Make Customer Service Easy: systems, policies, and exceptions are key

(originally published for the Business Owner Tide Chart newsletter - March 2020)


Exceptional customer service is actually really easy.  Yes, easy.  I say this over and over again.  It’s easy to be kind.  It’s easy to offer a smile and a hello. 

Customer service is easy.

If you find yourself struggling to deliver that great experience I encourage you to look at your systems.  Every business has systems in place.  It could be your inquiry form or the way you collect orders.  It could be how you display your products or your return policy.  Think about the instances when it was hard to deliver great customer experiences, which system or process was your customer engaging in at that time?  There is a pretty good chance the challenging interaction all started with that system.  

Let’s take the return or refund policy as an example.  How a customer can return a product or refund their ticket should be simple and straight forward.  The policy should be short and specific.  And it should just be one policy.  There shouldn’t be different rules for different products.  When things get complicated and you start including policies that sound like “if they bought item A, the return policy is this but if they bought item B, something else happens…” you are going to frustrate your customers.  Frustrated customers lead to you being frustrated which, you got it, leads to difficult situations and customer service that isn’t easy. So, keep your policies and procedures simple


Share them in an obvious location on your website or in your store.  Remind your customers when they check out.  And include it again on their receipt or in a follow up e-mail.  The more often you tell them, the more likely they are to actually hear it or read it.  I bought a shirt from a large women’s clothing chain and it was a red ticketed item.  I had a vague memory of that meaning something different from previous shopping.  But there were no signs and when I checked out, no one said anything.  So when I ended up returning the item a week later I was surprised to be told I wasn’t allowed to return it.  No one had told me the red ticket meant final sale.  My receipt didn’t say anything either.  Fortunately the employee understood my concerns when I told her no one said anything.  She was kind enough to still let me return the item.

This brings me to the other key step that will make exceptional customer service easy; make decisions quickly and in the best interest of your customer.  As a small business owner you have the power to make exceptions.  So even if it goes against your policy, do what is best. When the store let me return my item despite it being final sale, I left feeling like a valued customer.  And it positively influenced my decision to return a few weeks later. 

If you have systems in place that are easy to understand, simple to follow, and speak to the best interest of your customer, it will be easy to deliver an exceptional experience every time.  What other ways can you ensure you’re delivering exceptional customer service? Join me for this month’s Facebook Live session on Monday, March 16 at 7pm where I will share some of my favorite lessons from business experts on delivering exceptional customer service.  For a sneak peek, download this month’s freebie of inspiring quotes.

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