Wanting is the first step.

I was talking to an executive at a mid-sized (read: ~100 employees) rapid growth company the other day. The company has been having problems with its customer service. They have the basics down – people pick up the phones and do respond to emails, but they have room to improve when it comes to the little things. Their customer service is usually at a level of acceptable, but it isn’t at the point of “great” just yet.

However, this company, especially the executive I spoke to, have one of the most important first steps down: They want to improve their customer service. Wanting to improve your customer service and being dedicated to improving it is one of the biggest challenges. If you aren’t convinced that you want good customer service at your company, it is far less likely to happen.

This executive showed some things that definitely proved to be good news:

  • He was obviously dedicated to improving the customer service experience. As stated above, this is critical.
  • He wanted to know how he could go about improving the customer service experience. Just wanting to isn’t enough, you need someone that is prepared to do what it takes to get great customer service started.
  • He listened carefully. I talk a lot, but the executive listened carefully. He wasn’t, dead though. By his responses, comments, etc., I could tell he was understanding what I was saying and the points I was trying to make.

Those are just a few things that executives looking to improve their company’s customer service need to do/show. They have to be open minded about how to improve the customer service at their organization and they need to be willing to remain dedicated to customer service.

Here is how to get to a point where you want to improve your customer service and the customer service experience:

  • Read about customer service. You can read about customer service at Service Untitled, some of the blogs I link to on the right, in books, in the newspaper, and more. Reading about customer service will not only educate you, but the stories will convince you how powerful (and useful) customer service can be.
  • Talk to a customer service expert. Talk to someone who deals with customer service and realizes how powerful great customer service can be. This could be a blogger, an author, a consultant, and/or an executive. Many of them will talk to you (or at least exchange a few emails) and let you know what they think customer service can do.
  • Look at your competitors. Almost every industry I can think of has at least one company that uses customer service as a primary differentiator. Retail has Nordstrom, web hosting has Rackspace, hotels have the Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton, airlines have Southwest and JetBlue, etc. Look at how successful these companies are.
  • Try to model yourself. When you find the customer service-orientated company that is one of your competitors, study what they do. Read articles about them, talk to their employees, and so on.
  • Be creative. These will all help convince you that customer service is important and that you want to improve customer service. Be creative and think about how you can go about convincing yourself customer service is important and that it is well worth the time and effort.

And remember, customer service is hard. There are lots of things that are easy to copy, but consistent customer service across an organization is very tough. It won’t happen right away, but you’ll start seeing changes sooner than later.

Oh, and read the Executive’s (Quick) Guide to Customer Service. It’s worth the one page read.