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5 Top Customer Service Articles For the Week of May 7, 2012

Each day I read a number of articles from various online resources. Someone suggested I compile a list of my favorites for the week. Great idea. So, here you are. And, I’ve included a short description and a comment about each article.

Top 5 Reasons to Understand Your Customer’s Customer by Penny Herscher

(Huffington Post) For B2B sales teams looking to recapture growth during these early days, it’s critical to understand who’s really paying their bills and keeping the lights on — and guess what? It’s not your customer … it’s your customer’s customer. And if your sales team doesn’t deeply understand the business problems of these folks, then you’ll lose to competitors who do.

My Comment: I love this article! If you are sell B2B, you must read this article. It is one thing to understand your customer. Another to understand your customer’s customer. When you do, you have an opportunity to not just sell to your customer, but partner with your customer. And, that’s big!

 

Spirit Airlines’ disastrous customer service week By Michael Hess

(CBS News) The company line is that its fares are so incredibly low (some are, some aren’t) that customers need to accept being charged for “optional” (read: essentially all) services on an a la carte basis, and also must understand that its refund rules need to be strictly, inflexibly applied to all travelers.

My Comment: If there is a lesson that we can take away from the Spirit Airlines debacle, it would be summed up in the last line of Michael Hess’s excellent article: Doing things by the book is not always the same as doing the right thing. To get more specific… Empower employees to make good decisions. Let there be guidelines versus rigid policies. Hire the right people that are capable of making good decisions.

Regarding their pricing and up-charges for checked baggage, carry-on baggage, etc., the customer will ultimately decide if they want to play by Spirit’s rules. That said, just being a low cost carrier will not be a good long term strategy. There are some customers that will buy just on price. However, many of them want and expect good service. And, when they don’t get it, the customer will find another airline that gives them competitive pricing and much better service. Can you say, “Southwest.” (I knew you could!)

 

3 Ways to Tap Into Your Customers’ Network by Karl Stark and Bill Stewart

(Inc.) Apple and Caterpillar offer three important lessons for any business looking to tap into a network of customers-regardless of whether they are a set of like-minded consumers, a network of dealers, or members of a small community.

My Comment: This is a great article with three ideas about creating a community of customer evangelists. 1) If you seek the customer’s input, you better show them that your listening. 2) Offering an incentive to become a part of the community helps garner more commitment from your existing customers. 3) Talk in the customer’s language, not yours.  Find out what gets them excited, versus what you think gets them excited.

 

AmEx: High Value Customer Service Drives Shareholder Value by Ernan Roman

(Huffington Post) The Challenge: Businesses that do not recognize the power of high quality customer service, increase the risk of revenue loss and decreases in market valuation.

Businesses that treat customer service as a cost center, relegate it to an operations function and focus on manufacturing metrics such as reducing the time per call.

Jim Bush, Customer Service Czar at American Express, has pushed the envelope even further. For him, service is a major driver of market valuation and shareholder value.

Like many innovative marketers, Bush shifted the focus of his service team from reducing call time to building engagement. He discussed his reasons, and the results, with Fortune Magazine’s Geoff Colvin.

My Comment: I admit to being a fan of American Express. Jim Bush, who leads their customer service initiatives gets it. He is rewriting the call center playbook. For example, instead of measuring call time and how many calls a CSR makes in an hour, he focuses on engagement and loyalty, regardless of the length of the call. That’s a brilliant change from the typical call center goal.  Some other great ideas, too.

 

13 Things Your Customers Want You to Know by Geoffrey James

(Inc.) Selling is more than a financial transaction; it’s a personal interchange between two human beings–one that ideally leads to a long-term business relationship.

Sales guru Jerry Acuff once sent me a list of what he called “13 fundamental facts about human beings.”

If you want to build solid customer relationships with your customers, keep these simple facts in mind.

My Comment: Great article about how our customers expect to be treated. What comes to mind is the old cliché about how people want to be around people they know, like and trust. If you treat your customers the way they want and expect to be treated then you can’t help but build a stronger relationship. By the way, the list in the article is a great way to treat people in general.

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert,  professional  speaker and New York Times bestselling business author. For information contact (314) 692-2200 or http://www.hyken.com/. For information on The  Customer  Focus™ customer service training programs go to http://www.thecustomerfocus.com/. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken
(Copyright ©MMXII, Shep Hyken)

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