Ask 10 people about the best customer service companies, and you would expect to hear names like Nordstrom, Ritz-Carlton, Apple, Amazon, Zappos, and a few others. When Business Week listed the top companies last year, those names were on the list, along with some others as well, including Ace Hardware.
Ace Hardware is a chain of small, locally owned stores that manage to thrive in a very competitive marketplace among “big box” stores that are 10 times larger and spend 30 times more on advertising. How do they do it? Ace has successfully instilled a special brand of customer service built on being helpful. Ace employees will help with a weekend project, locate an obscure part … do whatever they can to be helpful.
If you are striving to build a successful business, customer service must be the foundation. If you come to the competitive world of business without a sound customer service strategy, you may watch your plans crumble as your customers seek a better experience. Study the “rock stars” of customer service like Ace Hardware to learn what sets them apart. Here are some basic strategies the top companies use to set themselves apart and reach a higher level of customer service:
- Customize your style of service and make it part of your brand. Like Ace with its focus on helpful, deliver a special version of customer service that is unique to your business. Ace promises to be the most helpful hardware store on the planet – not just the nicest (although that’s part of it) – and judging by its continuous success in the customer service arena, Ace is living its promise.
- Don’t make it too complicated. The best companies can clearly state their vision, and all employees are working together to achieve it. State your vision (or motto, mantra, etc.) in a clear and concise phrase or sentence. Ace is “the helpful hardware place.” The Ritz-Carlton’s employees know its credo, “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.” By knowing and following these simple brand statements, company personnel deliver amazing customer service that customers appreciate and remember.
- Hire the right people. Consider the mission and vision of the company as well as the personality you want the company to project, and then hire people who will fulfill the mission. It takes the right people to create a service-oriented culture.
- After hiring right, train the employees properly. This means not only teaching the technical skills, but also, you guessed it, customer service.
- Trust and empower the employees to do the job you hired them to do. After they are trained in all aspects of the job, let them do it and trust them to do their best.
Don’t forget to celebrate success. Once you have trained your employees and empowered them to take ownership of their responsibilities, let them know you appreciate their hard work by celebrating their successes.
Watch the recording of our recent webinar for more from Shep about how Ace Hardware continues to be a market leader and grow revenue year-over-year, and seven customer success tips which will help you grow your business.
Shep Hyken is a customer experience expert and the Chief Amazement Officer of Shepard Presentations. He is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author and has been inducted into the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame for lifetime achievement in the speaking profession. Shep works with companies and organizations who want to build loyal relationships with their customers and employees. For more articles on customer service and business go to http://www.hyken.com.