When I was working as a banquet server, I thought I knew everything there was to know about customer service. I thought as long as there were no complaints, I was doing a great job. The people come to the party, eat, drink, dance and then leave. It was my job to just keep things tidy, refill glasses, and be available to meet additional requests. The job was easy and I always received stellar reviews.
Flash forward a few years to when I took a management position at a gym. Customer service in this industry had a whole new meaning. Customer requests required much more thought compared to simply running to the kitchen to grab more ketchup. There was a great deal of problem-solving required in many different areas.
I had to answer billing, sales, maintenance, and security questions just to name a few. When I first started, I rarely had the answers to these questions. I’d give the typical, “I’ll get back to you” response and just find someone else who knew. That didn’t go over so well. Before I knew it, I had a large number of people waiting on answers that I couldn’t remember the questions to.
That’s when I realized I had to change my approach.
I had to first fully understand everything there was to know about the gym. I immersed myself in the different department systems so I could fully understand how to use the tools I had.
The next step was to make myself uncomfortable. Whenever a question came up within hearing distance, I made it my personal responsibility to find the answer BY MYSELF. It took much longer than the customers would have liked, but I saw it as a necessary evil to become the best manager that I could be.
I eventually became a professional solutionist, but then came another problem — that’s all I had time to be. Once word got around that I was the ultimate problem-solver, I was swamped with questions from my team, my bosses, and the customers. I became so busy solving problems for everyone, I couldn’t fulfill my other managerial duties.
Time for another new approach!
It became clear to me that I had to make the solutions accessible to everyone. So, I made FAQ posters that I put on display, created “How-To” posts on our social media accounts, and made a comment box so customers who came in after hours could leave their questions to be answered the next business day.
But hands down, the most effective thing I did was walk customers through how to use the tools I gave them. When someone brought a question my way, I would walk them to where they could get their answer rather than just giving it to them. I would also show them where they could find more information about other topics so they could answer any of their own questions in the future. Shortly after, I realized how much more free time I had. I’d look around and see customers huddled together by signs or sharing videos on their phones and becoming their own answer-getters!
The Big Picture I’m Getting At:
In running a business, you want to provide customer success rather than customer service. “Service” implies that the act of giving is taking place whereas “success” implies growth and mastery. People can easily enjoy things they understand.
Would you have more fun in a pool knowing how to swim or being confined to an inner-tube?
The best thing a business can do is provide the tools for success to their customers and teach them how to master their product.