There is only one first place finisher in the customer service race: How to make it you

second place finishers race

When it comes to anything involving speed and measuring who is the fastest, nobody remembers who took second place.

For example, Jesse Owens’ win in the 200-meter dash at the 1936 Summer Olympic Games in Berlin will always be remembered. We’re still making movies about it. But who remembers Matthew Robinson who took second place and also broke the old Olympic record on his way to winning the silver medal?

(By the way, although Matthew Robinson was quite an accomplished athlete, he was first overshadowed by Owens and later overshadowed by his younger brother, a hall-of-fame ballplayer whose first name was Jackie and wore the number 42. Hey, they’re still making movies about him too!)

I mention these examples of speed from the athletic world because I think the principle they illustrate carries over into customer service: If you’re second fastest, you stand a good chance of being forgotten.

Small business owner does customer service

I was listening to a small business owner talk about her startup the other day. She was relating a story about how she was once on her laptop during a Sunday evening at home and answering customer service questions. One of the customers told her how startled she was to get a response on a Sunday night.

This small business owner understands how important it is to get virtually immediate responses to customer service inquiries because that is the level of service she has come to expect. She says she is a member of the “Now Now Club.”

I think many of us have joined that club; we want our questions answered now and our problems solved now. So many Internet-based companies are doing such an incredible job at immediately responding to and taking care of their customers that membership in the Now Now Club has become the norm.

What you need to understand about this is that it’s a sword that cuts two ways. First, if you please members of the Now Now Club, you can hold on to your customers for the long term. Providing incredible customer service along with a wonderful customer experience are perhaps your two biggest weapons in your marketing campaign. They engender loyalty and frankly, people will pay a premium for them. You can be the “high price leader” if you significantly outshine your competitors with your customer service.

Few second chances in customer service

However, the other edge of that sword is that customers won’t give you very many chances to get it right. With vendors so easily accessible via the Internet, jumping your ship to sample the ride on your competitor’s boat takes no more effort than a few mouse clicks. Further, when customers engage your customer service system, they will always be measuring it against all the other customer service experiences they have had. They’ll be drawing up a little mental report card and giving you scores on topics such as:

  • Were you faster or slower than customer service at other businesses they regularly frequent?
  • Were your employees friendly?
  • Did your employees have the knowledge, ability, and authority to solve their problems?
  • Did the problem get solved on the first contact with customer service?

So think about how you want your business to be known. Do you want it to be a Jesse Owens or a Jackie Robinson, or a runner-up whose name is lost to history?

Only one competitor gets to stand on the first place level of the podium during the awards ceremony. Make sure it’s you.