Everyone says they have it and it’s the key that sets them apart. Ask an insurance agent or any small business what makes them different from another business, and you know what they will say: “Great customer service”. I don’t think I work with one agency that doesn’t claim to have great customer service, and I agree, most do. But is that really a differentiator, does it really set you apart, if everyone else claims to have it.
Let’s talk about what really “great customer service” means, because I believe this may not be what we think.
Why is it important to your agency? This may sound like a stupid question, but it’s worth considering, because service can easily become a mundane part of the agency. It’s easy to let this part run on auto pilot, while you worry about where to find accounts, pay the bills, deal with HR issues, worry about the building, etc.
Consider this: your service people are the face of your agency. Very few people in your office talk with your customers as much as the service people do. While the salespeople may be out hunting, the service people are creating impressions by the hundreds of every week with current customers, vendors, and company people.
Whether people continue to do business with you or not is often based on the relationship they establish with your service staff.
If there is stress in your office, if your people are negative and grumpy, if working conditions are miserable that will be communicated to your customers.
We all know this is true. Think about the times you have to call your cable or phone company. The monotone, robotic, depressing sounds that come from the receiver tell you those people are miserable, and if you can escape from doing business with them you will.
How about visits to the DMV? Depressing! It’s not the customers that drive the misery. It’s the people behind the counter. They are bored or discontented and their attitude produces a fog of depression in every corner of the office.
Not only are your service people the face of the agency, but they have the power to create and shape the culture of the office. The sales people are usually gone, but the service people are always there and how they interact and shapes the atmosphere in the office.
One of the quickest ways to begin to change the culture of the agency is to affect attitudes of the people talking with your customers.
I see this all the time. My regular trips to ABC Insurance are tense and unhappy. There are whispers and gossiping, then one day I walk in the door and attitudes are dramatically changed. There is energy. People are smiling. No complaints. What has happened? The customers are the same, the owners are the same, the office hasn’t been redecorated. After putting on my detective hat and asking a few questions, I discover “Suzie Q” left last week for another job.
One sour soul poisoned the agency culture, but once she left, the attitudes turned on a dime.
So great service is important. No one would argue the point, and having great service people not only impacts customers, but infects your whole operation.
Is it enough? I don’t think so. It’s has become so understood, especially for the local business, that good service is the baseline.
It is necessary, but to become really great there is more. Figuring out ways to create customer loyalty and enhancing their experience with you will really set you apart. Very few shops don’t neglect phone timeliness and are educated enough to generate sufficient answers, but do the customers have a unique experience?