Updated: Jan 3
Great service starts with your behavior and service to others.
What is Customer Service - really?
When one thinks of "Customer Service" what comes to mind are traditional service behaviors - wait times on hold, returns to the store, people being friendly. Although this is true, I would argue that customer service extends beyond the customer and starts internally through your behaviors with your team, and with individuals within your organization.
I've worked in several different organizations and industries, and the organizational behaviors of what internal "service" was greatly varied. One organization that I worked in, the philosophy was that everything that was done was to enable better efficiency for the people who are responsible for the customer. This philosophy extended beyond just the physical processes or layout, but to the way we behaved within our organization. It's simple, our job was to make peoples' lives easier. When you think of your interactions with others, this philosophy can change the way you interact. You put a service lens on your communications, apply empathy and say "How could I make this easier for the other person". This is where real service begins.
A service mindset is believing "My job is to make someone else's life easier"
What are some ways that you can bring great service to your everyday interactions?
Getting back to people
This is a huge one for me. It is so frustrating when you send and email or call someone, only to have them totally ghost you. Did they get my email? Will the task get done? Do I follow up? When? Not getting back to people is not only rude, but inefficient and ineffective. I get it, we are bombarded with hundreds of emails and phone calls a day. Between all the virtual meetings, it is a wonder how things get done. I have a personal standard to try and get back to people within 48 hours. Sometimes I don't have the answer, and that's ok. Acknowledging the email is enough - saying "Got it, I will work on this" or "Thank you" can let the other person know that you have at least read it and *plan* on doing something about it. Its good customer service to let people know where they stand.
I am not going to pretend to be perfect, things do slip through the cracks. If that happens, I apologize and try to get the other person what they need immediately. In my experience, I've found that when you are responsive, other people will be responsive to you. Its just a good way of doing business.
That email/meeting could have been a phone call
How many times have you been sitting in a meeting thinking, "this could have been an email or phone call". What a total waste of time for you, when you could have been working on something and the organization as a whole. I had a boss who *literally* sat in virtual meetings from 7 am to 7 pm, at least 3 days a week. Ugh. Sometimes I would sit in meetings and mentally quantify what that meeting was costing the organization with everyone's salary. Scary.
How do you know what mode is appropriate? I follow some general rules - if an email is back and forth more than 3 times it is time to pick up the phone. Yes, not everyone is copied who might need to know. But you will save SO MUCH TIME and confusion by just calling someone and hashing it out. Then after the phone call, I will document what was discussed and copy everyone so that the person I just talked to, and everyone who needs to know can be on the same page.
A meeting could have been an email when you know what you want to do, and are just making a recommendation or getting a reaction. Put why you are writing the email, what you expect from the recipient (i.e. "please approve the following", etc.) and why you are making the recommendation be clear about what you are asking. Always put when you would like a response. If you don't get one, see above - pick up the phone. You are not only saving your own time, but others' time as well. You're welcome.
Keeping communications short and to the point (TL;DR)
People you interact with do not want overly explanatory explanations. Nor do they want a million attachments. I firmly believe that it is YOUR job to do the analysis, bring out the salient points, and do the work for the reader. People do not want a bunch of information that they don't know what to do with.
Don't you hate when you are on a distribution list, and you have nothing to do with that communication? Don't make people wonder what they are supposed to be doing with your communication. It might take time to tailor your emails to the right audience, but you have more of a chance of them actually reading it when it is relevant to them.
Take the time to target and tailor your communications, so people want to read them.
I had a co-worker that would not apply a filter and send lengthy emails and seriously sometimes over 10 attachments not only to me, but others - who I know did not have time to read that information. What do you think happened? Nobody read their stuff. Their communications were so frustrating that it was not worth reading - which wasted their time for even taking the time to type and send. Do people a favor, and target your communications as much as possible.
Great customer service is making things easier for people you serve, and helps you in the process too. It actually doesn't take that much more time, if any. Wouldn't you want to do more business with someone who considers your needs?
Suzanne Olson, MA, CCXP, CPXP is the Owner and Chief Experience Architect of Brilliant Workplaces. She hates bad customer service and things that waste her time, and would like all workplaces to shine with their kindness and efficiency.