Winning the Hearts and Minds of the Customer – Through Support

May 26, 2010

A recent article in Business Week talked about USAA and the fact that it’s had multiple top results in Business Week’s customer service ratings. The USAA offers insurance, banking and investment services to members of the U.S. military and their families.  In the article they give the example of a Military employee who is able to deposit checks by simply scanning and sending them with his iPhone. While that example shows off the practical application of a very cool piece of technology, there’s a real customer service story behind it.

This is especially so when you take into account the contention that USAA makes in the article. They say that it takes satisfied workers to create satisfied customers. But what makes satisfied workers? Well there are some who would say that the folks on the metaphorical shop floor are shallow, and it’s all just about money. My experience doesn’t bear this out – I believe that customer service staff truly want to help customers have a good experience – sure sometimes they get harried and things go a little awry, but looking at examples of of organizations with great customer service, it appears to me that their service is driven by happy staff.  While many things go into worker satisfaction, it’s been my experience that people are satisfied when they are able to do their job well.  For those who engage with customers that’s being able to effectively find great outcomes for their customers.

There’s lots of examples in the same light, things that give organizations the ability to get their customers the right answers in a timely manner – Apple has invested a lot of time and effort in its “Genius Bars” – places where an Apple customer can go to get the definitive answer to a particular problem they may have. Similarly Barnes & Noble recently opened a new high-tech call center for its employees. By doing so they’ve managed to keep in-store employees helping customers instead of making ordering decisions.

Customer support is a multifaceted thing and there’s so many ways to improve the experience your customers receive – but fundamentally you need to give them the tools, the training and the autonomy to do what is right for every customer they come across.

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