LAS VEGAS, NV - There’s no sure thing in Vegas. (Although this reporter had no trouble finding every losing machine.) But according to Keith Bailey, there is something that contractors/dealers can count on to fill their buckets every day µ quality customer service.

Speaking at the recent 2000 Trane Comfort Specialist Confer-ence, Bailey is a consultant and coauthor of the book Customer Service for Dummies. (And no, they gave copies out to everyone, not just the press.) The subject of his presentation was, “The Service Advantage: Simple Actions — Significant Payoffs.”

“The basis of customer satisfaction is having a connection with the person you’re doing business with,” said Bailey. Building a structure of excellent customer service includes:

  • Service attitude;
  • Service actions; and
  • Service excellence.

  • Get To The Essence

    Rather than just concentrating on your job functions, such as answering the phone, responding to e-mail, etc., stated Bailey, you need to balance that with your “job essence,” communicating and relationships. If you only pay attention to functions, “The customer becomes an interruption.”

    Customers make decisions about your business based on “moments of truth,” he remarked. “The average moment of truth lasts about five to 20 seconds.” These are the memorable impressions about your company, positive or negative.

    In a role-playing exercise, Bailey played the “dealer from hell.” Simulating a phone conversation, he kept interrupting the dealer who was playing a customer with a problem. He kept taking care of business in the office while he was on the phone. He attempted to get the customer off the phone as quickly as possible. He finally put off the customer, saying he couldn’t get over to his house for a while.

    Switching to the role of customer-oriented dealer, Bailey was polite on the phone and said he was sorry about the customer’s situation. He explained that he couldn’t get over to the house immediately, but is late today OK? He said that he was busy right now, but he can call back shortly with some suggestions.

    Bailey emphasized that you should give customers options and alternatives if you can’t help them right away. If you have to say “No” to a customer, add, “What I can do is…” or “What you can do is…”

    The six key customer needs are:

    1. Responsiveness; 2. Courtesy; 3. Information; 4. Control; 5. Product knowledge; and 6. Options and alternatives.

    Service actions include the customer’s perception in face-to-face and phone communications. Going face-to-face, body language is very important, followed by tone of voice. On the phone, tone of voice, by far, is most significant.

    Body language includes eye contact, facial expressions, body postures, physical distance, and professional attire. Tone of voice includes volume, speed, inflection, and pacing, which means matching the other person’s speed and tone.

    Achieving service excellence covers how well you do when things go wrong and “taking bounceback initiative.”

    To handle difficult situations, Bailey said you must:

  • Let the customer vent;
  • Express empathy;
  • Apologize;
  • Mutually agree on a solution;
  • Take initiative; and
  • Follow-up.
  • As far as apologizing, he noted that you’re apologizing for the inconvenience. It’s not an admission of guilt.

    Bouncing Back

    The bounceback initiative is “doing what it takes to satisfy the customer’s needs without them asking for it.” You should do whatever it takes to solve service problems. Why? Because it costs six times more to get a new customer than it does to keep a current one.

    The three steps for bounceback are: 1. Apologize and reassure. 2. Take corrective action. 3. Offer a “care-token.” For example, give them something for free.

    A service-focused company, said Bailey, asks for feedback and uses it, and trains all staff in service excellence. The firm should create user-friendly processes, and should set and measure specific service standards. Last but not least, the company should reward and recognize staff.

    Make sure you use your customer satisfaction surveys. Lev-erage customer feedback and build on what works for you.

    He also asserted that you should re-examine “wallpaper policies” - “The way we’ve always done it.” Ask yourself: Are these policies still useful? Do they still make sense? Consider the relationship cost. “Is this an investment in relationship building?”

    Publication date: 12/18/2000