Nothing is Special About Good Customer Service

Recently I had the opportunity to interview several candidates for a position with our company.  In the interview process, I asked a handful of carefully chosen STAR method questions and I noticed a concerning trend in some of the responses I received.

As an example, one of the questions was “Tell me about a time you went above and beyond for a customer?”  More than one candidates response was a variation of “One of my customers or my company had a really hard problem, and I worked really hard to fix it.”

One candidate worked in a retail environment where they ran low on a certain product, so he drove to another location to retrieve extra items to sell.  Another candidate worked as a contractor and mentioned fixing an issue that was done improperly by a previous contractor as their example of going above and beyond for a user.

Are you noticing the trend here?  These candidates considered doing their jobs as above and beyond, even though nothing in those particular stories were things that would be considered outside of their job description.  Getting extra inventory from a second location, or correcting a previous technicians crappy jobs are not going “above and beyond” for your customers…they’re doing exactly what your customers expect.

Customers expect to find a product when they go to the store to look for it.  Customers expect a job to be done right the first time, and if it isn’t, they expect it to be fixed to their satisfaction.  While both of these instances might be outside of or harder than the normal, day to day tasks of the job…they’re not above and beyond for your customers…they’re just doing what your customers expected in the first place.

This is a really important aspect of customer service that a lot of organizations completely miss:  There is nothing special about good customer service.

Think about it…when was the last time you made a purchase and were excited about the mediocre customer service you would get?  No one buys a product and expects and poor customer service.  Good customer service is, in fact, the baseline for most people.  When I buy a product, if something goes wrong, I expect it to be made right.  I expect good customer service.  Good is normal.

In our team, we’ve talked a lot about “exceptional” customer service in the literal sense.  Exceptional is anything worth commenting or remarking about for it’s uniqueness.  There can certainly be negative exceptional service (think about the recent United Airlines debacles) but there can also be positive exceptional customer service (Amazon consistently comes to mind with their almost zero hassle returns and refunds for physical goods).

As an example from a recent Amazon experience of mine, our town was lucky enough to be in the path of the 2017 total solar eclipse.  To help me view the eclipse, I purchased some eclipse glasses from a third party vendor on Amazon.com.  It turned out that these glasses weren’t certified to meet the recommended safety specifications (doesn’t mean they didn’t meet them, they just didn’t carry the official certification).

Now, in this circumstance, good customer service would be me returning the glasses and then asking Amazon for a refund.  What Amazon did, though, was exceptional.  Without me doing a single thing (honestly, I never complained at all), they contacted that vendor and asked for proof of certification.  When that wasn’t provided to them, Amazon took the initiative (without my intervention) to fully refund the purchase, let me keep the glasses, but also send me an email to let me know the glasses I had were potentially unsafe and that I should be careful in their use.

This far exceeded any expectations I could have put on Amazon (after all, the product didn’t even advertise that it was certified, I knew what I was getting into when I made the purchase).  And that act, defying your customers expectations, is the key to making the jump from “normal” good customer service to truly delighting your customers.

What are some positive exceptional customer experiences you’ve had?  When are times you’ve gone above and beyond for others?  Let me know in the comments!

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