Customers Are Like Teeth—Ignore Them and They Will Go Away

Blog by Tracy Stock, CSP

My monthly cellular phone bill increased $30 this past month with no explanation and I was upset. When I called and made my way through the automated phone tree 20 minutes later, I finally got to talk to a live person. He said, “No worries, I will figure out what’s going on and then help identify additional services that’ll interest you.” First and foremost, is the timing really right to talk about upselling me when I’m clearly the opposite of happy? The answer is not only “no,” but “H E double hockey-sticks NO!”

What has happened to offering genuine customer service? I never used to offer training in this area simply because I thought customer service was such a basic concept; wow, was I wrong! Sadly, many companies must also think as I used to, because high-quality customer service seems to be essentially non-existent these days.

Customer service should be more than the pillar of a business—it should be the overarching philosophy that carries them every step of the way through operations. After all, my customers are the sheer reason I have a business; without them, Achieve Positive Outcomes wouldn’t exist. Not only does it take training, practice, and industry knowledge to fine-tune your approach, but it also requires walking in your customers’ shoes, anticipating their needs, and then delivering on exactly that. Here is how some of the top service organizations view the idea of customer service:

You Get What You Train For:

  • “Lead a conversation as a person, not as a sales­person. They should speak, and you should listen.” Samuel Thimothy, Co-founder of ONEIMS
  • “We train our employees on the customer journey and what expectations we have for each touch point. We listen to the client, talk to the parties involved to get all sides, and then move quickly to come to a resolution.” Elizabeth Johnson, CEO of PATHFORMANCE­TECHNOLOGIES
  • “Train your team to actively listen. Once someone’s complaint has been fully heard, and you’ve offered appropriate empathy, 99 percent of complaints are on their way to de-escalation.” Mackey McNeill, Founder of MACKEY

The Service Mentality:

  • “The customer is my boss. She is the one who signs my paycheck, and every­body else’s paycheck. Our job is to make her unbelievably happy, and surprise and delight her every single day.” Kendra Scott, Founder of KENDRA SCOTT
  • “The connective tissue for everything we do across the company is realizing that we exist to make customers’ lives better and easier every day, and we relentlessly want to do so. Being maniacally focused on the customer experience is always going to be a top priority for us.” Andy Jassy, CEO of AMAZON
  • “The more people you serve, the more lives you change, the happier you are too.” David Neeleman, Founder of JETBLUE

Tricks of the Customer Service Trade:

According to research by McKinsey, 41 percent of business leaders say it takes three to six months to train customer service employees for optimal performance. Leaders from numerous organizations I’ve talked with don’t even come close to providing that level of training for new staff. Happily, though, 80 percent of leaders last year said they plan to increase their customer service budgets for 2023 over last year (Source: Zendesk). If plans are followed with action, we should start to experience improvements soon in the service industry. Wouldn’t that be nice?! Well, I’m quietly cheering on cellular carriers to finish first and come out on top, as we are all affected—positively or negatively—by their ability to serve their customers…namely you and me.

  • “When I first started my business, I used to book a call with every single customer to personally ­onboard them. Keep in mind, all of these customers were on a free trial. What surprised me was that many of these phone calls led not only to paid conversions, but also to referrals, because of the attention we gave them.” Sean Kim, Founder and CEO of JUMPSPEAK
  • “Being quick to hear and act on a complaint is essential. But even when a response is prompt, too often the response focuses on justifying the com­pany’s actions. When we do run into a challenge, we try to see the situation from the customer’s perspective first. From there, we ask questions to understand what their frustration is and generate solutions to address the real issue.” Michael Walters, Founder and President of STUDIO503
  • “We’re incredibly customer-centric. If you visit our site and build a cart but don’t check out, we have somebody who will call you. Not every brand could get away with it, but because we’re so customer-centric, we close about 70 percent of those orders. We push them to the front of the line and ship them day-of. Pretty much everyone who experiences a call like that is so appreciative, and it’s helped us dive deeper into what our customers want.” Charis Jones, Founder and CEO of SASSY JONES

Instead of viewing customers like something we have to tend to…like teeth—“ignore them and they’ll go away”—see customers as invited guests to a party and you are the host! Choose to make it your responsibility every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better. Cheers to that!

(Adapted from a recent article in INC. Magazine)