The Full Story
For many, customer service is about resolving issues, managing complaints, escalating concerns, and salvaging damaged customer relationships. It can become a necessary evil that uses limited corporate resources on what some consider a behind-the-scenes operation.
Sure, if left alone, a customer service department could easily become a dreary complaint management center. But customer service can be much more than that.
Agents are on the frontlines of customer engagement—interacting with customers directly and often acting as the voice of the company. This gives customer service agents only a few moments to leave the right impression, wow them with a solution, and earn their loyalty.
These crucial moments are what we’re all about at SupportNinja. We believe that making moments matter is the key to creating lasting relationships with customers. Creating those memorable experiences isn't always easy.
It takes effort, planning, training, and resources to go above and beyond for customers, especially when you're dealing with large volumes of interactions every day.
So how can you ensure each moment counts?
Well, it takes commitment at all levels; everyone from agents, to managers, and C-suite must be on board to fully realize the big benefits of making small moments count.
Customer moments matter, make them count
One day in Fairbanks, Alaska, Nordstrom store associate Craig Trounce watched, puzzled, as a customer rolled a set of tires into the retail clothing store. Craig asked how he could help and learned the man intended to return the tires to Nordstrom. The customer explained that he purchased the tires from that location years ago and was promised he could return them for a refund at any time.
Nordstrom has never sold tires, but this particular store had purchased the property back in the ‘70s from a company that sold a variety of products, including tires. Craig knew this man had traveled over 50 miles to return the tires and wanted to help him out. He called a tire store to get an estimate of what they would cost and issued a refund to the customer for that amount.
Yes, this is a true story! Although the company lost money on this interaction, the reputational gain was priceless. It exemplifies the kind of service this company provides, and also became a new, core part of Nordstrom’s culture.
Many store locations even keep tires in their stores to remind them of their commitment to making each moment count for customers. This story may not have earned the customer’s business in the short term, but as news of this moment spread online, Nordstrom’s reputation as a customer-centric company has grown.
Such attention to customer needs is crucial in today’s market which has high expectations for quality customer service and low tolerance for long wait times or cumbersome solutions.
According to a 2021 Qualtrics research study, 80% of customers said they have switched brands because of poor customer experience. Additionally, Qualtrics found that U.S. businesses are at risk of losing up to $1.9 trillion in consumer spending as a direct result of poor service experiences.
One in five customers report having a bad experience with an organization every 90 days, especially with businesses from airline and internet service industries.
Ignoring the need to make every customer service moment matter, not only leaves money on the table but also threatens to deteriorate customer loyalty. In fact, Qualtrics also found that customers are more likely to leave a company due to poor customer service than they are to leave companies with poor product quality.
Just like Craig from Nordstrom made the most of his moment with the man returning tires, every organization needs to make the most of each customer moment. The resulting reputational benefits of great customer service will improve real-time sales and, more importantly, long-term loyalty.
Agents are your front line, here’s what they can do
For many customers, the only direct interaction they will have with a company is through customer service channels, often in times of frustration and crisis. The great challenge (and opportunity) for agents is to make that interaction positive and then convert that person into a satisfied, lifetime customer.
At online clothing retailer Zappos.com, their purpose is: “to live and deliver WOW.” And that’s what one Zappos.com customer service agent did when he received a call from a distressed newlywed. Earlier that week the woman and her new husband were packing boxes to move into their new home.
The wife asked her husband to pack her jewelry. He found a new purse, filled it with her jewelry, and packaged it in an empty Zappos box. Later that day, the woman found the box containing the purse. She had intended to return it to Zappos and shipped it back to the retailer, not knowing all her Jewelry was inside.
After their move, she could not find her jewelry and eventually realized what happened. Wanting to help this woman recover her jewelry, the Zappos.com agent had the box re-routed directly to his personal desk. Once it arrived, he feared that sending thousands of dollars worth of jewelry through the mail may not be wise.
So, on the company’s dime, he boarded a flight to personally deliver the jewelry to this couple’s home. They were relieved and amazed when he arrived and invited the Zappos.com agent to have dinner with them that evening. (Watch the true customer story on YouTube here).
This is an example of how agents can facilitate genuine relationships between customers and companies through empathy, and by going above and beyond to ensure a positive customer moment.
Now, not all agents have to make grand gestures like this Zappos.com employee, but there are still things every customer service agent can do to make the most of moments they have with customers.
1) Pay attention to the little things: Small gestures go a long way in customer service. Whether it's taking the time to listen or going out of your way to help, making the customer feel special is important.
2) Be prepared for anything: Customer service is unpredictable, so you need to be ready for anything. From questions to complaints, you never know what might come your way so have an action plan for addressing those varied circumstances.
3) Anticipate needs: As much as possible, try to anticipate what the customer might need before they even ask for it. This could include offering help or providing information upfront. You are the expert with resources and experience to help them anticipate and navigate their needs.
4) Make it personalized: Customers appreciate feeling like they're special, so personalize their experience whenever possible. Whether it's through communication or customization, let the customer know that you care about them personally.
How companies can make moments count
While customer service agents are at the front lines of consumer satisfaction, they can only do so much on their own. Companies that support and empower customer service teams will see greater success in customer satisfaction. Company support can include training, financial resources, autonomy, and a culture of trust.
These factors are just some of many that can be implemented at all levels to make the most of your customer moments.
Luxury hotel chain Ritz-Carlton knows that backing, and even encouraging employees to delight customers is the best way to exceed customer needs and earn life-long loyalty. The hotel chain has gone so far as encouraging their associates at all levels to spend up to $2,000 to help a guest—no approval necessary!
The company trusts its employees and gives them autonomy to recognize guest needs and take action to ensure they have positive, memorable experiences. This model pays off in the long run as the average Ritz-Carlton guest has a lifetime value of roughly $250,000.
Although every company may not have the budget to replicate this program, the principle is still applicable—earning a life-long customer through moments is worth the effort.
A prime example is when a departing guest of the Ritz-Carlton’s Dove Mountain Resort near Tucson told two employees that her 2-year-old son had lost his favorite toy—a Thomas The Tank Engine. The young boy would be devastated to realize it was lost for good. The employees, Jessy Long and Nathan Cliff, wanted to help these guests, even after they departed for home.
So, Jessy and Nathan personally purchased an identical toy to return to the boy. But they didn’t stop there. They personally wrote a note to the child explaining that Thomas had been on an adventure, enjoying an extended vacation exploring the resort after being left behind.
The employees even took pictures of the train cruising on the property and enjoying the amenities. A few days after leaving the resort, this new train arrived at the little boy’s home. The family was amazed and even went to Facebook to share, “The Ritz has earned our business for years to come!”
What made this moment possible? How could Ritz-Carlton employees deliver this experience? Because their leaders not only allow it, they encourage it. There is support, resources, and a company culture that makes this kind of dynamic and creative ownership of customer experience possible.
Other great customer service brands like Apple, Amazon, and Disney follow a similar approach in their industries to serve customers. This bolsters their reputations for great service, gaining broad respect and brand trust from not only repeat customers, but potential customers as well.
How to start making moments count
So you know you want to make the most of customer moments, but where do you begin? We recommend starting with an audit of company procedure to ensure customers' most basic expectations are met. Then focus on a company culture that empowers the best customer moments.
1. Make the most of moments by ensuring basic competency and infrastructure
Research suggests that many customers don’t expect moments to be particularly spectacular. Many customers value simplicity, speed, and efficiency over grand gestures, gifts, or discounts. Customers just want things to go smoothly. Before reaching out to customer service, most customers will attempt self-service through chat rooms, blog posts, or trial and error.
If they’re reaching out to a customer care team, they are looking to simplify their resolution.
At the most basic level, effective customer service teams are knowledgeable, courteous, and have access to the information needed to assist the customer. Do an audit of your customer care team to ensure these things are in place so nothing, from training to technology, is hindering an agent's ability to quickly resolve customer requests.
2. Make the most of moments by empowering employees
One thing all great customer service brands seem to have in common is their culture of empowerment. Giving employees autonomy and encouragement to “do right” by customers, makes them more likely to personally connect with customers and make the most of each moment. Every company can nurture this kind of culture.
The key is to define that differentiating standard that employees can aspire to achieve. From there, socialize the standard at all levels of the organization through announcements, training, discussion forums, parties, or even one-on-one coaching sessions.
Once shared broadly, the real work begins. To keep this new standard ingrained in the culture, it must be reinforced daily. This reinforcement could come in the form of incentives and rewards, reminders and newsletters, or the sharing of success stories in customer meetings.
As teams collectively share and celebrate successful company moments when they occur, best practices will be reinforced and eventually happen more naturally, with less conscious effort.
Well executed customer service is an imperative function of any customer-centric brand. Companies get limited time to directly interact with people and need to be prepared to seamlessly handle any customer inquiry.
Making the most of these limited customer moments can increase loyalty, bolster brand reputation, and differentiate businesses from the competition. Agents have great influence over these outcomes and can do even more with the encouragement of their employers and company culture.
Are you looking to make the most of your customer moments? Visit SupportNinja to learn more about how our expert team can help.