Exceptional Customer Service Creates Unique Competitive Advantage
Larry Fehd is CEO and founder of Human Performance Strategies. Please see
bio for professional background and experience.
Tom Peters once said, "Exceptional customer service is not
about getting what you expected, it's about getting what you didn't
expect." Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles describe customers
getting what they didn't expect as being "raving fans."
Rate the following statements as true or false:
||Exceptional customer service is the norm versus the anomaly
for businesses today.
||The majority of business encounters including those
with customer service department representatives encourage
customers to return again to purchase products or services.
||Research studies suggest that on average 75% of customers
do not return due to the "human" side of the business
vs. the performance of the product or service.
||Exemplary leaders fully leverage exceptional customer service
as a unique form of competitive advantage.
||Exemplary leaders represent only a fraction of the total and
produce impressive results including bigger profit margins with
the same or fewer resources.
Enough said, right? We could probably end the article here and
everyone would have gotten the message. However, if everyone got
the message, why is customer service so poor if not completely appalling
We believe exceptional customer service is rare because society
has become somewhat immune to what could be described as borderline
abusive treatment. I realize this is a rather bold statement; however,
take a moment and think about the last time you experienced or heard
someone else describe a truly exceptional customer service experience.
Contrast that with your personal experiences or stories you've heard
from others describing their experiences often ranging from awful
to even worse.
Why do you think exceptional customer service is such a pleasant
surprise? Why do you think exceptional customer service captures
our attention? Why do we tell on average only three people about
our exceptional customer experiences and a whopping eleven about
our unsatisfactory experience? Which story would you like your current
and potential future customers to hear? Which story would you like
your customers to tell their friends about their experiences with
In order to envision exceptional, we probably need to consider
the operative word, service. In this context, service could mean
work or the performance of duties for others. Doesn't sound too
exciting, does it? In the same context, exceptional could means
being the exception, unusual, or perhaps well above average. If
we add the word exceptional, that spawns a little more excitement,
doesn't it? While above average may be better than the competition,
we surely don't want our customers to experience our companies as
merely "above average," do we?
Defining exceptional customer service and behaving in exceptional
ways while serving customers are very different things. Note the
word behavior, because that is the essence of bringing exceptional
customer service to life. Bringing it to life requires doing whatever
it takes to meet or exceed the needs of the customer.
In the commoditized "Wal-Mart" world that we live in,
customers have a smorgasbord of choices when buying the same or
similar products or services. The factor which most often differentiates
average (or even above average) from exceptional is our people.
Human Performance Strategies has studied customer behaviors based
upon the non-cognitive function of the human brain. Non-cognitive
intelligence is more commonly referred to as Emotional Intelligence.
The most important thing required to deliver exceptional customer
service boils down to the recognition and affirmation of human values.
Leonard Berry described this in the context of leadership in his
recent book, Discovering the Soul of Service. Dr. Berry suggests
that "values-driven leadership connects with strategic focus,
executional excellence, control of destiny, trust-based relationships,
generosity, investing in employee success, acting small, and brand
cultivation to drive customer satisfaction, innovation, and growth."
Here are some of our views and considerations regarding exceptional
- Developing processes to ensure exceptional customer service
is a savvy business practice and it is obviously much less expensive
to retain versus replace customers.
- When you make a mistake with a customer always overcompensate.
- Ask, don't assume. Always get the customer involved in solutions;
e.g. if we could resolve this issue to your satisfaction what
would it look like, what's seems fair to you?
- Remember, people tell, on average, three people about exceptional
customer service experiences and eleven about their unsatisfactory
experiences. Run the numbers!
- All other things being equal, exceptional customer service creates
unique competitive advantage with the same or even fewer resources.
What are you doing today to inspire the best from your people to
deliver exceptional customer service? Do you really know how your
customers feel about doing business with you? Do they remain loyal
by chance or do their encounters with your people motivate them
to return again and again?