What is customer obsession and great customer service?

At some point in time, most if not all of us end up either serving a customer, or being a customer ourselves; we have all been in a situation where we feel people who provide services for us either do not fully understand us or fail to provide us with the great customer experience that we deserve.

It is human to err and we all tend to make mistakes when providing services or communicating with others.

When Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO, has set 14 leadership principles for Amazon employees, he chose to put focus on the customer, thus enforcing and disseminating a mantra of “Customer Obsession” among Amazon employees — the idea behind it sounds simple: put the customer in the center of your decision making process.

But what does it really mean? Here is my take on the concept of a great customer service:

Respect your customer

We may think we are the smartest people in the room, however; consider that there are smarter people than us, and there’s a very good chance this is our customers.

Remember to respect your customer’s knowledge, background and beliefs, when engaging in a conversation with your customer.

You would recognize this negative pattern when you encounter sentences such as “trust me Jim, I’ve been in this field for the past 20 years, and I know what’s good for you”.

Let your experience show in action or when consulted, try to stay away of being too pushy with your opinions, listen first.

Respect your customer’s time

Let’s start with a Moto: You’ve set-up a meeting with a customer (via phone, video-conference or frontal) — be there 5 minutes ahead of time.

If around this time you already know you’re going to be late for the meeting, the most important thing is to communicate it to your customer.

Instead of disrespecting your customer’s time by being a couple of minutes late to the meeting and arming yourself with an arsenal of excuses as to why you’re late — simply communicate it in advance, let your customer know you’re coming late and give your customer an estimation of your arrival time.

Try to refrain from excuses such as “sorry I was late John, I got stuck in a traffic jam…”, be proactive, be considerate of other people’s time.

Let your customer knows you are on top of his requests

Say, you’ve got an email from your customer, asking for assistance –what do you do?

The first thing you should do, is reply your customer and let him know you’ve got his email and you’re handling it, and give an estimation for when you’re about to answer his requests.

However, sometimes it takes longer that you’ve expected, and you need additional time to get back with answers — let your customer know about it in advance.

Even if you depend on answers or assistance from 3rd person; keep your customer “in the loop” — communicate this to your customer, at least every 48 hours — let him know you’re still alive and handling his requests.

Here is an example of a great experience — “I’ve got your email, I’m still looking for answers to your request Sarah, I need additional 48 hours to get back to you with the answers…”

Go above and beyond

Sounds like a cliché, doesn’t it? Well, not so much when you come to think about it.

Here is a great example: You’ve just got an email from your customer, asking for assistance and you decide to hold a meeting or even a phone call instead of emailing your customer — that’s great!

Open your calendar and find 3–4 free time slots in your calendar in the coming week and half — let your customer know when those time slots are — this gives your customer the ability to better select a time slot that suits them the most.

Here’s a way of communicating it — “I couldn’t reach you over the phone Jack, but I’m available for a conversation on Monday between 10:00–15:00 or Tuesday between 14:00–16:00, let me know what suits you the most…”

Be proactive

It happens, your customer needs your assistance, and you are depending on 3rd person;

By being proactive and initiating a phone conference between all parties (or at the least an email thread with all parties involved) with the free time slots on everybody’s calendars in order to get everyone synced up on the issues and further understanding the problems.

Try your best to not leave things hanging, solve issues as they arrive with as much information as you can gather in advance in order to resolve them as soon as possible.

Example of great experience — “Hi Jane, it’s Scot, are you free for a few minutes to have a conversation with me and our support technician, so we’ll have better understanding of your expectations?”

Be positive

We’re not confusing positive with cheerful here…

Saying No to a customer request is always the easiest path, sometimes it is also the easiest way to lose a customer.

A great service giver takes under account various alternatives; Presenting them to the customer, while being transparent about the pros and cons of each alternative.

Example of such conversation — “I know there are budget and manpower constraints, however I believe there are three options to move forward with the project, and I can explain each pros and cons allowing you to pick the alternative that suits you the most”.

Remember to follow-up

You’ve handled your customer’s request and you believe you’re all done…Hold your horses there buddy!

Always contact your customer (via phone or email) and check with him whether all of the issues were resolved to his satisfaction.

You’ll be amazed by the amount of times your customer still have one last request or one more input to provide you (however be alert, some customers tend to have issues that are out of scope).

Example of great experience — “Hi, it’s Drake, I just wanted to check with you that you’ve got my answer and you’re ok with the solution, and whether there is anything else I can assist you with?”

The personal side of communications

I think that the heading of this part is a bit vague, let me distil it to one sentence: phone calls or meetings make all the difference in the world.

Don’t hide behind the keyboard and keep all conversations via email or chat; after 2–3 written correspondence exchanges, it’s time to kick it up a notch — pick-up the phone and talk with your customer.

There is a world of difference in the personal touch that a phone call or an on-site meeting can make, besides the personal connections that you make, there are some nonverbal cues that you can pick up in a face to face meeting or emotions that can be better understood when speaking over a phone.

Example of great experience — “Hi, it’s McKinsey, I’ve noticed we’re emailing each other and I figured out we don’t understand each other’s point of view, I’m calling to have better understanding of your needs, instead of the long email thread…”

Bottom line

Eventually if you managed to read so far, it might mean that these principles resonate with you, these tips (and I’m sure there are more) will distinguish between a good customer experience and a great one (or perhaps “customer obsession” as we have said before).

Try to use these principles in your current engagement or on your next conversation with a customer, and you might be surprise by how much your customer relationships will improve.

On the other hand when looking at the tips above, from a customer’s view, you’ll be able to better appreciate a great customer service, once you come across one.

And if as a service giver, none of the principles above resonate with you…well, maybe it’s time to evaluate other career options.

About The Author

Eyal Estrin is a cloud and information security architect, the owner of the blog Security & Cloud 24/7, with more than 20 years in the IT industry.
You can connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Eyal Estrin

Author | Cloud Security Architect | AWS Community Builder | Public columnist | CISSP | CCSP | CISM | CDPSE | CISA | CCSK | https://linktr.ee/eyalestrin