What does it mean to go the extra mile

What does it mean to go the extra mile

Having just moved house again for the sixth time in six years, and having to contact so many different companies, it let me consider what it means to go the extra mile in customer service. Having spent time in a service-heavy orientated, I know the effort required to consistently deliver high-standards of customer service. After talking to numerous estate agents, utility companies and various others, it was interesting to evaluate how different companies go about making the right impression.

Not all of them was perfect, some them were fairly awful and others were both great and awful in different calls. It's bizarre that some companies genuinely forget that you are their customer, but when they do remember, it becomes really refreshing to experience really good customer service. However, being courteous on the phone isn't enough these days. I firmly believe we now expect a little bit more, we want companies to really value us, and make us feel wanted so that we want to go back to them.

Let us take Wessex Water. I phoned them up, and not only did I get an answer straight away, but the operator was immediately able to answer my enquiry, a great example of empowerment. As I read out my account details there was no delay, nor was I asked to repeat anything. My account was immediately available to the operator, and I was told I had overpaid and I was to be instantly reimbursed.

Whether this is the 'extra mile' is up for personal interpretation, but to me, it went beyond just 'nice' customer service, I felt valued and it was a pleasure to be a customer. I went to Twitter and thanked them. This wasn't my first experience of them, I've contacted them before and received some really useful literature, and all of this has left me with a good impression and most importantly if I phoned them up ten more times, I'd get equally good service each time.

In most situations a company can only offer so much. If you run a car wash service, you can't just fit a spoiler on the car to make the customer happier. Nor can a doctor give you laser eye surgery when you come in with a cold. The point here isn't about doing more than can be expected, just the most that you possible can to make everything a little easier and more satisfying to deal with

When we talk about companies, we use the word 'they' quite a lot. Simply put, a company can have the best products in the world, the best CRM tools and the best computer systems for staff, but when the customer and the business come in contact, it all has to come together perfectly. It needs to be seamless enough so there is nothing wrong or to complain about and when you are able to offer a bit more, the customer sits up and takes notice. Then when we use the word 'they', it's followed by positive connotations rather than negative comments.

Channel 4's Undercover Boss recently featured nPower. Rated as having some of the worst customer service in the business but responsible for a major utility in consumers lives, it became quite evident what the issues were. The issue wasn't a company with bad intentions, neither was the employees terrible at their jobs, in fact, when customers and company met, there are genuinely good employees who care about every interaction.

It's the little errors which lead to the bigger problems. Badly designed software in the call centre, a lack of empowerment to deal with issues, a lack of clarity in company decision making or employees simply being too rushed to do just that little bit more. It's these factors that ultimately halt employees going the extra mile.

So, how are you going to go the extra mile for your customers today?

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