“What do you guys do to keep your customers happy?”

I get asked this question quite often. Of course it all starts with a great product that people love and that rarely has issues or defects. However, we all know that even the best products and services will eventually have issues. It’s how the customer is treated under these circumstances that defines a great customer service experience.

Some people I talk with believe it’s a numbers game. Can’t you just hire the right number of service people, train them, and have them follow a documented process? If you do this, then shouldn’t you be able to solve customer issues in a timely manner and offer a great customer service experience? Well, it’s not that easy.

Yes, you do need a service process in place along with properly trained people. You need to provide the answers and support your customers deserve and you need to offer it in a time frame they expect.

There are automated ways to provide service, (online help systems, FAQs, product documentation, etc.) but there is almost always a human element involved. Your service employees need good training on how to offer assistance and talk to your customers in order to solve their problems. It’s hard work and takes discipline.

The aforementioned recipe for success alone will not work. Perhaps the hardest ingredient to get right in this recipe is the human element. You can have an extensive training process in place and the most well thought out service process, but your organization will fail to provide a great customer service experience if you have the wrong people in place.

I look for two key qualities when recruiting new service team members. Does the individual have the willingness to go the extra mile and will they fit in culturally in our organization?

The first key quality, the willingness to go the extra mile, is a must have. It’s the difference between answering the question and solving the problem. I want people on my team who will stay late if they are in the middle of solving a critical problem. Every interaction with a customer, even when they are having a problem, is an opportunity to strengthen your relationship.

Customers who have had issues can be your biggest fan if they had a great customer service experience while those issues were addressed.

The second key quality, but equally important, is making sure the individual is a cultural fit. I’ve seen companies hire poor cultural fits because they had an urgent need to fill a role. This is the hiring equivalent of fitting a round peg into a square hole or short term gain for long term pain.

These kind of hires are either going to leave shortly after you hire them or they will create stress and stretch your team in non-productive ways. A good cultural fit blends in well with the team, will get up to speed more quickly and will ultimately be a happier and more productive employee.

I’m a huge believer of the statement that “great customer experiences start from great employee experiences.” The next time you hire a new member for your customer service team, don’t be in such a rush. Take time to consider if that individual exhibits the qualities that your customers deserve and if they will be a good cultural fit in your organization. Hiring the right employees is the first and key step towards providing a great customer service experience.