Is Your Customer Service Vanilla?

In a world of ice-cream parlors, vanilla is no longer enough these days; we expect something different, exciting, unique. We want to find a flavour that really floats our boat. Maybe honey-lavender or chili-chocolate? Something that keeps pulling us back to the one place and something that creates conversation; ‘have you been to…..?, ‘have you tried the…….?’

As competition and buyer empowerment increases, what is the one differentiator in businesses? Customer satisfaction.

A Gartner study from 2014 predicted that ‘by 2016, 89% of companies expect to compete mostly on the basis of customer experience, versus 36% four years ago’. Those predictions are coming true as customer service skyrockets its way to the top of the list of business priorities. Successful businesses realise it’s not just the transaction that counts.

So the majority of customers are happy to pay more or travel further IF the customer service is right.

Is it time then that you stopped offering vanilla service? The type of service that you can get anywhere, anytime? The type of service that is the same day in, day out? Boring, reliable, predictable vanilla.

Your customer service doesn’t have to be SO different that it is an acquired taste or only appeals to a certain few, but it DOES have to be different if you are to rise above your competition.

If customer service is one of the most critical deciding factors in business success, what are you doing to ensure yours is first class?

In the UK, some industry sectors excel at offering vanilla customer service. The banking industry is one of them. Which bank offers a much more desirable flavour? First Direct is the luxury, passion-mango flavour in the banking world: it is the top bank for customer service and has been for some years. It is way ahead of other banks in terms of customer service due to a combination of great smartphone apps and a 24-hour call centre, where calls are answered by a human, not a machine.

Amazon has set itself up as the coconut crème-de-la-crème of the technology world as it was one of the first companies to allow consumers to connect to support agents in real time. The release of the Kindle Fire HDX and the ‘Mayday’ button was one small step for Amazon and one giant leap for customer service. By allowing consumers to connect to support agents at the click of a button, Amazon redefined “exceptional” customer service in just a matter of minutes.

Customers are far more discerning and are likely to form a strong relationship with a business that, firstly, cares about them and, secondly, has a USP or differentiator that appeals to them.

There is a fine line between gimmicky, tacky or ‘cheap’ flavours and quality flavours but with some thought and innovation, it is possible to find the right approach for your business. Think outside the box; think like a customer and be bold.

If you’ve been churning out the same training to your team, year in, year out with the same mantra; smile, always have eye-contact, be polite and wear your uniform, is it enough? Or is it just a little too vanilla?

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