Common questions people ask me are usually the 5 W's and H of providing exceptional customer service (who, what, where, when, why, and how). My next several blogs will cover each topic in detail.

Who should provide exceptional customer service and to whom? The simple answer is everyone in your organization should provide exceptional customer service to both internal and external customers. With successful companies, exceptional customer service starts from the top, down. It must be a culture that your organization is willing to embrace. It is not just one department. It lives in every department of your organization.

I reflect back to an organization that contacted me to inquire about training for their two person customer service department. On the phone, the decision maker who called me was not polite to me at all. In my line of work, this is a red flag. How he was treating me as a potential vendor, might be indicative of how he treats his employees. If employees are treated badly, then that trickles down to the customer. It is a red flag of a bad customer service culture and no amount of training that I can provide to those two people will help.

All that being said, I agreed to meet in person and discuss his organization's needs in more detail. After making the appointment, I was still somewhat distressed about his bad customer service on the phone to me. I followed my gut and looked the organization up on a Google search. Many bad reviews came up. Most of the reviews were complaints against the sales department and were customer service related in how the sales department was treating customers. That was red flag #2.

Well, I still am a person of my word and despite these red flags I kept my appointment. The morning of the appointment, I drove about 40 minutes to the other side of Denver. When I arrived, I was told by one of the two people in customer service that the person with whom I was to meet called in sick earlier. Red flag #3. Since I was there and the person who greeted me asked if I could meet with her to get more information about the training, I agreed. I sat down with her and another woman (both of the customer service department) and quickly realized that the primary problem was not with them, but with the sales department. Upon asking them some questions, they told me that more than half their customers a day are irate, because the sales department is in too much of a hurry to explain the product, warranties, and the sales contract. Customer education was missing, which is a key component of providing exceptional customer service and managing customer expectations. Since I felt so bad for these two ladies having 50% of their calls being irate customers, and knowing this company was not a good fit for my training, I used the remaining time to provide some complimentary tips on dealing with difficult customers.

This story illustrates how it is everyone's job to provide exceptional customer service, because from the top of this organization there was a customer service problem. During my questioning needs period and providing insight, I realized the GM was probably directing the sales department to not do any customer education. Then when angry customers call, they reach out to their sales rep who are only trained in selling to close. The calls are then transferred to the two ladies in customer service who have to deal with more than 50% of their daily calls being from irate customers

I would not work for this organization. What this organization didn't realize is that the primary path to exceptional external customer service is providing exceptional internal customer service.

Customers are internal and external. External customers are the obvious customer who buys your product or service. That external customer has interaction with marketing (in the form of marketing materials), sales, fulfillment, and even billing. All departments need to realize the importance of providing exceptional customer service.

Internal customers are your co-workers and employees. Providing exceptional customer service to internal customers is paramount in providing exceptional customer service to external customers. Foster an environment where everyone is treated fairly, where expectations and goals are attainable, and everyone is held to the same standard without favoritism. This is the first step to providing exceptional customer service.

About the author

Beth Boen

Beth Boen isĀ on a mission at The VOICE Customer Service Training - to restore the lost art of providing exceptional customer service and turn the tide on poor customer service becoming the norm! Her blogs contain tips on how to provide exceptional customer service in everything you do!

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