Seven Simple Ways to Improve Your Customer Focus

Coins can be a mini customer service hassle.

Think about the last time you bought something with cash and needed to collect change. There's an awkward exchange as the cashier hands you the bills and then dumps the coins on top of it. It's tricky to hang on to everything.

A drive thru line is the worst place for this to happen. I've sometimes found myself too close to the wall of the building to open my car door and retrieve the lost change. There's an awkward dance that follows as you pull forward while gesturing to the driver behind you to stay put for a moment so you can collect your missing 17 cents.

There's a way to avoid this.

The cashier can put the coins in your palm first and then place the bills on top. It's much easier to control the coins that way.

That's just one example of a simple way to focus your service on your customer. Here are six more you can easily implement.

 A cashier counting change out of a cash till.

Make the Effort to Follow-up

Some customer service situations require a follow-up contact. The big question is who should take responsibility?

Let's say a customer calls to check the status of an item she ordered. The customer service rep verifies the order is in production and is scheduled to ship the following day for a Friday delivery.

A transactional customer service rep might say, "Give me a call if it doesn't arrive by Friday and I'll track it down for you."

A customer-focused rep might say, "I'll monitor the status of your order and follow-up with you on Friday to make sure it arrived in good condition."

 

Use Clear Language

It's easy to fall into the trap of using unclear language. 

Imagine a customer is anxious to get a billing problem resolved. You want to keep him happy, so you tell him, "Don't worry, I'll take care of it right away!"

The problem with this word choice is "right away" might mean within one day to you, while the customer interprets "right away" as within the hour.

A more customer-focused is to use clear language to describe exactly when the error should be corrected. "You should see the correct amount on your account by 5pm tomorrow."

 

Do the Time Zone Math

Serving customers across multiple time zones can be tricky. 

For instance, if you're in Phoenix, should you say good morning when it's 9:30am your time but your customer is calling from Atlanta? (Trick question, it depends on the time of year since Phoenix does not participate in daylight savings time.)

Many of us become adept at time zone conversions after awhile. We can make things easier for our customers by working out the math so they don't have to. So if I'm in Phoenix and my customer is in Atlanta, I can tell her I'll call her at 11:30am her time without her having to worry what time that is where I am.

 

Anticipate Hidden Needs

My wife and I checked into a small inn not long ago and were about to head out to dinner. The front desk associate had recommended a restaurant just a few blocks away, so we decided to walk.

She handed us a pair of flashlights as we were about to leave. "Use these while you are walking," she said. "The road is dark and there is no sidewalk, so the flashlights will make it easier for cars to see you. You can never be too careful!"

That small act of kindness not only kept us safe, it made us feel as though the associate genuinely cared. 

You can create a similar feeling for your customers by anticipating needs your customers aren't yet aware of. Use your knowledge and experience to be on the lookout for opportunities to share proactive service.

 

Use the Pre-Emptive Acknowledgement

You can often defuse a customer's anger by acknowledging their frustration before they reach a boiling point.

It's probably happened to you. Let's say you go out to eat on a busy Friday night. You place your order and enjoy a nice conversation with friends or family. After awhile, you start feeling hungry and notice it's taken a long time for your food to arrive.

Just then, your serve arrives at your table, apologizes for the delay, assures you that your order is coming right out, and offers to refill your drinks.

That's the pre-emptive acknowledgement. You might have grown much more frustrated if your server had disappeared completely until your food arrived. But by showing up at your table to apologize for the wait, it becomes a non-event.

Look for opportunities to do the same thing for your customers. The trick is you have to spot situations where a customer is likely to get angry before their anger comes on too strong!

 

Take the Thank You Letter Challenge

This one is the ultimate customer focus exercise.

Start by writing a thank you letter to yourself that you would hope to receive from a customer. The letter should describe how you helped the customer in some way.

Next, read the letter each day for 21 days and try to receive that same feedback from a real customer. I've created this daily email reminder to help you with this challenge.

 

Take Action!

Customer-focus is a powerful skill.

It helps you better understand your customers, which in turn makes it easier to meet and often exceed their expectations. I encourage you to try at least one of these exercises right now and see how they can make a difference!