If you’re in the business of satisfying customers, the only thing that matters is what you DO

It’s almost a cliche to see and hear organizations advertise to prospective customers about how great their service is. As if somehow, great customer service were just that…bragging about how much you care. You see it all the time, no matter if you’re at the car dealer, the bank or the grocery store.

We’ve all heard the sage advice that “It’s what you do, not what you say.” “Actions speak louder than words.” “Deed, not creed.” “Talk is cheap.”

If you’re in the business of providing positive customer experiences for your firm’s clients, this concept is critical to understand. So why do so many businesses continue to make the same mistake?

What these businesses don’t realize is that today’s consumers are pretty sophisticated operators and they see through such marketing noise for what it is. In fact, if your business is bragging to customers about how great your service is, but your staff doesn’t deliver to those promised expectation levels, one could argue that such puffery actually does more harm to your brand than never having promised anything at all! I can think of plenty of times I’ve been frustrated at a service experience only to notice some cheesy service promise on their literature or receipt about (insert high pitched, whiny voice) “how valued I am.” It’s the definition of irony. I assume some clever ad agency or marketing genius wrote the copy without giving any thought at all about how an unhappy customer would actually be insulted by it down the road

The things which matter most in the customer satisfaction business are the specific actions and techniques your organization employs to demonstrate your commitment to your customer. Think about your situation for a moment. How well do your daily actions demonstrate your commitment to your customer’s happiness? Do you spend more time telling customers how much you care? Or actually working to solve their problems?

For an excellent real-world example of this phenomenon, examine Nordstrom. The Seattle-based retailer is on many people’s short list of impressive service providers. Yet, when was the last time you saw or heard an ad from Nordstrom gloating about how high their level of care is? They don’t need to because they let their actions do all the talking.

Nordstrom has figured out one of the bedrock principles of winning the customer satisfaction game: Invest very little in bragging about how good you are and put lots of resources into demonstrating how much you care. Because demonstrating how much you care is the only thing that matters to your customers.

Sure, Nordstrom likely spends more than the industry average by taking back merchandise that wasn’t bought from them or sending handwritten thank you cards or tracking down far-flung merchandise requests that other retailers might only laugh about. But in the long haul, they’ve obviously found it very worthwhile. There are tremendous economic payoffs with these acts. People are astounded by the service and they like to tell other people.

Customers doing your bragging for you? Now we’re on to something meaningful!

As you interact with customers, give some thought to how your organization can be the subject of a positive service story in the future.

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