Stop me if you’ve heard this story before: A man walks into a Nordstrom (a luxury department store chain) carrying a pair of snow tires. He plops them on the counter and asks for a refund. Nordstrom has a no-questions-asked refund policy, so the clerk checked the price, still on the tires, and refunded the man $145. Done. No questions asked.
Why is this story interesting? Well, there are a few reasons.
First, luxury stores like Nordstrom don’t carry tires, and second, this story (while adjusted for inflation) is completely true. In reality, it was 1976 prices and a $25 refund.
However much the tires cost, the point still stands: the quality of your customer service can make or break your business.
It’s been 43 years since the events of this story, and yet it is still one of most mentioned examples of great customer service.* How much positive press and goodwill has that one $25 refund granted Nordstrom? By the same token, how much goodwill is your customer service generating?
Let’s take a look at the 5 basic tenets of great customer service.
People always judge a book by its cover.
Everything from your appearance, to your words, your office, even your car, can give your customer an idea - fair or not - about your team and therefore, your business. Being professional goes beyond issues of appearance, but also to how you interact and respond to clients. The simplest things, like timely responses to emails or calls, will reflect upon your level of professionalism and ultimately, your client's perception of you.
Don't feed into the negativity.
We have all had those calls with a frustrated customer so committed to their anger (which may be justified) that all they can do is shout. While you can't control the client, you can control yourself and the situation.
You have a choice whether to respond in kind, or to remain positive and try to assist them.
While you shouldn't be a doormat, you should be able to de-escalate a negative encounter with patience, positivity, and even humor when it’s appropriate. The most important thing you can do on such a call is to really listen to the client. Don't just hear them, but listen to what their concerns are and own up to any shortcomings on your or your team's part.
While the client may not like that there was an issue, by remaining positive you have an opportunity to control the narrative. If the client feels your team is trying to find a resolution, that may be enough to turn the situation around.
It's time to make it personal.
Instead of subscribing to the old cliche,"don't take it personally," let's change things up a bit. We want you to make it personal...for the client.
Put forth the effort to make the client feel you are taking a genuine interest in their success. Clients respond well when you make them feel you know their business and are trying to help them be successful. In many regards, how a client thinks you feel about their business will trump what they know about your business.
Make them feel good about working with you and your team. Always ask questions to ensure they are satisfied before you let the client go. Do a follow-up call or email to verify their situation is resolved or if they have any other issues or questions.
Consistency is the key to success.
What is your process for getting stuff done? Is there a blueprint that allows you to maintain consistency in service, or is everything run on-the-fly, with everyone doing their own thing? If a client calls Stan about an issue on Monday, then Mark on Tuesday, will their experience be the same?
Another "p", a promise, is what you give to your client when you sell them a service or answer their concerns. The question is, can your processes support the promises that you have made?
Your team is a reflection of your business.
Do you have an established company culture document, something that clearly defines your company's core values? It may seem 'corporate,' but without some formal declaration of behavioral standards, how will your team know what is expected of them?
Sure, we can all fall back on the golden rule, but we all have different standards of gold. Some of us are 24k, while others are 10k. Others are just plate.
Without a consistent policy in place, your team will have to rely on their own tendencies. This may not be how you wish your business to be portrayed, particularly when the time comes to interact with customers.
Many salespeople don’t like the Nordstorm story because they believe it sets up a business to unrealistic standards and for failure. However, those who dismiss the Nordstrom story are missing the bigger picture.
The story isn’t that Nordstrom would take anything or that they were taken advantage of. It’s that they honored a promise to a customer, and in doing so, established themselves as the 24k gold standard in customer service. Quite frankly, if your business is unable or unwilling to honor their word to a customer, then you’re not going to be in business long, nor should you.
At KT Connections, we offer the solutions that can help you better support your customer service efforts. Give us a call at 605-341-3873 to get started.
*The reason Nordstrom accepted the tires was because Nordstrom had purchased the store location where the previous tenant had sold the tires to the customer before the space was converted into a Nordstrom. This meant that, technically speaking, the man had bought the tires from that location, whose previous owner promised he could return them if not happy.
Of course, Nordstrom could have told the customer “NO,” but their policy was (and still is) that Nordstroms will refund any purchase, purchased at one of their locations if not satisfied, and so the refund was provided.