By MaryBeth Matzek
Successful businesses and brands have one thing in common – top-notch customer service. Whether it’s an accounting firm, retailer or a hospitality business, solid customer service sets businesses apart and primes them for success, according to two customer service experts.
“A business can have the best product in the world, but without quality customer service, success won’t last,” says Jim Knight, a former senior director of training and development at Hard Rock International and now an independent consultant. “Service is everything and can really help your business leapfrog the competition.”
Craig Perrin, director of product development with AchieveGlobal, a premier training and consulting organization, agrees. He recently conducted a webcast on how businesses can own the customer experience by seeking to improve skills for employees who work directly with customers.
“Businesses really need to focus on that first contact – that human experience. Training is so important,” Perrin says. “Everyone who interacts with customers need to receive the same training so the experience at the same level.”
Leadership is the secret to great customer service, Knight says. Without that passion at the top for delivering an experience customers will brag about, it’s difficult to cultivate a customer-focused culture, he says.
“You need rock stars, not lip synchers,” says Knight, a speaker at the 2013 People in Consumer Goods and Services Summit on Sept. 17-18 at the InterContinental Buckhead in Atlanta. “You want employees that live the brand, not someone just going through the motions.”
Perrin says frontline managers are a key component of the customer service picture. “They need to serve as models as well as coaches,” he says. “They can be great models by treating their employees well. If you talk about how great you’re supposed to treat your customers, but then don’t treat your employees that same way, there is a big disconnect.”
Knight says everyone can think back to their own experiences and remember how poor service turned them off from going to a particular business, but “if you have great customer service, it makes a world of a difference. Even if you have a product that something goes wrong with it, if you have great service, you can still win that customer for life.”
A recent Harris Interactive Poll found that 89 percent of U.S. consumers won’t use a brand because of poor customer service. “Great guest service leads to sustainability,” Knight says. “It’s all about creating the best possible experience for the consumer.”
When talking about great customer service, certain names come up frequently, including Apple, Starbucks and Zappos, for a reason, he says. “Their service is what puts the customer in the end zone and makes the sale,” Knight says. “Steve Jobs was famous for trying to figure out what customers wanted and then delivering on it. That’s how all leaders need to be.”
Serving customers and meeting their needs should be a part of every company’s mission statement, Knight says. “If it’s not there, employees won’t believe it’s important. You need to get buy-in and the best way for that is having leaders who are always out there at the front lines and talking about meeting the needs of the customer,” he says.