Most individuals, whilst going about their day to day life and engaging with various service providers, can attest to experiencing customer service with varying levels of excellence. In some cases, the service has been so amazing and memorable, that they could not stop raving about it to their friends and family. In other cases, it has been average (just okay, nothing to write home about) and in cases not worth remembering, the service has been horrible, to say the least. I have experienced these different scenarios myself and began to reflect on what made a particular service interaction superior over another, especially when it involved two different service providers in a similar line of work.
What comes to mind is an encounter from a few years ago, when I experienced two vastly different levels of service from two different banks whilst trying to choose a short term investment option. I was in my last month of university, had a positive balance for my tuition account and decided to invest this for the following year. Coming from a technology background, the world of investments was rather foreign so I decided to check with the bank I was with at the time whether they had any short term investment options. This was in my head the route with least effort as I was already banking with them. However, the bank consultant I spoke with did not seem confident enough in their product offering nor did he satisfactorily answer the questions I had. Needless to say, when I walked out of the bank, I was none the wiser. Luckily, there was another bank at this shopping center so I proceeded to check them out and boy did that turn out to be a great move. The consultant there was warm, receptive and very engaging. He related perfectly with the level I was at and even went as far as sharing a story about how when he was in university, he worked part time, saved up and purchased a computer. As the interaction went along, I subconsciously made up my mind that I was going to invest with them. The consultant made me feel at home and somewhat demystified this idea of investing. Long story short, I went back to my primary bank, withdrew the funds and invested them with alternate bank whose service had been nothing short of excellent!
Over the years, this experience has stuck with me. It is incredible how two consultants from two different institutions with a similar product offering could offer service that was worlds apart and that ultimately it was this very level of service that was the deciding factor for a young not-so-financially-savvy university student to choose who to invest with.
Here are 4 take away thoughts from this experience, which I think are relevant for a service business and / or service consultants to consider:
- Excellent service demands domain / product knowledge
One cannot hope to sell something they have minimal knowledge on. In my personal experiences, there is nothing that is more disappointing than engaging with a service consultant who is unsure of their product offering. This can “chase” away a potential customer.
- There is no blueprint for excellent service
Each interaction with a customer is unique. Whilst service consultants may receive some form of service training, I do not think that should be the be all and end all of service. Service consultants should use their discretion and adapt to each interaction accordingly. This is the one thing that the second bank consultant excelled at. He made it personal and relatable, as a result, I felt I could trust him. Think about some of the best conversations you have had with complete strangers, perhaps in the train to work or at a food market. Some of mine have been completely random and unscripted, but often I have walked away and thought “Wow, what a great conversation!”. The same holds for great service, it often is unscripted but incredibly memorable.
- There is always room for better service
There is a common saying – good is the enemy of great. In this context, service providers who have been recognised perhaps publicly for their level of service quality should not use this as an excuse to rest on their laurels. Similarly, service providers who have not excelled at customer service should not give up but rather chip away at it daily and perhaps implement internal rewards programmes to recognise service consultants who go the extra mile in this regard.
- Excellent service is not by accident, it is intentional
Great service consultants do not just wake up being great. There must be a desire to make sure that every interaction leaves the customer in a better place than they were before. In an interview with Forbes magazine, former Ritz Carlton Hotels president and speaker on high-quality customer service experiences Horst Schulze mentions that he conducted some of the employee training as opposed to hiring someone to do the training. Why? Simply because he is passionate about excellent service. How is that for being intentional!
Every interaction with a customer must reinforce why they should remain loyal to the brand if they are already a customer or why they should move over to you if they are not already one.
At the end of the day, excellent service is excellent! It’s memories remain and story is shared, just like my experience with the service consultant at the second bank. Hats off to the service consultants that are pushing the bar of excellence in their respective lines of work.