If you were to survey ten random people about who they thought the best customer service companies are, you would probably hear companies mentioned like Amazon.com, Apple, Zappos.com, Nordstrom, Ritz-Carlton and a number of others. Well, last year BusinessWeek mentioned many of those same companies, including Ace Hardware.
Ace Hardware is that local store that has the really helpful employees who can help you with that weekend project, find that obscure part and much more. They are the small locally owned stores that compete against huge “big-box” stores that are ten times bigger and spend 30 times more on advertising. They play in a very competitive market and they thrive because of their special brand of customer service.
One very important reminder is that great customer service is table stakes. It’s the ante. You have to come to the competitive game of business with a sound customer service strategy, or you might as well just send your customers to the competition. So, here are some basic strategies and tactics that customer focused companies like Ace Hardware, and other rock stars in the world of customer service, do to provide service that differentiates them from their competitors:
- The truly great companies add a signature or brand to their version of customer service. For example, as mentioned, Ace Hardware focuses on helpful. It is their tag line as well as their brand promise. They want to be the most helpful hardware stores on the planet. They really don’t want to be known as the nicest stores. They want to be known as helpful. By the way, part of helpful is nice.
- Great companies have clarity of their purpose, and they get all of their employees in alignment with this purpose. Call it a vision, mission, credo, mantra – whatever – the employees must know it, understand it and embrace it. Ace’s brand promise “the helpful hardware place” and Ritz-Carlton’s credo, which is, “We’re ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen are great examples of short, simple and concise brand statements that promise an amazing customer service experience. Pretty simple and clear. Every employee gets it. Every customer gets it. And when they experience the brand promise, they like it.
- Great companies hire the right people. They hire people that fit the personality, mission and vision of the company. This is really where the culture starts. Not just with the employees, but hiring the right employees.
- Once the right people are hired, they are trained, not just on the technical skills of the job, but also the softer skills like, and you guessed it, customer service.
- The best companies empower their employees to do the job they were hired to do. They expect the best and help their employees deliver their best.
- The best companies celebrate the success of their people. They let their trained and empowered employees own their experiences. The customers shouldn’t be the only ones that get to enjoy the hard work that leads to the success of the company.
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Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, professional speaker and New York Times bestselling business author. For information contact (314)692-2200 or www.hyken.com. For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs go to http://www.thecustomerfocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken
(Copyright ©MMXIII, Shep Hyken)