During a recent conversation with a colleague we discussed the differences between the terms “customer service” and “customer experience.” Interestingly enough, the conversation was sparked by a question asked by one of our new friends on Twitter. After going back and forth for quite some time we decided to agree on 5 key points. They are as follows:
Agreement # 1 – We both came to the agreement that we wanted to define customer experience as just that: everything a customer experiences while dealing with a specific company.
Agreement # 2 – We agreed we wanted to define customer service as all of the human-to-human interaction between customers and the representatives of the company they are dealing with.
Agreement # 3 – We agreed customer service and customer experience are two very different things. Customer service is a component of overall customer experience just like products, locations, technology, etc.
Agreement # 4 – We agreed we consider the “human-to-human” customer service components to be incredibly important and controllable elements of the customer experience.
Agreement # 5 – Last but not least, we agreed that too many people seem to have forgotten about good old-fashioned human-to-human customer service. Nowadays, people seem to be so very excited about doing everything electronically and, unfortunately, many of the core, personalized, high-touch business and customer service skills and practices seem to be falling by the wayside.
[imageeffect type="frame" align="alignleft" width="225" height="163" alt="" url="http://www.digitalreaction.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/gears_interior.jpg" ]
This last conclusion is troubling! As the Dalai Lama says: “social interaction between human beings is the essence of our existence.” Last time I checked, saying something is the “essence of human existence” means it is probably pretty important. He did not say email is the essence of human existence, he did not say product quality is the essence of human existence, he did not say best price is the essence of human existence. He said: “social interaction between human beings is the essence of human existence.” Pretty powerful stuff I think. Unfortunately, too many executives do not see how this plugs in to their business model. The best ones not only see how it fits in, they embrace it and are passionate about it.
We are not suggesting product, price, technology, facilities, etc. are not important components of the customer experience. Of course they are! They are all incredibly important! We are suggesting you make sure you maintain a strong human component to your business. People are sometimes loyal to products, but most of the time they are loyal to people and they will drive past two stores to get to a third to see people they like dealing with and they like doing business with.
Here is how we define the key components of a great human-to-human customer service interaction:
We use the term G.E.A.R.S. when we talk about the key phases of great customer service:
Greet – The first step in any great interaction is the first impression. The greeting considers everything from the way you are dressed, your body language, facial expression, handshake, smile, and first words. There is something to be said for making the first few seconds warm, comfortable, and welcoming. There is also something to be said for demonstrating to the customer that you are actually genuinely interested in helping them out.
[blockquote type="blockquote_line" align="right"]As the Dalai Lama says: “social interaction between human beings is the essence of our existence.[/blockquote]
Engage – Once the greetings are done and you have made the person feel welcome it is time to engage them in a deeper conversation. Engaging somebody has a lot to do with asking questions and effective active listening. As a general rule a great conversation is typically the result of great questions and great listening skills. This is the phase where the CSR ventures to learn as much possible about what the customer need is. They have to ask base questions and in many cases continue to dig deeper to fully understand the customer’s needs. In this phase they should also be reading body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. At the same time they should be in full control of their own as they listen to the customer explain their need or situation.
Advise – Ahh! Here it is! The holy grail of customer service excellence. Being able to deliver tailored advice that works backward from the information shared in the engage phase is the pinnacle of high-value customer service. Being able to suggest specific products and services and, in some cases, suggest a lower cost alternative is what this model is all about. Believe it or not, I might want to be talked out of buying that blue shirt when you think the green one looks better on me. It is sincere advice and not “sales hook” advice that I want.
Resolve – In this stage we help the customer resolve to move forward. We answer any questions they might have, deal with objections and, if there are any terms to negotiate, we do that as well. Finally, we resolve their problem and make a decision on the right solution for them. The sale is made and I went with the green shirt because the CSR told me it matched my eyes and the colors of the season.
Service – Once the the person we are dealing with becomes a customer now it is up to us to make them a repeat customer who is likely to recommend our company to others. We do this by doing all of the little things well. We need to be responsive, proactive, easy to work with, energetic, and very knowledgeable. We also need to start the G.E.A.R.S process all over again the next time they come in.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could get everybody to do this during every business interaction?
Wouldn’t it be great if these were the rules for every form of customer interaction? Maybe our electronic presence should be a bit more human as well. Maybe our web sites should employ the G.E.A.R.S approach. Why shouldn’t a site greet, engage, advise, resolve and service?
Come to think of it maybe they can.