Many terms in business are straight-forward and understood the same way by everyone:
- Profit is the income of a business less the expense
- Press Releases are notifications sent to the media
- Core values are the things that fundamentally matter to a company
But, what is customer service? Top Google results are varied, but they all sound the same.
Definitions of customer service that don’t define it
- Wikipedia: “provision of service to customers before, during and after a purchase.”
- Desk.com: “support you offer your customers — both before and after they buy your product — that helps them have an easy and enjoyable experience with you.”
- Investopedia: “the process of ensuring customer satisfaction with a product or service.”
To me, these basically all say that customer service is serving your customers; while this is technically true, it obviously isn’t very helpful.
How do we define things in a helpful way?
Checking these sites got me thinking about how we actually define things. If a UFO landed in your front yard and the alien on board asked you what a tree is, how would you define it? I suspect you would do one (or more) of these:
1. Show him the trees lining the road: define by example
2. Explain what a good tree looks like: define by explanation
3. Tell him about the purpose of trees and what they do for humankind: define by purpose
While choosing just one of these methods may give him a good idea, combining all three is the winning formula for defining anything in a way that it can be easily understood and leveraged. For this reason, the definitions we have been fed about customer service are flawed.
1. Defining Customer Service by Example
Like showing the alien the trees to help define what a tree is, we could show great examples of customer service to help define the concept–the kind of customer service that creates customer loyalty.
We could show Zappos, a “service company that happens to sell shoes. And handbags. And more…” or any of the top 15 companies in Forrester’s US 2016 Customer Experience Index.
We could further illustrate the point by telling the story of the best man they saved from going barefoot by listening to his problem, solving it, going above and beyond with an added freebie, and giving a refund – at a cost of maybe $100 to the company.And show how this kind of customer service definition won them a customer for life.
2. Defining by Explanation
To define a tree to our new ET-like friend, I would seek to explain it in a way that can help him understand the concept. I may say that a tree is a plant that has a trunk attached to the ground. Given water and sunshine, it grows branches above the ground, sometimes bearing fruits or nuts.
To explain customer service conceptually, I offer this:
A method of pleasing people which includes listening, patience, empathy, tenacity, and action (and a few more customer service skills).
3. Defining by Purpose
Adding in the purpose will make ET not only visualize what a tree is (like the first example) and grasp the concept of a tree (like the second), it will make him truly understand trees and be able to explain them to his friends.
For example: Trees help humankind by providing life-sustaining oxygen and food, and sometimes even soul-enriching friendship.
To add purpose to the definition of customer service: Good customer service makes people into loyal evangelists of a product or brand, which is the best kind of investment a company can make.
A definition you won’t forget
Customer service can be measured by CSAT Surveys and it can be defined, like many sources say, as “serving customers.” But a worthwhile definition, one that can be visualized, conceptualized, and understood by everyone (even an alien) is this:
Customer Service like that offered by Zappos is a method of pleasing people which includes listening, patience, empathy, tenacity, and action (and a few more customer service skills) that makes them into loyal evangelists of a product or brand, which is the best kind of investment a company can make.