The 7 Principles of Great Customer Service

December 2, 2011

Quality customer service is an obvious goal for companies of all sizes, not only for keeping your existing customer satisfied, but to gain new ones as well.

But for young organizations at the expansion stage that are vying for business growth, ensuring a great customer experience is even more critical. And as the business does grow, the key areas to focus on can sometimes change.

In a recent video series for OpenView Labs, Bill Price, founder of Driva Solutions and one of the top customer service minds in the biz, broke down what he considers to be the seven key principles of a top-notch customer service program.

“Once you’ve begun to challenge customer demand for service, there are now seven principles of great service,” he says. Here’s a simple rundown of the focus areas Price recommends.

#1. Eliminate dumb contacts

“What we’ve discovered over the past five to 10 years is that about 35-to-45 percent of customer contacts don’t need to happen at all,” Price explains.

He says these contacts are made up primarily of core problems and confusion around a product or service that should be eliminated at the root cause, rather than handled by customer service reps. Price explains that to do so, it’s important to figure out if the causes of such issues have any value to the customer or the company, or if they are simply an irritation that needs to be removed.

“The whole idea is to move those [dumb contacts] totally away from the [customer service] demand, because they’re not providing value to our customers or our company,” he says.

#2. Engaging self-service

While dumb contacts involve anything that is irritating to both the customers and company alike, there are also customer service contacts that are important for the customer, but provide very little value to the business overall. This, Price says, is where the need to create engaging self-service comes into play.

“Those are the projects, issues, and customer contact reasons that should be automated,” he explains.

This type of automation can take a few different forms, for example:

  • Proactive outbound alerts. Messages sent to smartphones, via outbound emails, etc.
  • Inbound interactive voice response systems. An automated message played when a customer calls.
  • Website response systems. Same as the above, only the automated messages appear online.

“You have to figure out what percentage of the time when customers want self-service, do they actually get self-service,” Price says.

#3. Being proactive

Building off of the principle of engaging self-service, Price says that it’s also important to be proactive in addressing known issues before a customer contacts you for help with it. This is critical not only to catch issues before they get worse, but also, he explains, because the majority of customers fail to take the time to contact vendors about many of the problems they’re having.

“They may walk with their feet or vote with their pocketbook and move away from you, rather than even address a frustration or concern – so be proactive!” Price advises.

#4. Make it easy to contact your company

While this next principle may seem like it flies in the face of the “eliminating dumb contacts”, Price says its critical for companies to open up all available channels to get input from customers.

“This really means having a toll-free 800 number readily available,” he explains. “Having a toll-free number is not very expensive these days, and customers prefer that.”

Other recommendations include making the website as clear and easy to use as possible, along with making after-hours contacts available for customers, to name a few.

(Watch full video: Make it Easy to Find You)

#5. Own the actions across the company

“It’s a little-known fact that about 92% of the customer contacts that come into a support center are not caused by customer service itself,” Price says. “They’re actually caused by marketing, legal, product development – some other department actually is the cause of the contact.”

By creating a cultur of ownership with each of these departments, companies can collect the reasons behind various customer contacts and package them to each owner/department, so that they can use that information to make improvements in those areas.

“[It’s important to] engage the owners and hold them accountable for the issues,” Price adds.

(Watch full video: Own the Actions Across the Company)

#6. Listen and act

Companies also need to engage in a constant stream of data that their customers share with them, so that they are always listening to what they are saying and acting on it.

Price recommends developing a closed-loop cycle of feedback that he calls WOCAS (“What Our Customers Are Saying”). The term is evolved into a software-based service that collects information from customers, routinely moves that information to department owners, where they can then send back feedback with they’ve heard – and what they’ve done about it.

(Watch full video: Listen and Act)

#7. Create great customer service experiences

No matter how many dumb contacts you eliminate or resolutions you automate, there still will always be a need for customer service operations. So as Price says, it’s imperative to manage those issues in a ways that’s satisfying for the customer and creates a great experience.

“That means running operations that listen to the customer, that take their time and engage with them… to really recognize that this is a returning customer. Or maybe this is a new customer who’s never bought from us before, so let’s behave a little differently with them,” he explains.

The key here is build of a team of people who are extremely customer-centric, from the customer-facing employees all the way up to the leadership-level managers. Price says it’s important for customer service reps to check their egos at the door and have a degree of empathy for customers – even if it means listening to them rant and rave for 10 minutes about a problem.

“Give the customer the sense that you’re really focused on them and that they’re the most important thing going on right now,” he adds. “Creating great service experience [like those] go a long way.”

(Watch full video: Create Great Customer Experiences)


<strong>Bill Price</strong> is a Partner at <a href="">Antuit</a>, a Big Data predictive analytics company. founded <a href="">Driva Solutions</a>, a customer service consultancy, in September 2001. He also co-founded the 10-country LimeBridge Global Alliance and the 33-company Global Operations Council (GOC). Prior to forming Driva Solutions, Bill was’s first Vice President of Global Customer Service. He is currently a senior advisor for OpenView and its portfolio companies.