In this episode, Susan is joined by Micah Solomon, a world-renowned consultant and trainer in customer service, consumer trends, and company culture. He is the author of IGNORE YOUR CUSTOMERS (AND THEY’LL GO AWAY): The Simple Playbook for Delivering the Ultimate Customer Service Experience (2020).
“Company culture” is a buzz-phrase that has risen to prominence in recent years. Micah, however, believes the term is misunderstood by many boardroom individuals to mean little more than ping-pong tables and bean bag chairs. With this in mind, Micah prefers to speak of a different kind of “company culture”, and that is “customer service culture”. This is comprised of two primary elements: 1) the way your company treats its customers, and 2) the way the company treats the people (i.e. employees, vendors, and contractors) whose job it is to take care of those customers.
Unfortunately, a lot of companies miss the mark on what it means to have a stellar customer service culture. Oftentimes, a company may have the wrong style of customer service. That is, customers today, by and large, want a more “informal” style; or an “eye-level” or “peer-on-peer” style of service. It means looking beyond the outdated paradigm of customer service, defined by a certain level of rigidity and formality. For example, nowadays it may be okay for employees to sport tattoos and colored hair, simply because their customers sport the same. In short, today’s customer thrives on relatability.
Much more important than customer service style, on the other hand, is hiring the right people. Micah refers to “the cliff of dissatisfaction”: The longer it takes for employees to respond to customer inquiries, the higher the customer’s level of dissatisfaction.
“The hallmark of great customer service organizations is that they have a default of ‘yes’.” Micah gives a personal example of this in the form of his salesperson at Nordstrom named Joanne Hassiss. When the manufacturer of his favorite short-sleeve shirt went out of business, Joanne, instead of turning Micah away, told him to give her a day. By the next day, Joanne had found a solution: shirts almost identical to Micah’s favorite, found not on Nordstrom’s website, but on a competitor’s website. Joanne got to “yes” by giving up a sale from her own company. Micah may no longer be a source of revenue for that particular style of shirt, but he is sure to be back at Nordstrom simply because Joanne Hassiss made an impact by saying “yes”. But if you absolutely must decline, adds Micah, “Never say ‘no’ to a guest without providing one or two reasonable alternatives.”
“Customer service,” says Micah, “is today’s marketing.” Traditional advertising in today’s society can only be either doubly good or doubly bad depending on the experience a customer has had with the company in question.
Micah’s website: https://micahsolomon.com/
Micah’s book: https://ignoreyourcustomers.com/
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