A Quick Way to Immediately Improve Your Customer Service

If I asked you, “Can you give me five quick ways you could immediately improve your customer service?” how would you do? Would the five answers roll off your tongue? Or would you have to pause for a moment or two (or three)?

If you’re like most people, chances are you’re in the later category—and even if you aren’t, chances are that most of your people are. So, how do you get you and your team to come up with great ideas? Well, before I share with you a simple idea to make that happen, let me tell you a story.

The other evening, I was having dinner with three of my cousins and before long, one of them was telling me about her experience with L.A. Fitness. As she tells the story.

“You won’t believe this. As you know, my schedule is very busy so I only have a limited amount of time to workout. So, the other day, I call L.A. Fitness on a Saturday morning and ask if the pool will be open at 9:00 a.m. (Author note: if I remember the correct time) so I can come in to swim my laps. Note: This was less than an hour before I was heading out. When I arrived I discovered there was a class going on in the pool so I couldn’t use it.

Frustrated, I went up to the front desk and asked them, “What’s going on? There’s no class on the schedule and I just called less than an hour ago to confirm that the pool was open so I could swim my laps. You told me that there wasn’t a class scheduled. So what happened in the last 60 minutes so that this class magically appeared?”

Long story short, it turns out that that swim class happens every week but they don’t post it on the schedule because, “Otherwise we’d have too many people showing up for it!” Now, that response (and their actions) are so bad on so many levels, that it’s not even worth discussing.

But here’s what is (and it’s the answer to the dilemma I mentioned above). My cousin’s experience isn’t unique. All of us have had terrible customer service experiences. They happen all the time, every day. So, here’s what you can do with your staff team the next time you get together.

1. Share Your Bad Experiences

In other words, rather than trying to come up with a bunch of new ideas, why don’t you just get you and your team together and have a “terrible customer service experience” sharing time. Have someone take notes and put the names up on the board.

  • Angela (not my cousin’s name) – L.A. Fitness
  • Bruce – Comcast/Verizon
  • George – Johnson’s Charcoal Steakhouse
  • Leah – Playhouse Theater

2. Discuss, “What Went Wrong?”

As a team, go back and try to uncover what was wrong/bad. What did the company/business do that made the experience so wrong/bad? For example

  • L.A. Fitness – Assuming “everyone knows” about the class. Not having a sign up sheet to limit attendance. Etc.
  • Comcast/Verizon – Automated agents on the tech line, not enough skilled techs at level 1 support, etc. so you have to jump through 14 hoops and three people to find the answer to your question, etc.
  • Johnson’s Charcoal Steakhouse – rude servers who make you feel like you’re inconveniencing their day, inattentiveness, speed of service, etc.
  • Playhouse Theater – terrible signage (couldn’t find anything easily). Bathrooms were dirty. Cheap toilet paper. Not enough stalls since everyone has to use the bathroom during intermission, etc.

3. Discuss, “How Could They Solve the Problem?”

Next, talk about how you all think the other business could solve the problem.

  • L.A. Fitness – Put everything on the schedule. Assume nothing. Make sure all staff members know the schedule. Start a sign up process (and maybe add additional classes), etc.
  • Comcast/Verizon – Put something like, “If you need to speak with a live tech expert, you can press 7 at any time during this recording …” at the beginning of the recorded message. Make sure tech support level 1 personnel can handle more complicated tasks, etc.
  • Johnson’s Charcoal Steakhouse – Hire staff who actually like people (and fire those who don’t—forget longevity), do more employee training on customer service, establish speed and attentiveness standards, etc.
  • Playhouse Theater – invest in some signage and put it everywhere. Assume nothing. Establish better bathroom standards and have them cleaned more often (especially during performances). Buy better toilet paper. Redo the decor of the bathrooms. Make them feel elegant, etc.

4. Discuss, “How Could We Use This to Improve Our Customer Service?”

Once you’ve completed that, you and your team should now be ready to make the application to your business. Granted your business may not be similar to any of the above, but, you probably have similar issues. For example

  • Do you really think that L.A. Fitness is the only company which assumes that “everyone knows” something?
  • Do you have events that aren’t scheduled on the calendar? Or that have been cancelled, but still remain on the calendar? Believe it or not, outsiders check online calendars.
  • Do you have automated systems that make if hard to contact you? Remember, when you have a problem, you want it fixed fast. You don’t want to have to go through voice mail hell or get stuck on a support ticket system. You want to talk with someone—and someone who can actually solve your problem quickly during that first call.
  • Do you think Johnson’s is the only company that has surly employees serving customers (or answering the phones)?
  • Do you think your customers might appreciate more speed and attentiveness to their needs?
  • If you have a physical location, do you think the Playhouse is the only facility with poor signage? Or with poorly kept bathrooms? Or cheap toilet paper?

In other words, sometimes the easiest way to get your team focused on coming up with ideas is to start by talking about what they don’t like/what bothers them about other businesses. Then, once you get that “stuff/junk”out on the table, start looking for trends and themes. Start talking about solutions for someone other than you and your company (i.e. you don’t want them filtering ideas because they may have to execute on them :-).

Then, and only then, should you turn the conversation over to your company/business. However, by this time, your brain should be firing on all cylinders (and so should theirs). In fact, this might end up being one of your team’s favorite staff meetings all year because everyone should be engaged. Even better, all the frustration/anger they have over their past experiences, should help them want to correct yours.

So, when are you going to gather your staff together to discuss their terrible customer service experiences?

To your accelerated success!

P.S. If you have some other customer service nightmares (or great experiences) make sure you share them in the comments section below (or click here if you’re reading this by email or RSS feed)