Customer service: it begins with keeping your promises

March 13, 2008

Photo of Zane SafritServing your customers comes down to keeping your promises. You honour your word. You honour your commitment.

This isn’t about contracts and terms. It’s not about performance reviews. It’s not about call centre metrics and wait times and phone queues. It’s definitely not about policies.

Customer service is all about — only about, exclusively about — keeping your promises. Honoring your word, your bond, your commitment.

Promises don’t start with your customers

You haven’t seen me add “to your customers” at the end of these sentences yet, have you? I didn’t write, “you honour your word to your customers,” or “you honour your commitment to your customers.”

Because that’s not where it starts. That’s where it ends. That’s the goal. That’s the end of the journey.

Customer service starts with keeping your promises with your co-workers, your colleagues, your staff, and your friends at your company. And they with you.

These are promises big and small. They’re promises in writing. And they’re unwritten promises that sustain a company, enabling it to thrive in good times and survive at others. These promises form the little threads that bind each member to the desired outcome: happy, well-served customers.

Recognize the importance of your staff

IT Guy makes sure everyone has the best, fastest, most dependable IT resources necessary to do the job, at all times. And he promises to listen.

The “customer service” staff — and I quote the term because really, everyone in a company is in customer service, some companies just haven’t bothered to communicate that — they commit specifically to making the customer happy. They answer the customers’ calls, and communicate to everyone else in the company what’s needed to keep the customer happy.

Billing Guy makes sure the invoices are absolutely correct, all the time, keeping customer service free for other needs; and IT Guy’s promises keep Billing Guy happy with correct, timely invoices.

Then there’s Sales Guy. Sales Guy is very happy when all this happens. Why? He’s the direct beneficiary of referrals from happy customers. His conversion ratio continues to rise as he sells with the confidence brought by his promises kept with his colleagues, and theirs with him.

My role then becomes like that of an insurance agent. I ensure everyone communicates openly, including myself, on all that’s needed to grow our company. The bond is maintained as we grow and change — very important. Many companies forget this in their rush to change, and then wonder why, at the end of the day, it all fails.

Happy staff make happy customers

Promises to a customer are the simple end result of the promises kept with each other. The good habits of listening and accountability, honouring our promises, and helping each other — and therefore ourselves — becomes the norm in all interactions. Doing the right thing really does come naturally. You just have to ensure no one gets in the way; create a few meaningful extrinsic rewards; and sometimes undo the mental habits of previous jobs.

At that point, there’s simply no way a promise to a customer could be broken. What would be the point? It would be like those Visa commercials, where a community’s smooth and happy operation comes to a halt with the use of cash. Only here, our community with our customers would come to a halt with the breaking of promises to each other. What would be the point — adding a little dash of agony? We can get our share of that from any number of other companies.

But those companies known for providing great customer service are “merely” (!?!) filled with members busy each day keeping their promises to each other.

Customer service: it begins with keeping your promises.

Credit for this meme should be given to Mike Wagner, CEO of White Rabbit Group, along with Steve and Andrew MacGill from Peersight Online, who recently joined our company for lunch at our offices.

about the author

FreshBooks is the #1 accounting software in the cloud designed to make billing painless for small businesses and their teams. Today, over 10 million small businesses use FreshBooks to effortlessly send professional looking invoices, organize expenses and track their billable time.