Social media has pushed customer service to the forefront for many organizations. Responses are often faster in social media than they are in traditional service channels, since social media makes everything extremely visible. And when things go wrong, customers often flock to social media to air their grievances; a perfect example is the article I recently co-authored for Forbes Online, with Mark Fidelman, about the Southwest Airlines 3 Million Fan Flash Sale fiasco. In my book, I talk about Killer Customer Service. Another way to think about this is as Customer Obsessed Service. But what does it take to make this happen at an organization?

Expectations

Before we can discuss Customer Obsessed Service, we need to make sure we understand customer expectations. Customers have changed, and customer expectations have greatly changed! Social media has put everything into a new light as empowered customers are taking up their mobile phones and tweeting their distress for all the world to see. Here is a typical customer service tweet:

Does anyone know if COMPANY X has a Twitter? I want to make sure everyone knows how POOR their customer service is!! I’m sooooo annoyed.

If nothing else, brands need to be using social media to listen to the customer conversation for concerns or issues. Sometimes customers may be whining, and sometimes customers may have a real problem that needs to be addressed. Customer Obsessed Service means a company is attentive to what their customers are saying via social media (and via other mechanisms as well, including surveys, comments to sales, feedback to customer service reps, etc.) and then takes action to make sure the customer’s issues are resolved to their satisfaction.

Action: Do you understand the expectations of your customers for your products, and for your customer service? If not, spend some time listening to customer conversations, talking to customers for clarification, and determining the top pain points.

Employees

Most employees in an organization don’t understand what it takes to provide great customer service, much less Customer Obsessed Service. Yet employees are a key factor in whether customer service sucks or rocks. This is true whether the employee actually works in customer service or whether they are not customer facing at all!

Customer Obsessed Service starts with hiring the right people – those who are naturally people-focused, have a passionate spirit, are empathetic, and like to think creatively to solve problems. Southwest Airlines, who is generally great at customer service, calls this having “…a Warrior Spirit, a Servant’s Heart, and a Fun-LUVing Attitude.” I couldn’t agree more!

These employees also have to be empowered to do what is right for the customer. This doesn’t mean giving every customer a discount, or something for free when they complain. It DOES mean listening to the customer’s needs and doing what they can to make it right without always having to get a supervisor’s approval. Guidelines need to be clear, and when they are employees are freed up to get the help they need to turn around a bad situation with a customer.

Action: Start with an assessment in your organization. What do your employees think about your customer service? What would they do to make it better?

Customers as Assets

Customer Obsessed Service is also achieved based on how we measure it.

Incredibly, many companies today are still measuring their customer service based on how many calls they can process in an hour. Get the customer off the phone/chat as soon as possible in order to respond to more customers. The end result is usually customers that have to call again in order to finish getting their questions answered. These types of metrics are used when organizations look at the customer service department as something to be measured on a P&L statement. Customer service is viewed as a cost center.

Organizations espousing Customer Obsessed Service view customers as a valuable asset that belongs on a balance sheet. Each customer interaction is a golden opportunity to improve the relationship, and each customer touch could result in a customer who is so happy they become an evangelist for the brand.  Don Peppers and Martha Rogers talked about this in their book Return on Customer Companies that treat their customers as an asset create a very different approach to customer interaction; each customer contact is reviewed to see how it will add to or detract from the value of each customer.

Action: Review your customer service metrics to see how you view your customers.

What About You?

What else do companies need to get right operationally in order to create Customer Obsessed Service? Who is doing it well? Leave a comment with your thoughts, and let’s start a discussion on Customer Obsessed Service!