Four Stepping Stones to Excellent Customer Service

Jaclyn Crawford Customer Service, Foresight 1 Comment

Intelicare Direct CEO Gabriel Bristol gives a word of advice on how to achieve and maintain excellent customer service at any company.

By Gabriel Bristol

What is excellent customer service? How do you define it? More importantly, how do you fix it if you don’t have it?

If you posed these questions to your customers or potential customers, a majority of them would give varied answers that speak to their personal likes and needs. But this by itself would not help you create a definition that you could use to benchmark your company’s actual performance against the sometimes elusive goal of “Excellent Customer Service.”

Customers can do a very good job, however, of telling you what customer service is not. They recognize poor customer service the moment they see it, and that information can be very valuable. Bill Gates once said, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”

Outside focus groups conducted by top-tier industry professionals can provide you with a wealth of data, but that can take a lot of time and money. If your company is losing money and customers because of bad customer service, you may not have the time for such a formal approach.  However, there are quick and effective ways to assess, improve, and measure the service you provide to the lifeblood of your organization — your customers.

If you have to act quickly and not spend months formally identifying the customer service problems in your organization and then spend additional time and money vetting and implementing new initiatives, you will find these four tips below very valuable.

Step 1: Understand and accept that when it comes to assessing the state of your customer service or the main reasons for that disconnect between your company and its customers, your executive team’s opinion is almost worthless. To understand the issues you have to get your hands dirty and get as close to the source (your customers) as possible.

This means spending three or four days speaking directly to a subset of your customers and a subset of the employees who interact with them every day. The executive team and even middle managers are often too far removed to provide the nuanced insight that is so important to this analysis. Whether you are a car dealership, a customer service call center, or a doctor’s office, you will benefit tremendously from speaking with at least a portion of your customers and eliciting authentic responses.

During this process, you’re likely going to hear some harsh criticism. Don’t be discouraged. You’re addressing the problem now, so things can only get better.

Step 2: Take this feedback and look at the entire customer service experience through the eyes of your customers. Using the example of a doctor’s office, once you walk through the door does the receptionist warmly greet you or do you walk up to the imposing counter to be tersely asked if you have an appointment? Do you sit in the waiting room for 15 minutes (or longer) beyond your appointment time without as much as an acknowledgement or apology, or are you addressed by name and ushered into the doctor’s office at the start of your appointment?

You have to look at every contact point your company has with its customers and every opportunity for there to be a customer service experience—from the beginning of the interaction (when they figuratively walk through the door) through the end of the transaction when you thank them for their business. Be thorough.

Step 3: Organize your observations. Now that you have all this data and you think you fully appreciate what the customer service experience is, you have to group the experience into different “access points” and assign your team an area to improve that falls under their job descriptions.

Let’s go back to that doctor’s office. If the patient isn’t greeted personably, that’s a task for the front desk supervisor to address. If the patients are waiting to see the doctor long after their slated appointment times, then assign that task to the person responsible for scheduling the appointments. If the patients are getting their bills late or don’t understand the bills they’re receiving, assign that task to the financial supervisor. By knowing who is responsible for the improvements, you have a method to not only follow up, but also to keep your staff accountable and to give them ownership over the process.

Step 4: Never stop evaluating. Customer service is the new marketing. Since you never stop marketing your company, why would you ever stop monitoring how your company treats its customers? It must be an ongoing evaluation process.

Invite your customers the opportunity to provide feedback and make doing so easy. Constantly monitor that feedback and share it with your team. Let them know when they’ve done well and let them know when there’s room for improvement.

Remember, a customer is twice as likely to share a negative experience with your company than a good one. In today’s social media environment, this kind of sharing pattern has a much bigger audience than ever before.

If you work hard to improve your customer service, but then fail to monitor it going forward, then you’ve simply applied a Band-Aid to a hemorrhage.


Gabriel BristolGabriel Bristol, president and CEO of Intelicare Direct, is one of today’s most versatile CEOs, having led remarkable turnarounds for several large corporations as well as helping establish rapidly growing start-ups. Bristol’s success has been well documented, with features in Forbes® and other publications throughout the country. Because of his long track record in successfully managing highly diverse employee populations, dramatically increasing sales and customer retention and his fierce commitment to improving customer service, Bristol is a highly sought-after public speaker at corporate events and frequent contributor to business strategy publications. Twitter: @Gabriel_Bristol



Comments 1

  1. Former Employee

    This company is a joke, they will fire an employee on the drop of a dime or drive them to quit if they do not like them. Gabe talks a good game, every time I tried to suggest something that could help the company it was brushed off or told it wouldn’t work when all of my suggestions came from a huge company where they did work.

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