I had an opportunity to interview Shep Hyken, a world-recognized expert on customer service. At the very end of interviews, I always ask if there were any questions that I should have asked, or point that should be highlighted. I would like to start with his last question which I think gives a context for the rest of interview. Please note, the answers below are constructed from my notes and not Shep Hyken’s exact words.
Most business services are a commodity. For example, if you’re a plumber, a dentist, or a realtor, there are probably a number of local competitors that can perform similar services for a similar price. What makes one business stand out from another is the customer service that they provide.
Every time your business has an interaction with a customer, there is an opportunity to differentiate your business with great customer service.
Q: Can you give me an example of great customer service?
Shep Hyken: I know a dentist that gives out his business card to his patients at the end of their first office visit. On the card, the dentist points out his personal cell-phone number. He tells the patient that in the case of an emergency, he is available day or night. What do you think his patients think after this experience?
In the course of a year, he told me about 3 patients call him on his personal number. He must have 2,000 patients. In other words, he is able to offer his customer an incredible feeling of security for a relatively modest amount of additional effort.
Q: When a patient or client does call in a non-emergency situation, what is a reasonable amount of time to provide a response? Is it one day?
Shep Hyken: One day is way too long. The ideal response time is 5 to 10 minutes if you want to provide exceptional customer service. If, for some reason, you are not able to have a conversation with the client for a few hours, I would recommend writing a brief email or text with an immediate answer to the question and letting the client know when you will be able to speak.
Generally, I recommend getting back to the customer through the medium they initiated contact with you initially. If the customer calls over the phone, they should have a call back. The same is true with emails and text messages.
Q: Many businesses are starting to use online self-help tools to handle customer service. Do you think these services are beneficial?
Shep Hyken: I believe these services can be very beneficial when done right. I am a fan of customer forums, knowledge centers, and videos which answer questions. Each of these approaches has benefits when implemented correctly. When rolling out these tools, I think it’s very important for companies to regularly evaluate the effectiveness of these tools in helping customers find the answers they want. There are two important questions:
- After implementing one of these tools is the company getting less customer support questions / requests through other channels like phone and email?
- Are the questions coming through other channels the same as the ones which are answered through the customer self-help tool?
If the self-help tool is working well, you will see a decrease in questions through other channels, and those questions being different than the ones answered through the customer service tool.
Recently, I started to use self-help videos available on YouTube. These videos have two benefits: the medium is perfect for showing “hands on” demonstrations, and it can also be a great sales tool. As YouTube videos are searchable, potential customers can come across them when seeking answers. If they are impressed with the expertise shared and the way you answer questions about your product, your videos can lead to a new customer.
Q: You mention the word expertise? Can you talk about the importance of expertise in customer service?
Shep Hyken: All customers are looking for expertise from their service providers and vendors. Depending on the type of business, what expertise is expected will vary. For certain stores, expertise will mean knowing what inventory is in stock and what must be ordered. Expertise can also be much deeper, such as a clerk at a hardware store answering a question about the proper way to insulate a window to prepare for winter. When a customer receives an answer, you want them to feel that their question was addressed and they received an informed answer, or you directed them to a resource or professional that could answer their question.
Q: What do you do if a customer is looking for more help or expertise than you provide? For example, a friend of mine is a blacksmith. He often gets asked to do design work after he has been hired for a job even though that was not what he does or agreed to.
Shep Hyken: My suggestion would be to refer out to another profession. If it’s more than a simple question, I think the best idea is to say something like ‘I would love to help you out, however, my skills are not as a designer. I have worked with a number of good designers and would happy to introduce you to a couple of them. Then you can find a designer which matches your taste.” The client will have a better result and the blacksmith will be building a referral relationship with designers.
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Shep Hyken is a customer experience expert and the Chief Amazement Officer of Shepard Presentations. He is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author and has been inducted into the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame for lifetime achievement in the speaking profession. Shep works with companies and organizations who want to build loyal relationships with their customers and employees. His articles have been read in hundreds of publications, and he is the author of Moments of Magic®, The Loyal Customer, The Cult of the Customer, The Amazement Revolution and Amaze Every Customer Every Time. He is also the creator of The Customer Focus™ program, which helps clients develop a customer service culture and loyalty mindset. For more information on our online/virtual training programs and/or our onsite training please visit www.ShepardVirtualTraining.com and www.TheCustomerFocus.com.