August 25, 2020

Is Your Customer Service Outside in or Inside Out?

By Paul Daniels

Most companies prioritize customer service and make it a big part of their marketing and sales efforts. We all know that it is a balancing act between the needs of the company and the expectations of the customer.

The key to great customer service is to understand your customers’ needs, as well as your company’s capabilities. When these line up, then your customers’ expectations will be met. Most companies cannot be everything to everyone. They need to recognize the needs of the market and the customers they are targeting and match those to their strengths. Two mistakes I see a lot of companies make is to over sell their customer service (sometimes this is their sales force over selling) and leaning too much on what is best for them over their customers’ expectations. I believe the best customer service starts with the customer, or outside-in thinking, not just based on your company needs or, inside-out. In my past life, listening to the customer and then acting was part of our DNA. This was not always the easiest way. We used to use the technical term for this, “work.”

A simple example was expressed at the Glass Conference I attended last month. There were a few attendees from Ohio who were joking that their governor had just allowed bars to open for takeout if they also served food. Right away bars came out with innovative menus, offering things like three French fries and a margarita, or three chips and a shot. I have heard that some of this has since been clarified as to what defines food. The lesson here is that these business owners knew their customers’ expectations. They were going to a bar to buy a drink or would go to a restaurant if they wanted a fine meal. They also knew their expertise was offering drinks and they did not have the resources to add kitchens or cooks to serve complete meals.

This might sound simplistic, but most companies I talk to these days are looking for simple solutions. They have only one main expectation, that is, their vendors say what they will do, and then do it. During this pandemic it is even more important that companies communicate what their current customer service level is. Most companies know that this may be different order to order or job to job. Salespeople these days can really be valuable to their companies and customers by keeping them both up to date on current conditions and keeping expectations in balance. Balancing your service level to your customers’ expectations will keep your relationships strong through these times.