3 Keys to Excellent Customer Service

It’s one thing to have products or services that people might want, but another to deliver them in a way that keeps people coming back for more.

In this article we discuss 3 valuable customer service outcomes, with each outcome building off the previous.

(Skip to the end if you just want tips on how organizations can achieve them.)


1. Emotional engagement

Emotional engagement most obviously comes through friendly and courteous service.

While you certainly don’t want to make customers feel angry, upset or unappreciated, you also don’t want them to be unresponsive. You don’t want customers to be bored or uninterested.

Generating enthusiasm for the product or service itself is very important because…


2. Trust

You want customers to feel that that they are being treated honestly and fairly, that the service they receive is in their best interests.

Enthusiasm shows that a product or service is actually worth the investment.

Therefore, engaging a customer emotionally can generate greater trust, whereas failure to engage (either at all, or in a bad way) often undermines trust.


3. Loyalty

A customer that is emotionally engaged—and has trust in the products and services they receive—is also likely to become a loyal customer.

  • Loyal customers are often repeat customers
  • Loyal customers are often willing to pay more than new customers
  • Loyal customers are more likely to recommend you to other people


How to generate engagement, trust, and loyalty

Time to rethink the formal rules?

Many organizations regulate the delivery of customer service through formal rules.

These include aesthetic rules (such as uniforms or dress codes), verbal rules (such as requiring specific words or phrases to be used when interacting with customers), and emotional rules (requiring specific emotional displays, such as smiling at each customer).


Be warned: recent research suggests that the benefits are limited. While formal rules do actually increase perceptions of service quality, they also tend to reduce emotional engagement and trust.

It turns out that a “canned” smile isn’t really that engaging, and predetermined dialogue can actually make it more difficult to trust someone. This is a problem.

Although formal rules can increase perceived service quality, undermined engagement and trust can also have a much stronger negative net impact on customer loyalty.


Informal rules often work much better

The secret to delivering excellent customer service is an authentic organizational culture with engaged employees.

Genuine emotional engagement generates trust, which in turn influences customer loyalty.


Some well-known examples include:

  • Macy’s instructs employees to take pride in their appearance, while still expressing their personal style
  • Southwest Airlines encourages employees to tell jokes and allows them to engage customers informally
  • The Body Shop encourages employees to “be themselves” and display their genuine emotions


The benefits of genuine customer service aren’t guaranteed. Employees probably won’t actually deliver authentic service unless they are engaged, and their personality matches well with the organization.

The best way to gain this competitive advantage is to hire employees with the right personality—and the best way to keep this advantage is to track employee engagement over time.



Image credit: Nate Grigg

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