4 Small Adjustments that Bring 5-Star Customer Service

Did you know it only takes seven seconds to make a lasting impression on new people that you meet?

If this is true in personal relationships, how significant are the impressions your business makes with customers? Great entrepreneurs know that if you want long-lasting, loyal clients (who spend AND who voluntarily advertise your excellent service by word of mouth), then you must prioritize customer relationships and consistently offer superior service.

Going From Good to Great

What does five-star service look like from a patron’s perspective?

Here is a snapshot of where a business moves from average to above-average:

   3 — Service is average, fair, “the usual” satisfactory, expected, etc.

   4 — Customer is very satisfied. Service is average, above average, exceeded expectations, etc.

   5 — The client is delighted and amazed. Service is extraordinary because employees “walk on water” for customers.

To elevate your customer experience, you have to be proactive, not reactive. Five-star customer service gives extra attention to the smallest of details and does this with an authentic care for each individual you serve.

Here are four areas of focus to grow a culture of excellent service in your team:

1. Be Visible

Whether you respond to clients through e-mail, phone, or live service, be accessible and prompt in every response.

Let clients know they can always reach out to you and where you can be reached if they need anything. Never break communication – whether clients are pleased, waiting, or upset, don’t leave any attempt to communicate unanswered. Acknowledge the feelings behind the communication, and – in difficult situations – offer creative customer reparations (refunds, replacements, bonus items, etc.) if possible. 

2. Anticipate Unexpressed Needs

Five-star service providers seek to surprise and delight their clients.

Here employees deliver not only “at” the level expected, but above and beyond what is promised. When you check in with a client, what do you expect they MIGHT need (i.e., help navigating your new software)? Can you have the solution ready before they ask (i.e., a tutorial video attached to your check-in e-mail)? Seek to bring solutions, even if the client is at fault, and your business will be more memorable and responsive.

Anticipating needs is a way you tangibly care for people, and when you do this, it touches emotions. One general manager with five-star hotel experience put it perfectly:

“It is the small, simple, special moments that we create through personal engagement with each guest that they will recall when they return home. To accomplish this type of sustainability, we carefully and methodically select our employees, and then continuously train. It’s not about the tactical as much as it is about speaking the language of the guest.”

3. Train Your Team to Employ Creative Problem-Solving Skills

Five-star service includes the ability to think outside the box and create unique solutions to problems.

Customer service is primarily about problem-solving, so train your team to embrace problems rather than dreading them, and you will shift the culture in your business. A great team member isn’t afraid to come up with creative solutions. Give them the authority to do this and see what happens!

Publicly commend employees who do, and you’ll reinforce this attitude for everyone.

4. Use the Feedback You Receive

Five-star teams are never satisfied with the status quo.

Teams that excel in service are ruthless about gathering feedback and doing something with it. Do you collect customer comments? If so, how do you review it and identify areas for improvement? Companies that make specific changes in response to feedback are strategic, dynamic, and are genuinely customer-focused.

Build “Every Day” Excellence

Excellent service is something that happens consistently, so challenge your team to create memorable experiences that are repeatable every day.

Be visible, creative, and proactive, and challenge everyone on your team to take ownership as they follow through on guest requests every time.

5 Customer Service Phrases to Avoid (and What to Say Instead)

In May of 2018, Barbara Carroll ordered three cartons of toilet paper from Amazon. The order total: $88.17. The shipping charges? $7,455.

Carroll wasn’t overly concerned, as Amazon typically takes great care of its customers. But in this case, Carroll complained to Amazon six times and even wrote a letter to CEO Jeff Bezos. After every complaint, she received a form letter explaining a refund was impossible because the delivery arrived on time and undamaged. It wasn’t until Carroll notified a local television station (and the story went viral) that Amazon took action. Months later, she was finally reimbursed.

While this case is extreme, every company has its share of customer service flops. In some situations, the problem is no communication. In other cases, it’s inconsiderate attitudes.

Want to steer your team toward positivity? Here are five customer services phrases to avoid.

1. “No” (or) “I can’t help you with that.”

Even if a customer makes an impossible request, it’s your responsibility to care for them and to steer them toward a solution.

Alternatives to try:

“This feels like an issue which might be out of my control, but let me double check . . .”

“That’s not my area of expertise, but I want to connect you with someone who can help.”

2. “I don’t know” (or) “You need to check with someone else.”

If you can’t solve a problem, be as helpful as possible. Rather than abandoning someone mid-stream, work with them to find an answer.

Alternatives to try:

“I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”

“I’m not sure, but I’d be happy to look into that.”

3. “Ok, calm down.”

When diffusing a tense situation, telling someone to calm down usually frustrates them more. Instead, communicate empathy and turn the focus from the problem to the solution.

Alternatives to try:

“I understand how this must have upset you, and I’ll get on it immediately.”

“That would frustrate me too.”

“I’m sorry for this inconvenience. Let me help you with that right away.”

4. “I don’t understand the issue.”

People who are upset find uncertainty even more frustrating. If you’re struggling to connect, clarify the issue or soften your request.

Alternatives to try:

“OK, so let me clarify…”

“What I’m hearing is [ISSUE], is that correct?

“If it’s not too much of a problem, I would ask you to be a bit more specific…”

5. “I’m going to put you on hold.”

Time is valuable, so don’t assume you can extend a service call without asking permission. If you do have someone hold, check back with a status update if they’ve waited longer than two minutes.

Alternatives to try:

“I understand your issue and if it’s ok, I’m going to ask you to hold on while I check on a solution.”

“The problem you’re describing is rather peculiar, so if you have a minute, I’d like to put you on hold while I check with my supervisor.”

“I’ll get right on it. If it’s ok, I’d like to look into this today and call back to you once I resolve this.”

Ultimately, customer service is not about the right words but the right attitudes. Remember, the biggest customer service frustration question is “why isn’t this as important to you as it is to me?” As you handle issues, address the person behind the problem. Communicate with compassion, empathy, and enthusiasm, and you will find your way through many sticky situations.