Good customer service. In a way, it’s like good art: hard to define, but you know it when you see it.
With Valet, you see it all the time—and that’s because we take customer service seriously. So do you, which is why we’d like to share with you our ideas about what constitutes good customer service.
We’ve got a fairly sizable number of ideas on this subject. Too many to share in a single post, however. We figure it’ll take a few weeks to put them all out in front of you.
Stick with us on this. The customer service insights we plan to present are really good. You’ll find them very useful in interactions with your own customers.
Good Customer Service Defined
Today, let’s get the ball rolling by spending a bit of time defining good customer service.
First, though, please say hello to Eric Dye. Eric is in charge of customer service at Valet. He joined Valet after having spent roughly a quarter-century working first as an account representative, then a liaison between organizations and their vendors, a team manager, and ultimately a business owner.
Throughout that time, Eric practically lived and breathed good customer service in both the commercial and non-profit sectors. He still does. So if anyone knows good customer service, it’s Eric.
“Stated simply, good customer service is good service to the customer,” he explains. “What makes that service good is the quality of the communication coming from the person providing the service. Customer service is at its core a communication exchange. If the exchange is successful, the customer feels satisfied. If the exchange is unsuccessful, the customer feels frustrated and unheard, and feels they have not been properly served.”
Eric says this communication revolves around a single, implied question raised by the person providing service to the customer. It is “How can I make your life better and easier?”
According to Eric, obtaining an answer to that question requires effort. But it will be well worth the time and energy expended, he says.
Who Is a Customer?
In addition to the “service” part of customer service there is also the “customer” part. Eric cautions that the answer to the question of “How can I make your life better and easier?” becomes elusive unless you first know who counts as a customer—and can claim the right to be served.
“In every business transaction, you find two parties: the vendor and the customer,” Eric offers. “The customer could be an individual or a company. Or the customer could be the user of the vendor’s wares or just an agent or middleman. It could also be a gift-giver who acquires the wares on behalf of another person or organization.
“The customer could also be individuals or entities internal to the vendor. In other words it could be employees, teams, departments, divisions, or subsidiaries. They might not be purchasers of the wares the vendor offers to outsiders. But they will be consumers of the vendor’s vision, values, plans, and resources.”
Regardless of how you define a customer, Eric contends that everyone who obtains wares from a vendor enters the transaction expecting satisfactory responses to questions they ask. Everyone also expetcs their concerns fully addressed and problems completely resolved.
Good Customer Service Requires a Relationship
So it all comes down to this. Customer service is a relationship. And the foundation of every strong, healthy relationship is communication. Good communication. Healthy communication. Not communication consisting of a series of indecipherable grunts or eye movements. But communication that is clear, complete, honest, and supportive, says Eric.
“Good, healthy communication can be written or spoken,” he adds. “In the context of customer service, it’s typically both. Good, healthy communication doesn’t just mean blunt or frank. It’s an art that takes on many different forms and styles.”
Eric further believes that to be able to deliver good customer service you must first possess a good communications culture.
“Here is a truism about customer service,” he says. “The more your company culture values healthy communication, the better you communicate. The better you communicate, the healthier your relationship is with the customer. The healthier your relationship is with the customer, the more efficiently and effectively you can serve the customer.”
In our next installment, Eric talks about the qualities a provider of good customer service needs to succeed. Spoiler: one requirement is tenacity.