Delivering Satisfaction: How to separate yourself from the competition

By Marsha Petrie Sue, MBA

You are not perfect and neither are your employees. Problems happen because service is in the eye of the beholder. Handling an unhappy client or customer is the only business element separating you from your competition in many cases.  So what do you do?

customer service

Example: Delia’s Cleaners made a mistake on a cleaning order.  In the mail I received a letter (not an email or text) saying “Thank you for giving DELIA’S Cleaners the opportunity to correct our mistake.  Please accept my sincere apology for any inconvenience you may have experience.”  They enclosed a $5.00 store credit certificate, apologized again and told me that they “greatly appreciated my patience in this matter.”  Then they told me how they were going to remedy the problem in the issue. “I have passed along my concerns on this matter to the appropriate departments.”  She signed off with her cell number.


Example: Leatherman (like a Swiss Army Knife) “We received your Leatherman tool for warranty service.  We’ve determined that you are best served by providing you a refurbished tool in place of your broken product.” They also mentioned “We back our material and workmanship with our no-hassle, 25 year guarantee.” And again an apology was stated “We apologize for any inconvenience caused by not having your Leatherman by your side during this warranty process and thank you for your continued support of our products.” They sent a brand new, upgraded tool within the week.


Example: Keurig – my coffee maker decided to die on a morning that I really needed my Java.  I called Keurig immediately, they told me my maker was out of warranty but on good faith would send me a brand new machine.  Two days later, an upgraded model was delivered to my porch.  Amazing service.


Example: CPP (the online service I use for the Myers Briggs Type Indicator Assessment) – They have upgraded the format and changed some of the features on the reports I run for clients and teams.  I emailed them with a question and within 20 minutes I had a return email with an answer.  I never received an email that said they would respond within 48 hours with an answer.

Great customer service is hard. Some ideas to consider when upgrading the client care you have in your company.

  1. Develop policies that empower every employee to do the right thing for the customer – no matter what.
  2. Train everyone, and then train them again.  Have ‘lunch and learns’ reviewing aspects of customer care.
  3. Allow employees to consult with each other, not necessarily a manager, for ideas to satisfy a customers need.
  4. If an employee does need to check on something to satisfy the customers need, make sure the client knows when to expect a call back. Be sure not to miss this call back time!
  5. Make it easy for the customer to contact you.  Seems simple, but I can’t believe how difficult it is to find a phone number or email address. Have a human being answer the phone and eliminate a multitude of prompts
  6. Follow up after the solution is delivered.
  7. Consider some kind of written thank you/apology. But do something.
  8. Do not condone employees that don’t uphold your aggressive approach to great customer care.  There are plenty of people in the universe that will get it and are willing to learn.

But customer service is hard. When a client is unhappy, how do you mend the problem? Recently I had several flights on United Airlines and there was an ‘issue’ with each segment. Here’s the rub: On their website they state “United Customer Commitment – Our goal is to make every flight a positive experience for our customers.” They did send a survey and here was my response.

“Tell the truth.  The story on the delay changed 3 times. It was mechanical, then the captain was checking the equipment, and then they were waiting for the captain to show up? (We thought he was already on board!) Which is it?  I also had delayed planes, cancelled flights and other problems going to Billings as well as two weeks ago going from Phoenix to Vancouver.  This is no way to run an airline, unless you want to run it into the ground.  And for that, you are doing a great job.  Very sad. In the future, if I can fly another airlines I will.  Traveling on United has been exhausting, and disrespectful to the people who pay your salaries – and that would be in part, me. Focus on customer service.  Hire the right amount of people to maintain your planes properly. Bottom line is important, but you won’t have one if you don’t concentrate on the perception people have of their flying experience.”

I’ll be interested if I receive a response from United Airlines and if they are really interested in Delivering Satisfaction. Like me, people will begin to vote with their feet and their dollars.

How do you manage customer service problems and how do you train others to do the same?  Have any great tips to share? I look forward to hearing from you.

Thanks! Marsha

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