Keys to great customer service

Companies like Nordstrom, Zappos and Disney are all industry leaders in regards to customer service and employee satisfaction.  When examining what common beliefs and practices they share, it seems like an obvious formula for success.  To begin, they don’t view themselves as sellers of clothes, shoes or tickets.  In their minds they are service providers and help people with their needs.  As a result, customer expectations are high when it comes to these brands.  With Nordstrom you know the stores sell quality products, the staff will go out of their way to accommodate you and they boast a legendary return policy.  At Zappos they make it easy to shop on-line with a huge selection and deliver promptly with often remarkable speed.  Go to any Disney property and you know it will be immaculate as if it’s the first day it opened.  You will be greeted with a smile and friendly assistance at every turn.  All of these examples are the product of a well designed plan, positive culture and hard work.

Now ask yourself what do your customers, clients or sponsors think of your business.  What are their expectations and how do you stack up to the competition?   These may be hard questions to pose, but it’s never too late.  It helps to first assess where you are today and then decide where you want to be.  If you are already doing a good job, be mindful to not allow complacency to set in.  Now is the time to determine how you can get better.

The overarching philosophy at companies like Nordstrom, Zappos and Disney is the customer comes first.  So you may want to begin by asking what is best for your customers, clients or sponsors and what can you do to help them.  Too often the focus is on what’s best for the bottom line.  If you think of the customer first, genuinely care about their needs and exceed their expectations, then the business will take care of itself.  This will build loyalty and lead to long term relationships.  Your reputation will spread and eventually attract new business.

These companies are also consistently rated as some of the best places to work because they take such great care of their employees.  They create a positive work environment where employees are encouraged to have fun, be innovative and grow.  They are given tremendous support, rewarded and acknowledged for their accomplishments.  The tone is set from the top and their management leads by example.  They believe in empowering their employees and trust they will do what’s best for the customer.

Allowing employees to make decisions, solve problems and take ownership will ultimately lead to an empowered and productive team.  Some mistakes may occur along the way, but they usually provide key learning opportunities.  As long as expectations are set and goals are clear, then managers should step aside and provide support when needed.  This type of atmosphere will encourage fresh ideas, accountability and growth.  This will also lead to happy and hardworking employees, which translates to happy customers.

Ultimately, little things make the biggest difference.  In the case of Disney Resorts, it’s a street sweeper offering to help take a picture so the entire family will be in it.  With Zappos it’s the surprise of receiving the shoes you ordered the very next day at no extra charge.  In the sponsorship world it’s remembering special occasions in your client’s lives like their child’s graduation or birthdays.  It’s looking outside of contractual obligations and doing what’s best for the partnership.  It’s listening and understanding their needs.  It’s being proactive and offering new ideas.  It’s taking responsibility when things go wrong, fixing the problem and overcompensating for any loss.  It is open and transparent communication.  What will it take for you to be the Nordstrom, Disney or Zappos of your industry and why not start today?