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Customer Service: Your Ultimate Growth Strategy

Underpaid, under-appreciated, disrespected. 

Not included, not informed, not supported. 

Too expensive, too time-consuming, not worth my time at all. 

That pretty much sums up the reputation of customer service in business today.

Did I miss anything?

It’s a travesty what we’ve allowed customer service to be seen as. It’s a travesty because: 

  1. Customer service representatives are human beings, not disposable objects
  2. Customer service can increase the lifetime value of your customer base by millions of dollars if they are properly supported
  3. It’s where more customers give you their undivided attention than at any other touch point in your entire business
  4. It’s the first impression customers get of your business… the last if you screw it up
  5. It CAN be a significant point of differentiation if you choose to invest in it

Yet, the vast majority of people who read this article will do absolutely nothing to change it. Some will ignore it entirely, some will say “hmm… good points” and forget about it, and others will say “wow, I definitely need to make a change,” yet still do nothing. 

Perhaps, however, there will be a few noble souls who choose to make customer service a growth strategy for their business. They will choose to see it as a profit center, not a cost center, and act accordingly. 

Service businesses should invest in customer service as a main part of their growth strategy because it will increase the lifetime value of their customers, serve as a point of differentiation from competitors, and create a culture where people in the company go beyond expected norms to serve people. 

Lifetime Value

Did you know that the average ticket of a first-time residential home service customer is about $281?

Or that the average ticket of a second-time customer is about $900?

Or did you know that the average ticket of a third-time buyer is about $2,800?? 

It’s way cheaper to keep existing customers than it is to acquire new ones – that’s been preached so much that we should all know it by now.

But… what we know doesn’t always reflect what we do.

Common business practice is to assign a percentage of the budget to advertising for the purpose of new customer acquisition, and that’s fine. Imagine though if we made it common to also assign a percentage of the budget to customer service. 

You might say “I already do. Just look at what the CSRs are making on my payroll!” 

That’s not what I’m talking about though…. I’m talking about actual investments to make your customer service better. 

NOTE: We provide one-on-one coaching, accountability, and certification for CSRs to book more calls & WOW more customers. Make it a part of your growth strategy – see if it’s right for you by clicking here.

Where the Money Is

Consider this story shared by author Seth Godin about “The $50,000 an hour gate agent” who works for AirCanada. Perhaps this will show you why it can be so advantageous to invest in customer service: 

“Conventional CEO wisdom is that top management is worth a fortune because of the high-leverage decisions they make.

But consider the work of Wade, an unheralded Air Canada gate agent. Yesterday, I watched him earn his employer at least $50,000 while getting paid perhaps .1% of that.

The microphone was out of order, but instead of screaming at the passengers, he walked over and spoke directly to the people who needed to hear him.

On his own, he started inquiring about the connection status of a family of four. He could have cleared the standby list, closed the flight and told the four that they’d have to find another way home. Or, he could have saved them their four seats, which would have flown empty if they hadn’t been filled. Instead of either path, he picked up the phone, organized other staff to find and expedite the family and get them on board.

And then, in an unrelated bit of valor, he tracked down a lost wallet and sent his #2 to fetch it from where it had been left–getting it to the plane before it left.

Most of all, in an era when loyalty is scarce, he probably increased the lifetime value of a dozen wavering customers by at least a few thousand dollars each.

Krulak’s Law states that the future of an organization is in the hands of the privates in the field, not the generals back home.

Unfortunately, management and a lack of trust get in the way of the work environment you’ll need to build to earn the human, dedicated work of the next Wade. Hopefully, the airline will put him in charge of their horrible website next. But I’m not optimistic.

Where is your Wade? What are you doing to make it more likely that he or she will bring magic to work tomorrow?”

Bring the Magic

I echo Godin’s question: What are you doing to make it more likely that your people will bring magic to work tomorrow?

When you read a story like that, it seems so obvious to invest in customer service. Most people won’t do it though because it’s hard to measure. It’s not that easy to credit increasing customer value to the conversations between your employees and customers. 

One way to show it’s working is to look for “WOW Calls.” 

“WOW Calls”

WOW Calls are simply phone calls where the customer gives a person in your company a compliment. It’s a not a general compliment of the service or company as a whole, it’s a very specific and enthusiastic recognition of how someONE on your team went above and beyond to take care of them. 

When we coach CSRs and pass them through our certification program, we MUST hear some “WOW Calls” from them in order for the CSR to get certified. This is one of the ways to ensure that companies see results from their customer service investments: they hear it come directly from the mouth of the customers.

That way they not only see their call conversion rates go up, they also hear more “WOW Calls”. It shows an increase in call quantity AND call quality.  

Consider this example of a customer who says “you guys are the only people I’m going to start using going forward”

Or this example of a customer praising a CSR saying “man… you’re GREAT! The owner should be lucky he’s got you working for him!”:

Investing to make customer service a part of your growth strategy will lead to higher lifetime customer value – if you don’t believe it, look for the “WOW Calls”. You just might hear some of your own customers commit to never going anywhere else again. 

NOTE: We provide one-on-one coaching, accountability, and certification for CSRs to book more calls & WOW more customers. Make it a part of your growth strategy – see if it’s right for you by clicking here.

Differentiation

Customer lifetime value isn’t the only thing that will go up… so will your reputation. 

Here’s a challenge for you: pick your top 3 biggest competitors. Call them (but make sure your number does not appear in the caller ID – you can do that by typing in *67 before their number when you dial) and ask them for an estimate over the phone. 

Then, listen to their response.

I’m willing to bet that you will NOT be impressed by what you hear. 

A few simple calls to your competitors will show that excellent customer service is not the norm in your market, but instead an opportunity to be different. 

Examples of Customer Service as a Differentiator

Large companies like Zappos, Amazon, Disney, and (of course) Chick-Fil-A have set themselves apart in crowded markets by training their people to provide phenomenal customer service. 

It’s a critical part of their growth strategy. 

Zappos proudly sticks their phone number at the top of their website saying “Available 24/7 at (800) 927-7671”. A person will always answer and do their best to help you.  

Amazon makes it ridiculously easy to buy, receive, and even return products and save money. 

The people roaming Disney parks in costumes are “cast members”, not employees, who are trained to create a magical experience you can’t find anywhere else. If you ever get one of their “cast members” to crack and admit the magic isn’t real… call me. I guarantee it’ll never happen. 

And, of course, Chick-Fil-A trains all their people to say “my pleasure” with every customer interaction. It’s such a deeply embedded part of their culture that on the rare chance someone doesn’t say it, I have to do a double take (I go there a lot, ok… don’t judge me). 

Companies Like You and Me

Then there are not-quite-as-large companies in our industry like Whipple Service Champions, Schuler Service, and Payless Water Heaters differentiating themselves through customer service. 

Whipple Service Champions literally rolls out the red carpet for their customers when they service their homes. 

A Schuler Service CSR, Coreena, called a customer who couldn’t determine the source of a leak in their home every day for 2 weeks to get a status update. After the issue was finally resolved, the customer went to visit Coreena in the office so she could say thank you for the dedicated help in person. WOW. 

Payless Water Heaters implemented a new customer service strategy for serving customers with scheduling concerns FASTER. On the first day of doing this a customer complimented them for providing “first class customer service.” 

All these companies, small and large, make customer service a part of their growth strategy. It sets them apart as different from the rest of their market. 

If you are doing the same thing as everyone else, you are not making forward progress. When you choose to be different, forward progress is the happy result. 

A Customer Service Culture

Increased customer lifetime value is amazing. A differentiated position in the market is a huge advantage, too. 

The greatest of all though is when the people in your company become the type of individuals who go above and beyond expected norms every day simply because it’s part of the culture to do so. 

Over the long term, this becomes your ultimate competitive advantage. 

As time goes on, the people who don’t prioritize customer service will slowly push themselves toward the edges and the people who do will gravitate toward your organization. The attitude and behavior of the individuals on your team will gradually transform until providing exceptional customer service is the only acceptable expectation – anything less is frowned upon and unacceptable. 

Too many companies look at “WOW” customer service as a rarity. On the not-so-often occasion that it happens they think “wow! That was really cool everyone! I wish all our customer conversations went that way.” They accept the fact that their customer service is sporadic at best, and the “WOW” experiences that excite everyone are totally unpredictable. 

Imagine if it was predictable, though. Imagine if creating “WOW” experiences wasn’t the exception but the norm? 

This can happen. It takes time, but it can happen. We’ve seen it happen.

NOTE: We provide one-on-one coaching, accountability, and certification for CSRs to book more calls & WOW more customers. Make it a part of your growth strategy – see if it’s right for you by clicking here.

Consider Americollect

The collections industry is notoriously unkind. They call you and rudely demand that you “pay up.” You’re seen as a delinquent whose existence represents nothing but a debt to be paid. 

It’s horrible. 

But, as with all terrible customer service, it’s also an opportunity to be different. 

A company called Americollect took advantage of that opportunity. Their motto, “Ridiculously Nice Collections”, has become a way of life for the company. If you are called on by someone from Americollect they won’t treat you like garbage the same way other collections agencies will. They’ll treat you with kindness. 

It’s refreshing. Today, over 60% of Americollect employees are people who the company once collected from. 

It didn’t happen overnight, but it happened! Over time they set an expectation and made a promise: the promise of ridiculously nice collections. As they followed through on their promise month after month, week after week, day after day, and call after call they built a reputation and a culture for themselves. 

If you don’t believe in ridiculously nice collections, you don’t work at Americollect. It’s that simple. 

Not a Pipe Dream

A customer service culture is not a pipe dream. You can achieve it. 

No matter how awful your phone calls may sound. No matter how unprofessional your service may seem, you can make a change if you are willing to be patient and put in the work. 

You might have noticed that I only used one statistic to support the power of customer service (that was the value of first, second, and third-time residential service customers). This was intentional. 

There’s enough data out there already to support this idea. Just read this, this, this, and this

Instead, I wanted to share stories, phone calls, examples, and strategies that would really help you visualize how this can happen in your own business. 

Invest in Customer Service as Part of Your Growth Strategy

Customer service that works to grow a business is not common. Companies generally see it is a cost rather than an investment. We treat customer service professionals like disposable objects and barely pay them a livable wage. We preach our “values” and “expectations” but don’t support them enough to actually see those “values” come to life.

Worse… we control them, lurk over their shoulders like hungry vultures waiting to pounce when they don’t live up to our expectations. We give them “scripts” and take away all their freedom to have real conversations with human beings. Then, we wonder why they don’t perform like we hope. 

It’s a sad reality, but, as I’ve said numerous times throughout this article, it’s also an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to invest, to grow, to increase customer lifetime value, to differentiate your business, and to build a culture in the long-term that predictably and consistently WOWs customers. 

So, what’s the first step for you? 

What promise are you going to make people with your customer service? How will you follow through on that promise consistently and over the long-term? 

What will an investment in customer service look like for you? Is it coaching? Or maybe live training? Could it be to build your hiring team? Is it to actually enforce guidelines you already have in place? 

Whatever it is… go do something.

NOTE: We provide one-on-one coaching, accountability, and certification for CSRs to book more calls & WOW more customers. Make it a part of your growth strategy – see if it’s right for you by clicking here.


Zac Garside believes in a world where going beyond expected norms is the norm and where people give more than they take. Described as an “outside the box thinker” with the “invaluable skill to mentor and provide engaged feedback to others,” Zac works on projects that create a spark in others so they can reach their full potential. With 4 years of customer service, leadership, and public speaking coaching under his belt, Zac now serves as the Director of Marketing & Online Training at Power Selling Pros.