expectations. Because of that, we then become reactive and try our best to make things better by giving away our product or service.
Before taking on the technology industry, I felt as if I had a pretty good grasp on customer service. My main goal was to always under promise and over deliver. As long as the customer was smiling at the end of the process I was happy. As long as the customer was willing to provide referrals I was thrilled. What I did not understand however, was creating CLEAR expectations for the customer so they knew exactly what to expect. Clear meaning, no surprises AT ALL. The customer truly gets what they expected. Too often we try our hardest to “exceed expectations.” Personally I don’t think that is something we should strive for because I think we are selling ourselves short with this model. Let me give you an example. Let’s say a customer decides that they want a custom website. The timeline for the project is two weeks and the cost for the website is $5,000. Week three comes and you still have another week of work because the customer has said multiple times you still have not gotten it right. You wrap the project up and you decide to charge then $4,000 instead of the original $5,000. The customer is ecstatic because they saved $1,000 dollars even though the website came two weeks later. You ask the customer if you exceeded expectations and they tell you…SURE, OF COURSE, WE WOULD REFER YOU TO ANYONE. If you asked them that same question at the end of each of the previous three weeks would the answer be the same? I highly doubt it.
Rather than striving to exceed expectations, why not strive to make a relationship with your customer “effortless.” So effortless that they enjoy working with you because they know it will get done with zero pain. People genuinely don’t like sales people because they know they are there to create change, which is painful for the buyer. Instead of painting a picture of change, why not paint a picture of what the definition entails, advice. Here at Everest we truly believe in customer service. We have been in business for over 20 years and our original “partners” are still with us! Why? Because we have been giving proper advice year after year which has led to our growth year after year. There are a three key things that I believe we do very well here at Everest from a customer service stand point.
The first is our detailed requirements meeting that we have at the launch of every project. Pending on the scope of the project, we take time to go over every single detail with the customer. We discuss parts of the project that our customers are not even aware of making sure that true expectations from both sides are properly set. We form a true partnership during this meeting.
The second is our constant check in. Throughout the project, we are constantly checking in. We want to know how the customer feels at every key milestone, making sure they understand everything that is going on. We make this process extremely effortless for the customer. They never feel like they are lost or incapable of explaining what is going on. They are well aware of every detail and what our next conversation will be about before it even happens. They never feel that we are being reactive but always feel that we are being proactive. This is key in building trust with our customers as we turn them into our partners.
The third and final key to our customer service success is advice. We are constantly advising our partners on what they should be doing from a technology stand point. It’s important for us to help our customers grow. Our technology solutions do this for them which is why we still have the same partners for over 20 years. Our advice is professional as well. We have had conversations with our partners where they have a budget for $100,000 on a particular project but we have told them it doesn’t require a budget that high. We advise them of how we can complete the project at a lower cost and still get the same result. Our partners appreciate the honest advice.
I recently had a dinner meeting with a new partner of ours. They came to us as a startup company and since then have grown tremendously. We started by creating a logo and website for them which led to multiple other technology projects. The main goal of my meeting was to thank them for our partnership but more importantly gauge our customer service level with them. I wanted to hear their feedback on how proactive we were being as well as how effortless they felt our relationship was. The owner of the company said this, “Mike, do you want to know why we value our partnership and continue to do work with you? It is pretty simple. You guys are always one step ahead of us. You know exactly when the right time is to introduce new technology to us. You make life easy for us from a technology standpoint. We never have to worry about technology because that’s what we have you for. You have become an extension of us.”
Throughout my years of sales I have been complimented in many ways and criticized in some (don’t tell Greg that) but of all the comments given to me over the years, this was by far the best. For a president of a company to say we are always one step ahead of them meant a lot. That is true customer service…being advisors to your organization and creating effortless relationships!