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In The End-It Is the Customer Who Defines the Experience!
By Peter J. McGarahan, Founder and President, McGarahan & Associates


America is a service economy in search of the real meaning of Customer Service. There is a great deal of lip service to the words “Customer Service” - two words randomly put together without meaning or substance. Companies that consistently execute against a Customer Service strategy deliver it top-down throughout the organization. From the senior leaders to the frontline – everyone in the organization treats everyone like a customer. In "Putting the Service-Profit Chain to Work", Harvard Business School Professors make a business case for putting front-line employees and customers first in a service-driven economy. They reinforce their position by stating that good treatment of employee’s results in similar treatment of customers. I know this sounds like Customer Service 101, but how many companies focus on treating their frontline employees like their customers? How many more would practice what they preach knowing the linkage between employee satisfaction and loyalty creates customer loyalty, satisfaction and ultimately profitability?

At an Industry event recently, Support and Desktop professionals were meeting to discuss ways in which they could improve their service delivery to their customers. In the heat of discussion, a Team Lead stated, "This wouldn’t be a bad place to work, if it weren’t for the users!" Silence – reflection – laughter! The comment had a wonderful affect on the audience, we used it to build a Customer Service mantra – "Without the customers – there would be no business and therefore no need for me or my services". It makes you think a bit differently when you go about your daily performance and work hard to treat every customer like they were your only customer. Every customer interaction is an opportunity to exceed their expectation. Every opportunity with a customer should be approached as a new opportunity for you to WOW them by exceeding to meet their needs.

As a customer, it is ultimately I who decides on whether the support professional met or exceeded my expectations. As a ‘policeman’ for the service industry - always looking to reinforce best practices with positive or constructive feedback - it is me once again who will define the experience.

Have you recently been on the wrong side of a bad customer service experience?

Do you remember how you felt?

Did you take action as a result of the way you were treated?

I believe that to exceed customer expectations, we need to put ourselves in our customer’s position. Additionally, we need to perfect the delivery of best practices daily with every customer on every opportunity. I challenge you to focus on what you want the customer experience to be, and then use all of your best practices to ensure that it is consistently delivered upon.

How can you ensure that you deliver a consistent customer experience that exceeds customer expectations?

1. The first step is approach every day and every customer with a great attitude. Attitude is something you control. You make a choice every day on what impact you will have on people. Make it your best! Challenge yourself to constantly improve how you deal with people and with every situation.
2. The second step is to become a knowledge source for your customers and peers. Knowledge is very critical for exceeding customer expectations. Customers want answers, results and resolutions. Customers do not want to have problems. When problems impact their productivity – they want them resolved – now – hence the reason they call upon you!
3. The third step is to have empathy with the customer situation. Beyond that – we must understand our customer’s business; what they do for a living? How they use technology to perform their job? Ask, “How would I want to be treated if I had a similar problem under the same circumstances?”

Support professionals who exceed customer’s expectation on every occasion work hard to anticipate the customer’s need. They are proactive in supporting their customers – they think, "How can I prevent this problem from impacting my customer’s productivity next time?" Ensuring a great customer experience is not simple – if it was – it wouldn’t be such a 'hot' commodity where mediocrity is the service norm. Inspire yourself to rise above the mediocrity and remember, "Good is the enemy of great". You can make a big impact daily in your customer’s ability to be productive and your company’s ability to retain that customer.

A recent CUSTOMER service definition from the customer’s perspective is "A customer defines good customer service as how they perceive that an organization has delighted them, by exceeding to meet their needs". In the end, there is no truth, only perception. In the end, it’s up to you to create the experience that the customer defines. Customers deliver clues all the time to what their customer experience definition is – you just have to actively listen and anticipate every step.

Most of all – enjoy the opportunity to service your customers - it's a privilege that they can always take away from you.

About the Author
Peter McGarahan is the founder and president of McGarahan & Associates and acting Chairman of the IT Infrastructure Management Association. Pete’s value to the service and support industry is his thought leadership. As a practitioner, product manager and support industry analyst and expert, he has influenced the maturity of the service and support industry. His passion for customer service led the Taco Bell support organization to achieve the Help Desk Institute Team Excellence Award. IT Support News also named him one of the “Top 25 Professionals in the Service and Support Industry” in 1999. Support professionals voted McGarahan “The Legend of the Year” in 2002 and again in 2004 at the Help Desk Professionals conference for his endless energy, mentoring and coaching and his valuable contribution to the support industry and community. You can reach Peter McGarahan at pete@mcgarahan.com or 714.694.1158.

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