I’ve been obsessed with world-class customer service ever since I moved to Japan. Once you’ve experience the Japanese spirit of hospitality (“The customer is God”) you can’t fail to develop a keen eye for customer service wherever you go.
I picked up Michael Heppell’s 5-Star Service: How to Deliver Exceptional Customer Service because I wanted to learn more about how I can implement impressive customer service in my own business and also understand why I valued different businesses myself.
I learned a lot about customer service from Heppell’s book. He confirmed many things I sussed out and discussed on my own (stuff I talk about here and here), gave me new ideas, made me see things from different angles, and enthused the hell out me to get out there and improve my own customer service practices.
I read his book twice and made notes. Here are just a few lessons I gleaned from Heppell’s wonderful book. These are just a few that stick out to me personally. For many more gold nuggets, be sure to check out his book for yourself.
5-Star Customer Service Lesson #1: Make them feel famous
I hope Mr Heppell doesn’t mind me quoting one of my favourite parts of his book:
Imagine you’re a county solicitor. You have a small practice with two fellow partners and four support staff. You’re a reasonably happy bunch, with your office on the high street and a steady stream of regular customers.
One wet Wednesday morning you notice you have an appointment with a Mr Craig. He’s due at 10:30am and would like to talk about conveyancing.
Right on time your assistant comes to the door looking rather excited.
‘Mr Craig is here to see you.’
‘Show him in,’ you say with indifference.
And in he walks. But this is no ordinary Mr Craig – it’s Mr Daniel Craig.
Yes, James freakin’ Bond has just walked into your office!
He’s about to buy a cottage down the road and he’s fed up with those ‘rip-off lawyers in the city’ so he wants to stay local and hopes you can help.
‘Would you like some tea or coffee, Mr Craig?’ You say.
‘Yes, please. Do you have some camomile?’ He asks.
You don’t have camomile. But there’s a little Waitrose 50 metres away that someone can dash to, and, to be honest, if he’d asked for a vodka martini – shaken, not stirred – you’d have made it personally.
‘Of course, Mr Craig.’
Please answer this honestly. If that were you, would Mr Craig get exactly the same level of service you would normally give? Or do you ramp it up a notch (or 20) for 007?
This is one of my favourite parts of Michael Heppell’s entire book because if you took just ONE thing away from reading and implemented it, THIS mindset would give your business the biggest bang for its buck.
This mindset is so powerful that it is worth rereading this extract every morning at the beginning of your work day.
Read this, internalise it, and then spend the day meeting clients or picking up the phone and you will create some powerful impressions very quickly.
This is why I’m in love with Japanese service. The Japanese intuitively get that they need to make their customers feel like James Bond.
This is why I’m a huge fan of The Ritz-Carlton and the Hazleton Hotel. The staff are masters at making the customers feel important.
This is also why a certain bank has kept me as a customer despite my reservations about the way they do things – every time I call up with an issue, they talk to me as though I’m the king himself.
So ask yourself:
How can YOU make your customers feel FAMOUS?
5-Star Customer Service Lesson #2: Earn their trust
Trust is incredibly important when it comes to building a high-class customer service experience.
Did you ever enter a store or frequent a business where you got the overwhelming sense that the staff or owners simply didn’t trust you?
Maybe it was the way the clothing store clerk eyed you as you browsed the store.
Maybe it was the fact that a restaurant asked you to leave an item behind as a deposit while you went to fetch your wallet from the car.
When someone shows they don’t trust you, it can be incredibly hard for you to trust them
So here are some steps from Michael Heppell’s fantastic book that help you create trust in your customers:
Five ways to earn and build trust:
Never ask for it.
Put a big deposit in your customer’s Emotional Bank Account.
Trust someone with a payment. You might get stung once or twice but in most cases it’s worth it.
Never judge. What’s important to your customers may not be important to you. But right now they think they are the most important person in the world, and, if you can connect with that, you’ll undoubtedly earn their trust and loyalty.
Always – without exception, excuse or explanation – do what you will say you will do.
You’re probably looking at some of those items on the list and feeling like a few are pretty difficult.
I certainly feel very averse to trusting people with payments.
You don’t necessarily have to do all of these things.
I know that when I have trusted people with payments in the past, I could tell that my recurring customers certainly did trust me more and they gave me more work and seemed to like me more. But I was stung enough times that this particular thing no longer seemed worth it so now I need to get paid upfront.
The other stuff is powerful though.
How can you put a big deposit in your customer’s Emotional Bank Account?
I know the Hazleton Hotel put a big deposit in MY Emotional Bank Account when they emailed me months ahead of my stay to thank me for coming and ask if I required anything.
They put another big deposit in when they beautifully decorated my hotel suite for my wife’s birthday and included a delicious cake at no extra charge.
5-Star Customer Service Lesson #3: Make the mundane exceptional
A huge block for many people when it comes to creating 5-star customer service is that they don’t see where they can add value.
But you can add value in all the nooks and crannies of your business.
You don’t have to create a big song and dance to be a great customer service provider. Sometimes (maybe most of the time) it really is the little things that stand out.
Day-to-day core business may not be as sexy, but it separates the good from the brilliant.
Here’s a challenge. Take a pen and write down the top five day-to-day interactions you have with your customers. From the way you answer the phone to the way you say goodbye, your email style to your method for taking money.
Don’t stop until you find your top five day-to-day interactions.
Now, ask what would have to happen to make them brilliant? Not just for today or tomorrow but day after day, week after week, year after year – to be consistently brilliant.
I won’t do the whole exercise for you – the value is in doing the work for your own industry – but I know there are some very simple wins that a lot of businesses share.
Take the example of calling a business.
We are so used to having to dial 1, 1, 2, #, #, 3, 1, # 5 – before we even get to speak to a real person (who then turns out to be in a call center in India) that you can be exceptional simply by having a HUMAN pick up the phone IMMEDIATELY.
5-Star Customer Service Lesson #4: Give Wee Wows™
Obviously we want to create big WOW moments for our customers.
But, very often, the reason we love certain businesses, restaurants, or hotels is not because they deliver big impressive WOW moments. We love them because they consistently deliver many smaller impressive moments.
Michael Heppell calls these Wee Wows and he says that customers often can’t verbalise why they respond positively to certain businesses. But the cause is usually because that business has deliver lots of little impressive moments.
Little things like these matter:
Here are 20 Wee Wows™ to get you thinking. Your job is to find 20 more!
Have a firm handshake
Hold the door open
Start an email with ‘Dear _’
Use a person’s name
Say please and thank you
Check your breath
Create nice smells
Have pens that work
Handwrite ‘Yours sincerely’
Hand over items the way the customer wants to receive them
Establish initial eye contact
Tell the truth
Do what you say you will do
Reading over that list, I can’t help but smile.
Can you imagine how a customer would feel if they came in contact with that level of professionalism?
How would you feel?
5-Star Customer Service Lesson #5: Charge more
If you are doing everything possible to give world-class service, solve your customer’s problems, and be a leader in your industry, you absolutely do not have to compete with the bottom dollar services.
I know from a consumer’s perspective that I would gladly pay more for a better quality service.
If someone tells me they can get me from the airport to my home for only five dollars but the condition is I have to take a dangerous rickshaw with a drunken driver….
But I could pay a hundred dollars to get a bulletproof armoured limo with a professional chauffeur…
I know which one I’m going to choose every time.
If you worry that you cannot offer high value at a certain price, the simple answer is to increase your price.
Customers pay for value.
Michael Heppell puts it like this:
Will my customers be better served and feel valued if they have to make a purchase to find their solution?
Approached in the right way, and with the needs of your customer put first, most people are delighted to pay for a solution, if it offers real value.
So what solutions can you offer your customers now that you’ve refrained from because of price?
Put a price on it (one that is aligned with its value) and let your customers know about this service.
Check out Michael Heppell’s 5-Star Service
These are just five lessons from Heppell’s great book that leap out at me. The book is chocked full of many more lessons and it is a must-read for anyone in the customer service industry – which, in this day and age, is basically everyone.