Rules of Engagement: 3 Disciplines of Exceptional Customer Service

For most of my 32-year business career, I have been a student of customer service. I’ve read numerous books, listened to countless podcasts and recently attended a workshop entitled “Memorable Customer Service” by Ritz Carlton, one of the world’s top customer service organizations.

In distilling all the content I’ve consumed together with the real world experience of operating our automobile dealerships, I’ve discovered there are three key ingredients–three solid pillars upon which exceptional customer service is built. Regardless of size and scale, from “solopreneurs” to multinational corporations, creating a true customer-driven organization rests on these foundations.

1) Conspicuous Hospitality. Have you ever walked into a place of business–perhaps your favorite restaurant, grocery store or cafe–and immediately felt like you were at the home of some close friends? As I shared in a recent post, there’s a difference between service and hospitality. Good service has become a consumer expectation, but hospitality goes much farther by making an emotional connection with customers. Conspicuous hospitality sends the signal that says, “We are so glad you’re here,” laying the groundwork for a lifetime relationship. World class restauranteur Danny Meyer goes so far as to describe his eateries as “hospitality boxes.” “We’re not selling food,” he says. “We’re selling happiness and emotional comfort.” That’s conspicuous hospitality.

2) Genuine Curiosity. I recall a well-known sales trainer saying,“The most interesting person in the world is the one who makes you think you’re the most interesting person in the world.” That’s a great description of curiosity. Genuine curiosity begins with looking outward verses inward. Psychologists refer to this as “social awareness,” or the ability to sense the feelings and perspectives of others. One of the most important examples of genuine curiosity is simply noticing things. In my business, it’s the service advisor who, while checking his customer’s car, notices a bumper sticker or another detail that indicates the customer has children in dance, is a military veteran, loves to fly fish, etc. Or it’s the salesperson who remembers the dream vacation her customers were planning the month after they picked up their car—and calls to see how it went. The best way to measure your own level of genuine curiosity? After your next social engagement, compare the amount of time you spend talking verses listening. (That can be very convicting for most of us!)

3) Radical Responsiveness. How many times have you been on the receiving end of broken promises or unmet expectations from service providers? From missed deadlines or unreturned phone calls to a feeling of indifference you often sense from untrained customer service reps, a lack of responsiveness can sabotage even the most loyal customer connections. True customer service pros, however, give off a perceptible but subtle sense of urgency in their communication, sending the signal, “I know how important this is to you, and you can count on me to do what I say I will do.” Radical responsiveness is keeping your customers consistently informed, checking in unexpectedly, and anticipating your customer’s unexpressed needs.

Great customer service organizations have an intuitive understanding of these three behavioral attributes. One of the best in the world is Seattle-based retailer Nordstrom who built their iconic brand around amazing stories of customer service heroics. Check out the Nordstrom video and as you watch, notice how each of these three customer service skills are displayed.

How would you rate your business–or yourself–in practicing these three skills of great customer service? What would it mean to your success to radically improve the level of customer service you currently provide?

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    6 Responses to Rules of Engagement: 3 Disciplines of Exceptional Customer Service

    1. John Rakis February 2, 2018 at 9:05 am #

      Great stuff – thank you very much.

    2. Dan Buron February 2, 2018 at 11:17 am #

      Relevant advice as traditional “brick and mortar” company have to be able to demonstrate value to customers. These 3 concepts are great ways to do that.

      Thanks for sharing.

      • Bill Marsh Jr February 2, 2018 at 12:44 pm #

        Thanks for commenting, Dan, and for reading my blog!
        Bill

    3. Nick February 3, 2018 at 8:59 am #

      Very practical insights for any business of non-profit. Thanks Bill.

    4. Dave C February 5, 2018 at 5:04 am #

      Great insights Bill. I believe every customer I have should walk away with the feeling that they are my “only” customer. As though they are the highlight of my day……because they are!
      I think the one area I need to focus more on would be the “radical” responsiveness. The service does not stop inside the store, but extends well beyond.

      • Bill Marsh Jr February 5, 2018 at 10:50 am #

        Thanks, Dave. Coming from someone like you, who truly understands the impact of customer service, your comments mean a lot!

        Bill

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