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New York, U.S.A. — This holiday season—with crowded malls, shrinking bank accounts, and frayed nerves—providing great service is even more critical than usual. Much like Santa, customers have their own “naughty or nice list,” and they won’t hesitate to take their business elsewhere.
“There’s no better time than the holiday season to uplift your customers with great service,” says Ron Kaufman, author of the New York Times bestseller Uplifting Service: The Proven Path to Delighting Your Customers, Colleagues, and Everyone Else You Meet. “Unfortunately, there’s also no easier time to do or say exactly the wrong thing.”
During the holidays, companies are overbooked and short staffed. Popular items run out of stock. Departments aren’t prepared for the increased volume of customer inquiries and complaints.
“These practices will land you on customers’ naughty lists,” says Kaufman. “These are often not isolated incidents. Instead, they are evidence of a bigger problem in the organization’s overall service culture.”
Kaufman is at the head of a growing worldwide movement to uplift service in general—for customers and for colleagues. His book takes readers on a journey into a world of uplifting service with dynamic case studies and perspective-changing insights. Readers learn how the world’s best-performing companies achieved an uplifting service transformation.
To Stay on the Nice List
Make it seamless. Customers will be shopping, ordering, and asking questions across every possible channel: in person, over the phone, at their computers, on their mobile devices, at work, in their cars, and from home. Providing integrated, smooth service across channels reduces frustration and allows them to get back to their busy lives.
Customize for your customers. Your customers know they aren’t your only customer, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to be treated that way. Personalized service makes people feel special. Implement processes that allow you to recall your customers’ questions, preferences, and choices in all future interactions.
Say “Yes.” to service recovery. Great service recovery turns “oops” into opportunities. Be grateful when unhappy customers give you a chance to win back their business. Why? Because for every customer who does complain, there are several others who didn’t give you a second chance. The key? Make sure employees are empowered to make amends.
Happy (engaged) employees equals service with a smile. Service providers seem exhausted and too overwhelmed to do anything more than provide the minimum service to keep customers moving along. Aligned, vigorously supported employees who are connected to the brand, to colleagues, and to customers fuel job and customer satisfaction.
Weave yourself into the fabric of the community. Companies that contribute to and participate in the wider community are ones people want to do business with and places where employees want to work.
To Get Stuck on the Naughty List
Specialize in the run-around. Companies that aren’t streamlined force customers to give the same information to one person after another as they’re passed from department to department. Departments are so siloed that customers feel like they aren’t talking to people who work at the same company.
Treat customers like a number. When you don’t personalize service by taking the time to learn your customers’ names or implementing systems that remember their needs, you make customers feel like they’re just one of many. Make one mistake and they will immediately go somewhere else.
Exhibit a “the customer’s always wrong” mentality. A shaky service recovery program reacts to complaining customers by seeking to avoid blame (often too focused on passing the buck to even take notice of the customers’ real needs).
Put unhappy, clock-watching employees in front of customers. Employees who are interested only in working for a wage often feel that the service they provide is a chore (and it shows).
Put the bottom line on a pedestal. Companies concerned only with their bottom line make customers feel like they’re being tricked or swindled. They offer deals that aren’t backed by great service, or run ads touting low-cost products that don’t offer real satisfaction. Both parties may have completed a deal, but neither was uplifted by any lasting value.
“When you commit to creating an uplifting service culture, you’ll spend every holiday season on your customers’ nice lists,” says Kaufman. “And you will reap the benefits year-round.”