“In about the same degree as you are helpful, you will be happy.”
– Karl Reiland
I was working with our team in Seattle this week and we were discussing the tenets of good customer service. If I learned anything working at Nordstrom, it’s that good customer service is proactive, not reactive. If someone takes your order politely, they’ve done their job. You had a need and they satisfied that need, great… but that isn’t good customer service. It might be good manners, however, it’s the minimum that we should all expect. If you work at Tahzoo, presumably you’re smart and happy, so let’s assume we’ll have the minimum covered without additional explanation.
Good service and striving for great service is about being proactive. It requires you to take the time to know your clients and anticipate their needs. There are two key habits to proactive service, observation, and initiative.
Observation is the discipline of understanding yourself, your company, and your client. This does not happen automatically, it requires that you pause, reflect, and consider what you’re observing. Not all that dissimilar from the scientific method. The most lauded scientists are the ones that observed something in nature, created a hypothesis to define it, and then test their assumptions. In the context of customer service, you have to understand your client well enough to anticipate their needs. At Nordstrom, we had Personal Books, we’d keep track of our customer’s sizes, likes, dislikes, birthdays, info about their family, and other details. That discipline of observation and writing it down is still with me today. I take notes about my clients and more specifically, my assumptions about them; their attitude, communication style, work habits, how their company runs, their aspirations… and then I periodically reflect on those assumptions to make sure they are accurate and/or are things changing for them. Those moments of reflection keep me in tune with my clients and allow me to anticipate their needs.
Once the need has become prescient, you can respond.
Initiative requires energy. It’s not good enough to have awareness, you also have to do something about it. The habit of initiative is an expression of values or a higher purpose. It’s the discipline of taking action, it’s something you have to practice every day. As I spoke about last week, we are in the business of making millions of people a little bit happier every day. That gets me excited, which gives me energy and as a consequence, providing great customer service gives me great personal satisfaction. Doing my job – taking care of customers – doesn’t feel like work to me. Each of you needs to find the wellspring of passion that gives you the energy to provide great service every day. For me it’s about higher calling, maybe for you, it’s connecting with people or seeing them be successful. Whatever your passion is for delighting customers, you have to find it and cultivate it. My old pastor used to say you can’t minister from an empty well, you have to renew your enthusiasm frequently.
If you couple observation and initiative you get magic – the magic of customer delight. At Disney, they create “Wow” moments. I had one of those moments earlier this week when I received an email from the owner of the dry cleaner that I use. Now as you can imagine, he has thousands of customers, maybe more. In any event, I haven’t been using his service, mostly due to travel and some extenuating circumstances, however, he noticed (observed) that I haven’t been in recently, and then took the time to send me an email (initiative) checking in with me personally to make sure I was in good shape and to make sure there wasn’t an unexpressed customer satisfaction issue. A “Wow” moment for me when I read his email.
What a great example for all of us. It’s not just the big things that make great customer service, it’s also all the little things. If you care, it shows in you and it shows in your work. Our first value: “If you care about your customers and you care about your employees, you’ll have a company worth caring about”. Go show your clients that you care – take the time to observe and cultivate the energy to take action. Not only will you give great customer service, but you’ll also be happier too.
Let’s go be great!