Okay, that title is a bit strong, I agree. But, I wanted to get your attention. I want to talk about customer service – why it is vital to your success, and why so many organizations are going about it all wrong.

These past few weeks I have been traveling, keynoting and consulting in Southeast Asia. Working for organizations and associations in Singapore, Bangkok and Cambodia. An amazing experience, complete with adventure, travel, and the opportunity to work in these emerging cultures with young leaders who are eager to learn.

When I started my journey, I was worried that my message would not translate or be valid in cultures that I perceived to be so different than ours. I could not have been more wrong. I quickly learned that no matter where you go in the world, the issues, with a few exceptions, in business and in life are basically the same.

Keynote after keynote, presentation after presentation, my audiences had the same questions about how to engage employees, increase sales and improve the customer experience. These are cultures where growth is rampant, competition fierce and the battle for talent is a constant struggle. The leaders here get it. They know that the better their customer service, the better their opportunity to compete and win.

In Singapore, they wanted to know how to get the “customer to choose them” over their competitors. In Bangkok, it was how to determine what the customer experience should be. And in Cambodia, it was how do we engage our employees in the customer service process. Before answering their questions, I had a few of my own.

I wanted to know what had these leaders had done within their organizations to make it better, to improve the customer experience. They shared the training programs they had created, the trainers they had hired, and the policies and procedures they had put in place. While all these leaders had seen incremental improvement, none (just like in the U.S.) had seen the results they really wanted. That was the answer these leaders wanted. That was the secret formula they were looking for. What does it take to really increase customer service results?

Well I think creating amazing customer service really comes down to one thing – just one thing. It is not sexy, and it is not even all that exciting. The key to creating amazing customer service is – ready – drum roll please… Listening! Yep that is it, just listening.

If you want to understand how to make someone (your customer) happy, then listen to them. If you listen, not just wait for your turn to talk or to implement the next step in your customer service process, your customers will tell you exactly what they want and need. They will tell you what they value, what is important and what their definition of great customer service is!

See, that is the catch, and that is the rub with any customer service “plan,” – one size does not fit all. What you need to deliver great customer service is not a great customer service plan. What you need, is an employee who can listen. We need to spend more time teaching our employees how to listen, and less time focusing on process and procedures designed for one type of customer.

What does it take to be a great listener?  Just three easy steps…

3 Strategies To Keep Your Customer Service Strategy From Failing

  1. Ask Great Questions

The key to listening is to have something to listen to and for. If you are doing all the talking, you are not listening. Yes, I realize that is as plain as the nose on your face, but you would be surprised how many people don’t get it. You begin the listening process by asking great “open ended” questions.

  1. Stay In The Moment

Practice being present by focusing more on what they are saying and less on what your response might be. When you stay present, you tune into more than people’s words. You tune into their body language, their tone of voice, their expressions etc. And the more present you stay, the better ideas you’ll hear on how to create a completely unique customer experience.

  1. Use What Ya Learn

The final step is to act. You have asked the questions. You understand what is most important to your customers. Now, it is time to use what you learned. Take action! Deliver on the little things that are important to them. Not only will that get what they asked for, but when we act on what we hear people say, we send a strong message that says we care, they matter and this relationship is valuable.

So there you have it, your entire customer service strategy summed up in one short article. Spend time teaching, practicing and focusing on listening. You will build stronger relationships with your customers, your customer service skills will go up and you will drive results. Now that is what I call a return on investment!