Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Shep Hyken @Hyken. Shep Hyken is a customer service and experience expert, professional speaker and New York Times bestselling author who works with companies that want to build loyal relationships with their customers and employees. More information is available at http://www.hyken.com/
SmallBizLady: What is the difference between satisfied customers and loyal customers?
Shep Hyken: Satisfactory is a rating and loyalty is an emotion. A satisfied customer is simply… just satisfied. The experience could be average, satisfactory at best. Loyalty however comes when the customer experience is so strong that there is a connection that makes the customer want to come back. There is a big difference between a satisfied customer and a loyal customer.
SmallBizLady: How can companies create customer confidence?
Shep Hyken: It’s the people in the company that actually create the confidence. They do a number of things.
1. They do what they say they are going to do.
2. They are always on time, which shows respect – and earns them respect.
3. They are proactive with problems, informing the customer of issues before the customer finds out.
4. They under-promise and over-deliver, setting an expectation and then exceeding it.
5. They show appreciation.
SmallBizLady: How do you define customer amazement?
Shep Hyken: Amazing isn’t over the top, it is just consistently above average; even just a little above average. The key word is consistency. It’s what the customer can count on.
SmallBizLady: Why is a focus on internal customer service so important?
Shep Hyken: Before a company can be customer focused, they must be employee focused. In other words, they focus on delivering an experience that is similar to the customer’s. And, if you aren’t servicing the outside customer, you are probably supporting someone who is. They must be taken care of too, so that they can then take care of the outside customer.
SmallBizLady: How can customer service help the marketing and sales budget?
Shep Hyken: Great customer service gives a company a good reputation. It creates word-of-mouth marketing, which is the most accepted, most credible and most respected; marketing there is. This makes it much easier to sell to a customer, because you and your company’s reputation create confidence and delivers on whatever brand promise you made to the customer.
SmallBizLady: How does great customer service make price less relevant?
Shep Hyken: Survey after survey proves that people will pay more for a great service experience. If all you do is compete on price, the moment a customer finds a lower price, you lose them. Give them value in the form of a customer experience and you no longer are competing for price. That doesn’t mean you can charge an unfairly high price. Just be competitive.
SmallBizLady: How do you turn a dissatisfied customer who had a complaint into a loyal customer?
Shep Hyken: The goal is to not just fix a problem, but to restore confidence. You don’t want the situation to be brought back to even. You want more than that. Provided you don’t have a lot of problems and complaints, three things can happen to not just fix a problem, but to restore the confidence of the customer.
1. Fix what needs to be fixed. That’s a given and bottom line expectation.
2. Do it with the right attitude – one that is positive and demonstrates accountability.
3. Do it fast, with a sense of urgency.
SmallBizLady: How does amazing customer service give you an advantage over the competition?
Shep Hyken: Products have become a commodity, which means you are competing on price – unless you can separate yourself from the rest. Delivering an amazing service experience can get you out of the commodity trap and help you build a stronger relationship that makes price less relevant and increases customer loyalty.
SmallBizLady: What trends do you see in customer service?
Shep Hyken: Companies are starting to become more and more aware of the advantages and benefits to delivering a higher level of customer service. Unfortunately, many of these companies are just talking about it and not doing what they need to do. It’s more than spending money on a system. It is about hiring good people and training them to deliver the service mission. Companies are realizing that customer service doesn’t cost. It pays.
SmallBizLady: How has social media impacted customer service?
Shep Hyken: Social media is providing more ways to communicate with your customer – and at a much faster pace. There are two major sides to social customer service. First is that the customer has a forum to voice their opinion. That forum is public, which can be good or bad for the company they are talking about. Second is that social customer service provides multiple channels for the company to push content and have interaction with their customers. The best companies do both; respond to customers and create extra value for their customer.
SmallBizLady: How do you handle a complaint made on Twitter, Facebook, etc.?
Shep Hyken: First and foremost, react quickly. Publicly connect with the complaining customer and promise to handle complaint. Ask to communicate directly, in a private format so that you can learn about their issue and resolve it. Then, once it is resolved, post a comment that is seen by the customer and their followers that you delivered a positive resolution.
SmallBizLady: What is one thing we can do to improve customer service in any organization?
Shep Hyken: One of my favorite responses to this question goes to the company’s culture. Practice what I call the Employee Golden rule, which is to treat the employees the way you want the customer treated – even better. In other words, model the behavior! You can’t be incongruent and treat customers one way, but expect them to behave toward one another and the customer differently.
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Melinda F. Emerson, known to many as SmallBizLady is America’s #1 small business expert. As CEO of Quintessence Multimedia, Melinda educates entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 companies on subjects including small business start-up, business development and social media marketing to fulfill her mission to end small business failure. She writes a weekly column on social media for The New York Times. Forbes Magazine named her #1 woman for entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter. She hosts #SmallBizChat Wednesdays on Twitter 8-9pm ET for emerging entrepreneurs. She also publishes a resource blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com Melinda is also the bestselling author of Become Your Own Boss in 12 months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works and the ebook: How To Become A Social Media Ninja; 101 Ways to Dominate Your Competition Online.