The most inexpensive yet impacting way for small businesses to compete with the big boys is to lead with remarkable customer service. I know you’ve heard this before, and I’m almost certain you’ve made a similar claim – “We have great service” or “Our service is why people buy from us” – and yet more often than not, the service isn’t that remarkable. In fact, it’s fairly ordinary. Many mistake providing friendly, attentive service as exceptional when it’s actually the simple expectation or norm. So, what does remarkable service look like?
In an article titled Service-Led Battle Plan by Growing Business, business operator and customer service evangelist, Dominic Monkhouse reveals his approach to taking on his former Internet company (and industry leader) with a commitment to delivering remarkable service. He outlines his philosophy that every instance of human interaction is a moment of truth for a business – something he learned during his early days at retail giant Marks & Spencers:
“It wasn’t uncommon for men to come in and buy a suit on a Friday, cut all the tags off, wear it to a wedding and then bring it back on Monday claiming it didn’t fit,” Monkhouse says, recalling one incident where the item was so creased it couldn’t be resold. Much to his surprise, his manager agreed to take it back, insisting that it was all part of owning and building the store’s reputation.
Monkhouse is fostering a similar culture, and believes it’s futile to get into a war over who’s to blame. “We’re in the IT game,” he says. “Things do go wrong and customers break their own stuff all the time. Then, if they ring us and say: ‘It’s broken,’ we’ll assume responsibility. In fact, we’ll say it’s our fault, so we’ll also take accountability, because without owning the problem, we can’t fix it. We won’t say: ‘Actually, we’ve looked in the log file and we think you logged in and broke it.’”
In other words, sometimes you need to take one on the chin and think about the long-term benefit, rather than succumbing to your gut instinct and becoming defensive. That said, Monkhouse concedes there is a line. He doesn’t think the customer is always right and he won’t tolerate abuse. “If anyone is abusive to any of our staff, it doesn’t matter who they are, we’ll terminate the account,” he says.
Delivering ordinary customer service is a given. Delivery extraordinary service is a commitment. This means owning your customer’s mistakes, owing up to when you screw up, and letting your employees own their roles and have freedom to make decisions to resolve customer issues quickly. So, are you ready to make every human interaction count?
Rajan is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of BIG Marketing for Small Business. He's an award-winning marketing strategist who is passionate about branding, digital marketing and social media. He spent nearly a decade as the marketing executive at global IT firm Peer 1 Hosting and was instrumental in their explosive growth.