n what seems like a weekly occurrence since moving to a new city, I called my insurance company last week to straighten out some details and cancel an old policy of mine. After giving them the usual hour of my life on hold. I finally got a customer service human on the phone.
“I’m so sorry for the long wait, how can we help”
Things started well. I explained my needs. Boy, was he a nice fellow. In our conversation we hit a roadblock in my account and he was quick to suggest that he’d call me right back in about 10 minutes. Such a gent!
Four days later, I had to admit to myself that this very pleasant rep wasn’t calling me back and I’d better call them. An hour later, I got a customer service person on the phone.
“Can I get your name and account number, please?”
Okay, not quite as amicable but efficient, I guess. This person was able to help me resolve every issue I had, but not without repeatedly calling-out the ineptitude of his colleagues to the point that it created some awkwardness on my end.
This brings me to the attitude focused around customer service, Responsive, and its definition as an organization’s staff being accessible and helpful. My first rep was friendly and accessible, but not very helpful. My second rep was very helpful, but rough to interact with. Neither excelled because both qualities, being helpful and being friendly, are necessary for a great customer service experience.
When we get to organizations that famously excel in service, we see one thing in common: While being responsive is usually a baseline expectation, these organizations make a note to elevate and differentiate themselves.
Zappos and their customer service culture was a phenomenon when the late great Tony Hsieh envisioned what great CX should look like. Their now infamous 10 hour 29 minute service call was an outlier, but made the point that they measure customer success completely differently. It’s about how happy you can make a client. There are no scripts at their call center and no metrics about call center efficiency. They just cultivate a great and joyous work environment and empower their reps to pass the good vibes along to everyone they interact with.
Similarly, WestJet has infused great staff-customer interactions throughout their business not because of metrics, but because of strong leadership, a positive company culture that starts at the top, and an employee base that feels empowered and aligned to live it everyday. It can manifest in fairly simple ways like an extra friendly check-in interaction to the much enjoyed ground-crew wave. It can also present itself in more profound ways, like this past year in the middle of Covid when during a flight, crew realized they were flying students home that had to miss their graduation ceremony, so they threw them a spontaneous ceremony at 35,000 feet. There is no manual or script to do something like that, it happens because these employees care. The fact that Care is WestJet’s brand mantra is no accident here either, as it influences everything from hiring, to service, to operations, and loyalty programming.
You work hard to hire empathetic, smart people that have historically displayed good judgement in complex situations. Unleash them! Don’t bottle up their potential greatness behind policies and scripts. If your brand, your purpose, and your culture are all aligned, they’ll know what to do in the moment. Sometimes the best way to get a better handle on an area of your business is just to let go and let your people be the experts you hired them to be.
There are few titles less charming or invigorating than “Customer Service Rep”. At Buffer, a social media management platform, employees who provide customer service are called “Happiness Heroes” and “Weekend Warriors”. These new titles allow employees to distance themselves from the negative reputation given to customer service. This provides them with a fresh perspective that will surely benefit their interactions with customers.
It’s not always about an organization doing something for the customer. Sometimes, the customer just wants to learn how to navigate an issue for themselves. Recognize these moments and make it easy by leveraging new tools where it helps. At Wistia, a video hosting brand, customer service employees create personalized videos to answer questions and demonstrate how customers can use their service. It works because Wistia presents their information in a form that is comfortable and easily digestible for their customers. These videos can also save customers time and allow them to solve their problems on their own, giving them a sense of autonomy.
Great customer interactions are really just about how we treat each other as humans. Get the right people in the room, and empower them to be the best versions of themselves. The rest will sort itself out.