What is Superior Customer Service?

What is Superior Customer Service?

Last issue we talked growth and how to do that. In this issue we need to concentrate on the importance of superior customer service if you want to grow.

What is superior customer service? The simple answer is that customer service resides in your customer’s expectations. Remember not all customers are the same. If one is happy with a 10-day turnaround on a background check and you are doing it in 5, then you have met that requirement. If another wants 2-day turnaround and you take 5, that’s a lack of service. While TAT is a simple measurement that you must calculate and must review as management, customer service extends much beyond that. Every customer is different.

I had a large client who had been with us for about two years and was headquartered about an hour away from our business in Tampa Bay. I believed we were giving superior customer service because we were turning their reports in about two to 24 hours. How could they not be happy? Then one week, I noticed there was no billing for them. After checking our files, sure enough they stopped ordering. I called my contact and her answer was that, while she was happy with our software and happy with the turnaround time, she didn’t feel she was an important client to me because I never came over to meet with her. Of course, I immediately made an appointment to come see her on an agreed upon time a couple of days later. When I came to her facility, she was not there and had gone to Tampa to visit one of her operations. Sure enough, I had the date and time right and she knew it too. She just wanted to know that I would make the effort. While it was not nice of her to stiff me, she had made her point and they started using us again. Of course, I re-contacted her and we set up a time a couple of weeks out to meet again. Guess what? Yes, she did the same thing again. When I re-connected with her, she said everything was fine, and thanks. I subsequently made sure I called her regularly to ask her to lunch, but she was just happy I cared. A personal contact from the President of the company was what they defined as customer service and she loved it!!

Another large client in Atlanta was also feeling neglected so we organized a meeting with them and brought in all their HR staff involved with hiring. We brought them into a hotel meeting room for an all morning training session on background checks. Did it all first class and they were most grateful. We not only kept the customer, but because we educated them on what checks they should be doing, their average order size increased by almost 20%. They loved it!!

Our customer service department was organized so each CSR could handle any question from any customer. Calls came into our phone ACD. Our goal was to answer any call with less than a 60 second wait time. Our average was 7 seconds. Customers loved this!!

There were some customers who wanted a dedicated CSR. So, did we say no? Heck no. We assigned them a dedicated CSR. Even though their primary contact was often not available and their question was answered by another CSR, they felt they had their own special person and they loved it!!

Since the bulk of calls came in between 10 am and 4 pm, during slow times our CSRs were proactive and called clients to chat. While some clients didn’t want to be bothered (“Everything is just fine—goodbye”), for others it gave us an opportunity to make a human contact while we educated them on new searches or some power tool in our software or reviewed with them what they were ordering and what else they should be ordering. They loved it!!

We generated a report giving our clients turnaround time and hit percentages. This is not only important data for them, you had better be doing a great job to not be embarrassed by the report. Anytime a competitor came in, the client just asked them about their TAT and hit percent and then pulled out our report and we kept the customer. They loved it!! (and so did we.)

Customer service was defined differently for another client which had several hundred hiring locations, with each doing their own ordering. HQ found out they had hired some pretty bad people because some locations were skipping the BC. They challenged us to resolve this. Our creative approach was to have them give us a list from central payroll processing of those who were recently hired and we did a comparison to see if a BC was ordered and/or if there was adverse information. This gave the customer the quick feedback on those remote locations that were not following the policy so they could tighten the discipline. They loved us!!

An extremely large, successful tech company, who had been our customer for two years and loved our quality and service and software, had a mandate to reduce internal staff. They wanted us replace their people with ours to enter orders and review results. We suggested they just fax us the application and we would do this from our offices. They were highly sensitive to application information leaving their offices, so we acquiesced and put five of our people on their site. They loved us!!

When I ask a background checking company why they are better, invariably they give credit to “better customer service.” Is your definition of this as broad and comprehensive as it should be? What you have been thinking is customer service may be just part of the real definition. Have you asked your customers what they think?

Bruce Berg is owner of Berg Consulting Group, in the industry since 1991 and consults in helping companies grow and prosper.