Some of us have forgotten that what customers really need is service. Simple, great service. A need met, perhaps anticipated, and hopefully exceeded. That is what I believe businesses should consider putting at the top of their priority lists. The simple understanding – particularly for those of us in the service industry – that customer service is about recognizing the basic needs of people, your customers.
Customer service isn’t a strategy. And it certainly is not the sole responsibility of customer facing employees. That includes call centres, operations associates, social media teams and in our case at ING DIRECT, cafes. At the very core, customer service and the experience a customer gets must be a part of the “why” of an organization – and fundamental to its DNA, values and culture. If this is so, then it will filter through all areas of the business and right through to the customer.
As a customer, have you ever been on the receiving end of a disappointing phone call, email or in person visit? We all have. So we know the difference between great and terrible customer service. In many ways we are all experts in this area and this is what I remind all of our employees at ING DIRECT. To have the courage to really listen, to empathize, to make exceptions and especially, to learn – that is what people remember.
So we keep it simple. No scripts. No fancy talk or words people don’t understand. Just associates empowered to genuinely listen to the needs of the customer and provide simple solutions. This also means simple products, easy access to online and mobile platforms and great design. Those are the elements that create a climate where great experiences can happen.
We developed a program for employees who interact with internal and external customers called ‘deliver the wow’. It teaches problem-solving strategies for complex client situations and it imparts insight on how to surpass customer expectations and build long-term loyalty within and outside of the organization. We believe it’s about the customer service experience, from the inside out.
There is little customers talk about more than a pleasant surprise. I know this when I find myself on a call with a customer, or tweeting them back or answering their emails in the evening or on the weekend. It’s a simple thing to do, to acknowledge someone’s concern or question and find ways to help. Those are the interactions – whether you’re a CEO or not – that build enviable brand loyalty.
I’ve been particularly proud of our team in the area of customer service, which is why I was thrilled that JD Power independently reviewed and ranked ING DIRECT as having the highest in customer satisfaction with retail banks in Canada in our segment. It’s a true testament to the magic our culture has which seeps into our products, experience and customer interactions.
Exceptional customer service doesn’t need to be complicated. Here are some insights that have helped ING DIRECT become truly customer-centric:
Empower employees and get out of the way. Once you’ve defined values and aligned employees, distribute power, get out of the way and allow for mistakes to happen.
Involve the customer. Nothing fuels innovation more than having customers involved in defining solutions. Ask for feedback. Get them involved and adapt your products accordingly.
Keep things simple. Remove all jargon, complexity and confusion. Customers love experiences filled with ease, great design and efficiency.
Remember that we are all human beings. People want to be heard. So be real. Listen. Learn. No two customers are alike.