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Keep Your Service Advantage Simple

Posted 8 years ago

Are you easy to do business with? Most of us would probably answer “yes”, but how can we receive an unbiased appraisal of our own customer service acumen? Is there a simple business hack or workaround? Today’s blog post comes from contributing writer and Service Enhancement Expert, Gregg Baron. Gregg offers us some simple advice: Remain committed to the ETDBW (Easy To Do Business With) concept. If you begin with this simple concept, you’ll be well on your way to earning and retaining a greater number of customers.

Keep Your Service Advantage Simple: Be ETDBW

Start with EASE, Accessibility and Responsiveness

by Gregg Baron

Managing your customer’s experience is the key to Earning and Retaining More Successful and Profitable Customer Relationships. The place to start is getting committed to being ETDBW (Easy to Do Business With). A little effort can turn routine customer encounters into an experience that is perceived as timely, easy, and potentially customized for an audience of one.
Issues and Opportunities
Unfortunately, even employees that are ready and willing to deliver a positive customer experience may be prevented from doing so by organizational factors that overlook the service intentions of leaders (their aspirations) and the organization’s “stated” values.
A few of the organizational issues to consider include your facility’s physical layout, the technology you use to interact with customers, the locations, accessibility to customers, and the policies and procedures that your employees “must” follow when working with customers. The issue of head count and workload might come between your good intentions when it comes to customer experience and short term operational pressure to do more with less. Do you have the right amount people at the right times to respond to customers optimally? What are the consequences on customer loyalty and retention for how you approach staffing now? What are the consequences to retaining your best people?
To determine the extent to which these considerations may be hampering the customer experience, Baron suggests you ask yourself challenging questions such as:

  • How easy is it for customers to do business with us? What are their actual perceptions vs. our speculation (and hopes) about the customer experience?
  • When have we mystery shopped our organization? What did we learn and more importantly what did we DO with what we learned?
  • How many hoops do we make the customers jump through to get what they want/expect?
  • Are our policies and procedures designed for our convenience and/or benefit or for our customers’?
  • What recurring problems/challenges/inconveniences do our customers have in working with us?
  • If we were the customer (with all of the direct and indirect options they have to get their needs met) would we choose to do business with us? Would we refer us to people we had important relationships with?

The Human Touch Points – People Interacting with People
The people side, says Baron, refers to what customers experience, perceive and expect when they encounter people on your team. For example:

  • Do all or most of your people put customer issues and opportunities first or based on their behavior do they have priorities that take their attention and time before addressing more direct customer issues?
  • Do your people work to help customers feel acknowledged, heard and understood?
  • Are your employees capable of gathering information quickly and finding answers for customers instead of directing them from pillar to post?
  • Do your people look for creative ways to help the customer get the quality experience that is expected and deserved as well as executing on any tangible deliverables that are expected?
  • Are they willing and able to “jiggle the system” to satisfy a customer when they can without creating a liability for your company? Is that coached and encouraged or is it policed and forbidden?

Where to Get Answers
It is obvious to always seek out current customer perceptions and expectations. It may be less obvious to involve your frontline people when assessing the customer experience. They are the ones who know which policies, processes and technology hinder their ability to deliver quality service because they are the closest in time and place to the customer experience. Engage them and don’t assume you know better than they do. Ask them about competing priorities, mixed messages, constraints and roadblocks that if addressed would lead to more valuable customer experiences and increase customer retention.
What to do: go out on the floor or in the field with your employees to observe them in action. Be alert to situations where a customer encounters difficulty and see how it is handled. What are the obstacles to service (an unclear procedure or obsolete policy) you can remove? What kind of training, tools or process adjustments can you offer that will prevent the problem from recurring or reduce the challenge for the customer?
When using formal or informal customer surveys – it is important to get more specific feedback while keeping it EASY for customers to respond. It should feel more like a dialog. Consequently you should:
Avoid “closed ended” questions. Questions calling for a one-word responses like “yes” or “no” tell you little of any practical value. Worse still, they tend to validate whatever it is that you are already doing. Thus, you should stay clear of such questions as:

  • “Did the representative give you the information you requested?”
  • “Are our hours adequate?”
  • “Is the product satisfactory?”

What to do: ask open-ended questions that compel the customers to reveal their service experience and preferences with a reasonable degree of detail. For example:

  • “In your own words, how would you rate the experience you recently had with us?”
  • “What are the preferred/more valuable ways to interact with us?”
  • “What, if anything, did our representative do to contribute to your experience being valuable?”
  • “What could we do differently in the future to enhance your experience?”
  • “What are a few of your expectations related to us responding to your requests and needs?”

What recommendations do you have for improving our responsiveness to you?”
“How would you describe our representative’s ability to listen and understand your situation and request(s)?”
Managing the customer and prospect experience consistently well delivers extraordinary payoffs to your organization. Like most worthwhile endeavors it’s not easy. It takes commitment that translates into strategic actions supported by persistence. Doing so will make you ETDBW.


Note: This story is part of a Customer Experience assessment. The advice comes from Gregg Baron, President of Success Sciences, Inc., a Tampa, Florida consulting firm specializing in the management of the customer and prospect experience to enhance sales, customer retention and profitability.

Gregg Baron, CMC, is a certified management consultant at Success Sciences.  Gregg has extensive experience in the areas of enhancing customer loyalty and retention, sales performance, and the leadership practices for leading change. Some of his clients include Verizon, Honeywell, Comcast, Novartis, KPMG, JPMorgan Chase, Con Edison, American Express Travel, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruise Lines.  His last book Leadership without Excuses: How to Create Accountability and High Performance, was published by McGraw-Hill. He founded Success Sciences, which is headquartered in Tampa, in 1986.
To explore your issues and approaches for enhancing sales performance and service quality, contact Gregg’s team at Success Sciences today about a no obligation exploration of “the possible.”