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Customer Service vs Customer Excellence

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“Press 1 for Accounting, press 2 for order status, press 3 for customer service, press * to repeat this message” (How about press 4 to be forwarded to your competition).

“Thank you for calling. All customer service representatives are busy servicing other customers. Your business is important to us, (sure it is…but I’m not) so please stay on the line and your call will be answered by the next available representative”



Seriously? That’s the face of your customer service? What is your goal? Is your customer service goal to be slightly less inefficient than the inefficient customer service of your inefficient competitor? GOOD JOB, YOU NAILED IT!

When your clients call, do you pick up the phone? I called a well known national supplier the other day to check on the status of an order. The operator answered. I told her I needed an order status. She transferred me to customer service. I told that person I needed order status. She asked for my state and business name. She transferred me to my customer service person. “Hello, you’ve reached Pam. I’m not at my desk or on the other line….” I hit “0” and went back to operator, who transferred me to customer service who had me hold for the next available representative. Then I found out the order had shipped. FINALLY!

            “Can you give me the shipping cost?”

            “I’m sorry, I don’t have that information, but if you want to call back on Monday, it might be posted.” …Sure thing…I’ve got nothing better to do (Are you detecting sarcasm in my voice?)


BE EASY – If your client had 60 seconds to call you to get an answer, could they? Things move fast in our businesses and clients need answers quickly.

            Customer Service: Don’t let your phone go into voice mail if you don’t need to.

            Customer Excellence: Unless you’re with someone else who will be sending you a check, answer the phone when you know it’s a client on the other end.

You need to be so easy to do business with that it is painful for your clients to consider your competitor.


BE PHONE ACCESSIBLE – If your client needs YOU. Can they reach you by dialing 10 and only 10 numbers?

            Customer Service: Give them your direct number.

            Customer Excellence: Give them your cell number.


BE MULTI CHANNEL ACCESSIBLE – If a client needs to reach you, do they call or email?

            Customer Service: Let your customer know how to reach you when the absolutely need to reach you.

            Customer Excellence: Be accessible regardless of how your client chooses to reach you. Be sure they have your direct number, but forward it to your cell. Be sure they have your email, but forward that to your cell. Be sure they have your cell number to call you. If they’re comfortable with it, get their cell number so if they text you, you don’t have to text back “who is this?” Let your clients know  they can text you ANYTIME!

Check out SMC’s website at where they have an online Business Concierge live chat to get their clients answers immediately. Now that’s Customer Excellence!


BE RESPONSIVE – When you get a phone message or email from your client be sure to get back to them quickly.

            Customer Service: Find out what they need and call them if they called or email them if they emailed with an answer ASAP.

            Customer Excellence: If the issue is something which will take some time to track down an answer, respond back immediately. My favorite response when I receive an email with a question or a request that will take some time, I respond immediately with “I’m on it!”.

Being responsive tells my client a few things. First, that I did receive the request. Second, that the request was not lost in email or voice mail limbo. Third, that I’m taking action and it’s just as important to me as it is to them. Fourth, that I will get back to them as early as possible. Fifth, as my client, “you are important to me” which means more to them than “your business is important to me.”


If your client does leave a voice mail, do you return their call promptly? By the way “promptly” is NOT within 24 hours like some companies like to boast. “Promptly” is definitely that day, if not that hour, but preferrably within a 15 minute period. In my business, my clients are extremely busy and these questions are coming from their superiors a lot of the time. They don’t have time to keep their bosses waiting. Responsiveness is king.


BE HONEST – Don’t promise what you’re not sure you can deliver. We all WANT to give our clients what they want. Are we ABLE? Be honest with your client. If you are not able, then give them the option to try elsewhere. That may be painful, but if you truly care for your client’s best interest you should want them to get what they need, not just what you can provide.

            Customer Service: Only promise what you can deliver. Turn it down if you can’t.

            Customer Excellence: Whatever you promise, deliver it with greater quality, and faster than you promised. If you can’t, then provide alternative solutions to give your clients options.

Recently a client asked me to source a product. I was able to get the exact product in the timeframe they wanted, but the supplier of that product received a “D” rating or lower on 50 out of 57 recent ratings. Chances were my client would have been disappointed, so I provided several solutions and warned them of the high risk. They know they can count on me to keep them out of trouble. They remain one of my best customers.


Whatever your competition is doing, do it better. Whatever you’re doing, do it better. Customer excellence is to consistently outperform their expectations. Don’t strive to provide good customer service. Instead, strive to provide great customer excellence.

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