Delivering exceptional customer service

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By Jon Thelwell, KBB Diagnostics:

I learned something new recently. I learned that licensed premises must give tap water for free, but they can charge for the glass. Imagine being charged £1 for the right to drink your free tap water in a glass. Would you be happy with that? Would you go back? That, right there, is the difference between the law and common sense. The difference between the law and doing the right thing.

Many of the basic principles of customer service are just plain common sense. That said, many businesses fail by simply not realising this simple fact. Those businesses have often lost sight of who their customer is and what they actually need and want. Try pretending that you are one of your customers. It’s always a useful exercise.

We listen to people we respect much more now than ever before, arguably more than we listen to advertising. We check out TripAdvisor for restaurant reviews more than we listen to a respected food critic. We look at the number of stars suppliers have on Amazon before we place our order. We listen to friends when they tell us they have had a great experience with their kitchen or bathroom supplier. We are impressed when the installation went smoothly and on time.

Remember that customers who recommend your business are highly valuable. These customers typically create eight times their own lifetime value and help your business to generate sustainable profitable growth. It is a well-known fact that referrals are a cost-effective way to market your business – but how do you ensure that your clients talk about you in a positive way?

Here are my 12 simple steps to ensure you maximise your opportunity to gain a positive referral:

  1. Listen to your customer. Understand what they value at every touchpoint you have with them – from initial contact, listening to their needs, to presenting your design ideas and during the installation process.
  2. Do the basics well – phone back when you said you would and turn up at the agreed time.
  3. Make sure ALL your staff – from designer to installer – understands what matters to the customer and understands what could potentially upset them. I’m often told about installers who don’t clear up or walk through the house with muddy boots. ALL your staff should care about the experience.
  4. Employ the right people. One person with an attitude can not only lose you a positive recommendation – we tend to tell ten times more people when we have a bad experience.
  5. Be transparent and explain every step of the design and installation process. This saves potential problems and encourages trust.
  6. Consider what you can do to make your customers feel famous? Treat every customer as the most famous person you’ve ever met.
  7. Trust must be earned. It must never be asked for. Refer to Point 2.
  8. Customers are nosy. They will peer where you don’t want them to peer and will form impressions based on what they have seen or heard. Every inch (old school) of your showroom must be pristine, including the storage cupboard.
  9. Be in the moment. Ensure that one-to-one engagement with your customer is exactly that, one-to-one. Don’t be distracted by your phone or other customers.
  10. Never blame the system! Your customer doesn’t need to know if your system isn’t perfect – take ownership of your mistakes, your customer will appreciate honesty.
  11. Take responsibility. Your customer is YOUR customer, not your suppliers’.
  12. Make the experience last longer than the installation. I always advise my clients to send a card to their customers, several weeks after the installation has been completed to your customers’ satisfaction. Along the lines of ‘just checking that everything is running well and you are happy with your new kitchen/bathroom’. It costs the price of a card and a stamp but shows that you care.

How you handle a problem counts. Not a single business is faultless. Things happen. Consider the Virgin Trains PooGate incident! A young Adam Greenwood was stuck in the loo on the 19.30 from Euston to Glasgow without access to loo roll. He did the thing that teenagers do……he took to social media and asked Virgin for help. Thankfully for Adam, Virgin customer service was monitoring their twitter feed and sent extra supplies down to trap 1 in carriage J. The happy outcome became a viral customer service success for Virgin Trains, who estimated 300m items were written or shared about the exchange.

If you get negative feedback, don’t ignore it. Responding to it may win you the next customer. Complaints offer you the chance to save the day and learn from your mistakes.

It is worth identifying potential pitfalls prior to them causing your customer a problem. Make sure you are prepared. Make two lists: all the things that must go right and all the things that could go wrong. Make sure every member of staff is aware of both lists and every point. Remember, every touchpoint with your customer counts.

I’ll always remember a saying that an old wise head once taught me – a smile costs nothing. A smile is infectious. Try it. Flash a genuine sincere smile at someone and they can’t help but smile back.
Final tip. Great customer service only exists when you give it your constant unrelenting attention, not every other Friday.

Note. I didn’t pay for the glass, I ordered a beer instead.

Share your customer service tips with us at KBB Diagnostic, tweet @kbbdiagnostic #neverstoplearning

KBB Diagnostic helps KBB and building product manufacturers, merchants, retailers and installers develop business-winning customer service strategies.

We run customer journey workshops to help you understand every customer touchpoint in your business. We then help devise plans to delight your customer at every touchpoint, train your staff and measure ongoing customer service performance.

Call us on 01780 430 551 or email to explore how we can help your business, or visit our website:

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