Listen to your customer and make everything else easy.

To help shape our goals and resolutions for the year, a friend and I have been posing questions to each other such as “What is your purpose?, “What do you want to experience in life?”.  This week he asked me “How do you define good customer service?”  This coming from someone who exemplifies customer service.

Something must have happened during the week because before I could even respond, he started to share his thoughts and ideas.  He started with having people well trained to do their jobs, listening to the customer, empathizing with the customer if there is a problem and when possible, solving the problem for the customer.  He continued talking and eventually focused in on the importance of listening and connecting with the customer.

We didn’t have time to finish the conversation and left off with another question…Is it possible for a company to achieve 100% customer satisfaction?  If it is possible, how do you do it?  

Four of the key principles for achieving 100% customer satisfaction as well as management principles and processes used by leading companies who are getting it right more than their competitors are summarized below.

Get it right or make it right with the customer:
Pleasing every customer is a challenge for most.  Entrepreneurs and innovators have learned or are learning that you have to “get out of the building” and talk with customers about their problems, get their input on how to solve the problem and understand how they value the solution.  Talking with the customer before developing a product or service helps companies get it right the first time.

Making it right for the customer does not necessarily mean owning their problems or mistakes.   Apple is probably one of the best examples of shared responsibility.  They own their problems but not the problems created by their customers.  If you’re wondering how they do that and leave the customer feeling satisfied, just sit in one of their stores for an hour and listen to the interactions with customers who have dropped their iPhones in water.

Make it simple and provide a great experience.
Designing a product or service that is simple is not easy.  Technology companies are adopting Agile processes that make it easier to speed the iteration cycle and enable product enhancements that are meaningful to the customer.  However, speed and responsiveness to the customer helps but does not always translate to a beautiful product that provides for a great experience.  It requires talent and time to get the design right.

Live your values.
Few companies have guiding philosophies that are memorable to both customers and employees but there are a few standouts.  Southwest returns love to the skies for their customers, Apple thinks differently and disrupts industries with amazing products and Google does no evil by respecting people’s data.  Without even seeing the actual values, you can kind of imagine what they might be for each of these companies and the type of behavior that would be expected of all employees.

Value the customer’s time and chances are they will pay up for the product or service.
Apple is probably one of the best examples because they sell more computers than all the other competitors combined even though they are not the cheapest.  They simply make owning their products easy by making them easy to set up, easy to learn and easy to get support when needed.  Most of us cannot afford to be without our computers or devices for long.  Everyone including the people in the store must get it because their products and service are designed to keep us computing, searching, connecting, listening and sharing or in other words, enjoying their product 24/7.

In summary, achieving 100% satisfaction requires listening to the problems, ideas and solutions valued by customers and then making everything else easy for customers and employees so that they know what to expect and what is expected of them.  It is no easy task but looking at Apple, the results are worth it.

Are you wondering how this ties back to my friend, our questions and why I have concluded he exemplifies customer service?  When I asked him about his purpose in life, he told me that his purpose is simply to make people happy.  He is not a push over.  He cares about people, listens to them, empathizes with them and when needed or if he can, does little things that make a big difference for his customers – and his friends.  In short, his actions in business and his personal life are aligned with his purpose.


About the Author: Shannon Smith is a management consultant, strategist and innovator with over fifteen years of experience helping companies achieve greater success.