I needed to call a repair company the other day because my clothes dryer was not drying our clothes. Our dryer was purchased from a popular big box store, and we bought the extended warranty plan. That came in handy as I dialed the toll-free number listed for customer service. Forty-five minutes later, I was still on hold listening to an outdated medley of show tunes interrupted by promises that I was in line for the next available customer support specialist.

A few years ago, a survey by Genesys asked more than 9,000 consumers about what mattered to them most when it came to doing business with companies. What did the respondents mark as the improvement they’d like to see most among the companies they do business with? 67% answered with the following: better human service.

Why is this simple concept so incredibly valuable?

I believe when I get better service I become a better customer. I return to that place of business more often, I recommend it to friends who trust word of mouth advertising, I spend more, and I typically sign up for whatever rewards program or loyalty program they offer. I guess I am not alone: numerous studies have shown that happy customers buy more and more often, and they tell their friends to buy too. When I get excellent customer service, I believe that I matter to that company.

How should we approach service?

Did this appliance company make me feel like a person that mattered to them by keeping me on hold for most of my Saturday morning? Obviously not! When Dale Carnegie said that, “A person’s name is the sweetest, most important sound in any language,” he may have been onto something. As it turns out, our names are so important to us that hearing them ignites a specific part of our brain. Research shows that using a customer’s name makes them like you more and makes the interaction more personal.

Secondly, knowing each customers’s history with your business is also a good thing. Last week, there was some fraudulent activity on my debit card. I had to call the bank to request a new card. Right before the bank representative started to work on my issue she said to me, “Thank you for being a customer since 2003.” That small interaction softened what was a frustrating situation. It let me know that she cared about my business and providing great customer service. Again, treating customers like they matter is key.

Personal touches aren’t just about knowing how long we have been doing business together. Knowing things about customers—outside of the business relationship—gives you big opportunities. Acknowledging a client’s child who might be graduating or participating in a sporting event can make the business opportunity more personal and meaningful. Any personal touch is appreciated and makes a huge difference in customer satisfaction.

Is customer service still necessary in today’s economy?

Customer service has lost meaning for many of us who live in a self-service, “just get me out of here as fast and as cheap as possible” world. But I believe customer service skills are still necessary – when done right – can be incredibly powerful. Providing positive experiences can be the difference between a customer forgetting about you the minute the transaction is over or that person returning to become a loyal customer.

There is a difference between saying that you deliver good customer service — like the appliance company—
and actually doing it. And yes, I am still on hold.

A quick story: A few years ago, I was leading a company, and we needed to find a travel agency to handle our commercial business. I interviewed three companies and selected a local mom and pop firm rather than a national agency against the corporate purchasing manager’s advice. After several weeks of using the new company, my boss called and during our conversation he asked how it was going with the new travel company.

My response: “I think we might be their only customer. When I call them on the phone they answer right away. We get ticketed immediately, and they call all of our travelers with their itineraries right away.”

My boss: “You’re wrong. We are not their only customer, but they make us feel like we are.”

And that my friends is true customer service. It’s about making customers feel like they matter. It’s about solving their problems in a timely manner, improving your customer’s experience via email support, live chat, social media, or other convenient avenues. It’s about centering the conversation on customer happiness with your brand and with the product or service they purchase.

Hello… Hello… Yes, I am still holding.

Learn more about making a customer experience count:

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