Hi, it’s Matt from Sunstone. How are you holding up during the pandemic these days?
We are 100% committed to keeping our employees safe and doing well as a company, but each of us, like you, is dealing with life struggles and changes differently. We continue to concentrate on the current best practices for keeping our employees safe during this time: remote work for those employees that can, social distancing, regular cleaning and disinfecting, limiting our onsite visits to only necessary visits, and many more.
It brings me great joy to report that, so far, we have been very effective in maintaining employment and health for all our employees. With this in mind, I asked Al Secchi, global customer support and sales manager, what he has learned professionally from the pandemic and how we can use this experience to provide even better customer service.
Matt Stevenson: Al, thank you for joining the conversation. What have you and the team learned from the coronavirus pandemic about how to serve our customers?
Al Secchi: Thank you, Matt. It is great to be able to talk about this and represent the many great thoughts of my team members.
This has been an epic year of unprecedented challenges. We rang in the New Year with a pandemic that showed just how fragile our global supply chains really are. As time went on, a new normal was created that redefined our industry, country, and the world. Businesses closed, jobs were lost, and essential workers were put into a new environment—one whose war cry centered on being “safe and healthy.” Those who were required to go into the office had to wear masks and have their temperatures taken at the start of and throughout their day; they also washed and disinfected continuously and maintained a safe six-foot distance from each other. Other employees—those who could—worked remotely.
With all these changes and unknowns created from the coronavirus, the critical part of creating a customer-centric work environment has been put at risk. Some businesses need to reduce work hours or cut staff; otherwise, they simply cannot deliver the product or service that they promise to their customers. This finds company buyers and consumers alike searching to find new reliable sources.
Without a reliable source, their businesses struggle to maintain production, and a domino effect further down the supply chain is in jeopardy of happening—no materials, no parts, no product, no sales, no revenue, and ultimately no jobs. Customer service people had their work cut out for them to be able to ensure ongoing business and provide reassurance and peace of mind to their existing customer base and new customer prospects.
What does customer service look like now? What does it need to look like to not only meet the needs of customers but also exceed them to the point of being memorable and creating loyal customer advocates? How do we create this exceptional level of service in today’s world in 2020?
Simply put, it takes a team, but not just any team. It needs to be a team of committed customer service professionals that understand both the challenges of the company they work for, as well as the needs and expectations of the customers they also work for. To support a customer and provide the highest level of service, you must first know what you can commit to and how best that commitment fits into the customer’s supply chain—both in product and delivery. After all, isn’t that what we all want when we are looking for a product or service—a company whose employees understand your needs and are willing to do whatever is possible to meet those needs?
With all that has happened in 2020, the one thing that can be a shining light is how a business focuses on its customers and helps them to be successful. Sure, everything may be a little different for you, but the customer’s need is still there, and it is the most important thing. Your customers are looking for a reliable partner that shows an understanding of their needs—one that gains their confidence and builds a level of trust that they can feel good about.
Along with this, you must use technology to provide them with an easy way of contacting you through multiple communication channels that they can choose from: phone, chat, email, or text. Every customer wants to be able to reach you easily and confidently and in a way that they are most comfortable with. They also want you to be proactive in contacting them with both the good news and the not so good news. The important thing is that you proactively reach out and be that honest, helpful partner they are looking for. Don’t make them have to contact you; you need to reach out to them in an honest, helpful, and timely way.
I tell my customer service team to consider themselves master chefs with customer service as a menu option, and the main dish that everyone wants to be tasty and satisfying. The following would be a recipe to consider.
Start with a high-quality product or service that you believe in and can stand behind. Add an understanding of your customer—who they are, what they do, and what they need. Show that you understand them and their need and that you care! Then, if—and only if—you can meet that need, you share with them how you can help them to be successful. Only make realistic commitments that you can stand behind. Then, be timely in all your communications as you mix in a good portion of proactiveness and work as a good partner would. Now, combine, and add an unexpected positive—more than and faster than expected.
Your ingredients should include:
- 1 part of high-quality product/service
- 3 parts of understanding the customer’s needs—show them you understand and that you care
- 2 parts of sharing how you can help the customer be successful
- 3 parts promises you can confidently commit to
- 2 parts timely and as proactive as possible communications
- 5 parts exceeding your customer’s expectations
Mix these time tested critical ingredients with an easy multi-channel way of communicating with your customers that includes self-service FAQs where they can easily and quickly find answers to their questions—including the use of chat-bots that can provide answers based on keywords your customers enter. This will create an award-winning customer service dish.
Lastly, always remember that you can only be as successful as you can make your customers. Good luck in 2020, and be the best customer service master chef that you can be!
Stevenson: Thank you, Al. It is great that your team strives to keep customers’ peace of mind and improve the experience. I agree that it takes a team, so a big shout-out to you and your team for their hard work. I love how each member thinks of themselves as a master chef, allowing them to cater and personalize the experience for each customer in each situation as it changes.
Secchi: Thanks, Matt.
Matt Stevenson is the VP of sales and marketing at Sunstone Circuits.
This column originally appeared in the November 2020 issue of Design007 Magazine.