Whenever I think of exceptional customer service, it’s usually after I have gone from point A to point B with a particular company or service. It’s rare that I’ll experience exceptional customer service without even having done anything with the company yet. However, an amazing thing happened that prompted me to realize how important every touchpoint is when it comes to giving exceptional customer service.
The Tale Of Two Customer Service Experiences
There are two experiences that I’ve had — one shockingly awful and the other equally as amazing and wonderful.
The first experience happened when I was trying to find a new orthodontist for my youngest son. My eldest son’s orthodontist wasn’t picking up any calls, and I had left messages repeatedly with no callbacks. I finally decided I was just going to find somebody different.
I started calling around to different orthodontists in the area and found one listing on Google that was about 15 minutes away. They had a beautiful website and what appeared to be a thriving business, but when you called the number listed, it wasn’t even in service.
Back to the Drawing Board
I called another office here in town, and as the receptionist was asking me a couple of questions, I couldn’t help but notice her less-than-enthusiastic tone. She asked for a minute so she could just go check on something, and when she comes back, she asked me what insurance I’m on. I tell her, and she then (of course!) lets me know we are out of network, that I’ll have to pay for this in cash and to be sure that I can do that before we come to see them.
Now, this wasn’t said unkindly, but it certainly wasn’t said with any sort of helpfulness. It was done in a very matter-of-fact kind of way, and while I understand we’re all here to do our jobs, her delivery was a little jarring.
At this point, I thought to myself that I’m probably gonna have to pay for orthodontics. It’s not every insurance that covers it and not every orthodontist accepts it — and I’m well aware of that. But it was the way she said it that just sort of left me feeling a little wanting.
So back to the drawing board again.
Money For Nothing (and Friendliness for Free)
I ended up calling an orthodontist that was about 15 minutes away — but in the opposite direction from the first one — and I was greeted with a person who you could tell was smiling on the phone. You know, the type of hello that has a nice warm and friendly tone.
The woman proceeded to ask me a few qualifying questions just like the other woman did, but her tone was completely different. She then went on to explain a little bit about their company; about the dentist, the family business, the service that they provide, and the way that they work. Every piece of information was helpful and super informative. But the most striking detail was how she handled the insurance policy. While she needed to convey that our insurance might not have them included in their network, she did it graciously.
She then went on to explain that even if I wasn’t in-network, they’d be willing to work with me on payment plans and my budget in order to provide me with the opportunity to pay for the orthodontics in a way that didn’t break the bank. Fantastic!
Same Conversation, Different Outcome
Now, when I look at the two experiences and compare, it’s a huge difference. One was helpful, one was not. One was super open to doing business with me before she even met me or knew me, and the other left me feeling like I had to qualify before I even walked in the door. It was just such a subtle distinction — considering they gave me similar information — but an important one.
No surprise that I ended up choosing to book the initial consult at the office that had the receptionist that I loved. She had explained what would be covered during the discovery appointment, what to expect, and had asked us to show up a few minutes early because they try to stick to their schedule as close as possible to make sure everyone’s time is valued.
Everything about this eight-minute call was top-notch. I am so thrilled with the fact that I found them, and I can’t wait to go to the discovery appointment. Remember, I haven’t even been in their office yet, and I’m anxious to go see them!
When Customer Service Begins
Last week, I got an envelope in the mail which included the intake form you would normally fill out when you go see an orthodontist. They also included a pamphlet that explained their philosophies and their values. Basically, a recap of what we talked about on the phone that also included a handy reminder slip to put in my wallet and a business card in case I wanted to refer any friends.
This was a simple gesture, but it served as another touchpoint. I got a text message to remind us of our appointment. I got an email sent to me to add it to my calendar.
Everything about this experience has been easy, wonderful, and helpful, and I haven’t even been to the office yet!Customer service begins before your prospect is a customer. Click To Tweet
Communication as the Differentiator
What makes all the difference in customer service is great communication.
If a person is unable to effectively communicate, they really shouldn’t be in customer service in any capacity. This issue of poor communication isn’t only a problem when speaking with someone as it can just as easily happen when the conversation is in writing. You might remember your mom saying at some point: “It’s not what you say but how you say it,” and that old expression absolutely rings true. Words convey a message, but the way that message is delivered can make all the difference.
In looking at these two examples of when I was searching for an orthodontist, the first receptionist, well, she wasn’t 100% rude. I’ve experienced this sort of thing before, and I’ve always walked away flabbergasted because to not even try to be of service when your job is to provide service is crazy to me. When you aren’t gracious and don’t think of the other person you’re communicating with, it sets the tone for how the experience is going to be throughout.
Attention to Communication Details
When we have conversations, we need to be very cognizant of how we’re communicating. Are we coming at this conversation from a place of serving ourselves or serving others? If you’ve got customers or clients, you’re serving others. It can’t always be about you, but there’s a reason why they say the customer is always right. I know sometimes it can be difficult, but it starts by setting the proper tone and making sure that you can be of absolute service.
That first touchpoint that you have has to be as amazing as possible. Sometimes, it’s the only opportunity you have. Because when someone is making a purchasing decision, and both of the websites looked great, both of the services looked stellar, and both of them had decent ratings, it that first communication that can set your business apart.
There’s a way to approach things positively, but I’ve found that, in general, we’re starting to lose our sense of kindness and being of service. So, the next time you pick up the phone or write an email, take a beat and think about how you want to be perceived. Remember, customer service has the word “service” baked in it — and it’s called service for a reason.