Great Customer Service is about doing the Basics Well.

Vince Lombardi, the legendary football coach once said:

Some people try to find things in this game that don't exist; but football is only two things - blocking and tackling."

It's all about the basics.

In any endeavor, if you can identify the basics, and practice them to the point where you can execute them consistently well, you'll be successful.

This week, I called the Internal Revenue Service.  Just the idea of having to call the IRS conjures negative thoughts.  In fact, the call began just that way:  I navigated the phone menu correctly on just my second attempt.  Then I waited on hold for about five minutes.  Seven precious minutes invested, and no progress.

At this point, I felt myself taking on that irate customer posture - after all, it was my right as a citizen and a taxpayer.  By the eighth minute, I was completely caught off guard.  A live agent greeted me (we'll call him Bob), and after a couple quick questions to verify that I was who I said I was, Bob got right down to business.   His demeanor was calm and slightly upbeat, and he really seemed to care.  Bob showed empathy.

I explained why I was calling, and Bob listened.  He carefully repeated what I told him, then asked me to hold; he said he'd be back in under three minutes.  Bob was back on the line after two minutes and 30 seconds.  (Yes, I timed him.)  Bob set clear expectations, and lived up to them.

When Bob returned, he had a solution.  He explained it clearly, and with conviction.  I believed  Bob.  His confidence became my confidence.  I was glad I called, and felt  good about the solution.  Bob showed confidence.

An experience that began with all the markings of something bad, actually turned out to be something good - a very positive customer experience.  And the fact that this happened with the IRS made it even more impressive.

The things that Bob did so well were the basics of customer service:

  1. He showed empathy.
    Bob came across as a human - a human who cared.  Empathy at the start of a call can set the stage for a successful call.  Always begin with empathy.
  2.  He made a point to earn my trust.
    Bob listened to me.  And to prove that he listened, he repeated back what I told him.  That gave me confidence in Bob.  Always earn your customer's trust by listening carefully, and repeating back what the customer told you.
  3. He found the right solution.
    Bob didn't immediately know the answer, so he consulted with a colleague to find the right answer - and in the process, he told me exactly what he'd be doing, and how long it would take. Bob was transparent.  And that increased my trust in Bob.

Deliver great customer service is never easy, particularly when it's delivered over the telephone, and especially when your customers expect a bad experience.  But when an agent focuses on the basics, and executes them well, the chances for a positive customer experience increase dramatically.

Think of some of your best customer service experiences.  What made them great?