Every encounter a person has with a business is an experience with external customer service. The host who greets you when you enter a restaurant, the cashier who smiles during check-out at your local store, or the receptionist at your doctor's office who remembers your name are all providers of external customer service.
External customer service is "the ability of an organization to constantly and consistently give the customers what they want and need," states author and editor Remy Mauduit, a former vice president of U.S. and international marketing at CSG Systems.
External customer service falls into three categories: bad, good and excellent. Bad customer service -- when a customer's needs or desires are not met -- does two things: It ruins the company's reputation and loses that person's business. According to Return on Behavior Magazine, an online source created by customer experience specialist Fredrik Abildtrup, "seven out of 10 customers who switch to a competitor do so because of poor service."
Good customer service is the interaction with a company representative that results in the customer receiving her desired expectation of service. While this type of service is regarded in a positive light, it is the least memorable.
Thus, businesses strive for excellent customer service, because excellent customer service produces customers who become "walking advertisements." Customers who receive this type of treatment feel that not only were their expectations met, but that they were valued. A customer with this type of service will tell at least eight other people about the establishment, according to Return on Behavior Magazine.
TrainCustomerService.com, an online source created by Sales Training International, categorizes trust and rapport building, active listening skills, and problem-solving capabilities as important components to external customer service.
Trust and rapport building is a continuous effort that every employee must put forth at every opportunity. The practice is effective only when employees understand how the company is able to meet customer expectations. An example of trust and rapport building would be an employee informing a customer that although they don't carry his shoe size in the store, they are able to order it for him and have it shipped to his home. When the customer receives the delivery, it builds a level of trust between him and the establishment.
Active listening is a skill that many employees have to practice repetitively before mastering. Hearing is not the same as listening; and being heard but not understood is a common customer complaint.
Problem-solving skills are invaluable to customer service representatives. They enable a service provider to exceed customer expectations during what could be a negative customer interaction.
A common misconception that employees have when dealing with external customers is that saying the right thing is more important than how it is said. Reputable companies train their employees on the art of professional, courteous conversation. This eliminates a customer missing out on a great service experience because of the employee's attitude during a spoken response.
Craig Harrison, customer service speaker and trainer, explains that quality external customer service stems from quality internal customer service. Harrison states, "I define internal customer service as effectively serving other departments within your organization. How well are you providing other departments with service, products or information to help them do their jobs?" Successful companies like T-Mobile and DS Waters of America understand this theory and offer their employees surveys to provide feedback on their experience with trainers, training material and coaching sessions. This technique ensures that workers feel just as appreciated and valuable as the customers that they are asked to serve.