Customer Service as Art: A Masterpiece Worth Millions
Customer Service as Art may be a bridge too far, when considering a memorable analogy. However, studying the efforts some companies make, and the thousands of dollars they spend on recruiting and training CSR’s, there’s a case to be made for this analogy. I like it because I’ve learned the value and benefits of artful Customer Service over the years.
Let me tell you a story that will demonstrate that Customer Service IS a real art form …
Setting the Stage | Customer Service as Art
During the period when I was owner/president of a commercial printing company in Tennessee, I received a call from a top client – a world-renowned company that has been in continuous operation for more than 100 years. The person calling was from top management and he wanted to speak to me directly. I answered the phone with a little dread, wondering if something was wrong.
“Philip,” he said, “I really need to speak with you in person. Can we have lunch tomorrow?” Oh no, I thought, something bad must have happened.
The next day, I drove to their headquarters to meet up with (I’ll call him) Mr. Randolph, and we headed to a nearby restaurant. During lunch, we made all the usual small talk; however, I must admit I was a bit nervous, waiting for the hammer to drop.
Suddenly, he looked at me intently, “Philip, I want to ask you something. You know the new person you assigned as our Customer Service Representative – WHO is she? Sheepishly, thinking she may have done something wrong, I quickly explained she had only been with me about six months. I blurted out, “Mr. Randolph, is everything okay?”
“Yes, she’s doing great! I just wanted to congratulate you on a great hire! That girl never makes a mistake! In fact, you guys are never late, and there are no errors on our jobs.” I felt as if I’d dodged a bullet.
“Philip,” Mr. Randolph continued, “I suggest you never lose this CSR. Honestly, you guys have become our preferred vendor and we plan to send A LOT more print your way.”
Hearing “A LOT more” had just made my day, but that’s for another time. Please keep reading …
Customer Service and the Artist’s Palette
You can imagine how relieved I was to hear Mr. Randolph’s glowing report about our CSR. Surely, I was proud of this wonderful employee who did such a great job. But, at the same time, I sat there thinking about others – ones I call “artists with palettes” – who also labored behind the scenes.
Truth is, our great service was about more than just one great hire. It was no accident! Why?
We painstakingly planned, sketched-out, sculpted and painted, in exceptionally fine detail, HOW our Customer Service Department would function. To us, this concerted effort was a work of ART!
Creating our Work of Art
When I first decided to build a world-class Customer Service department, I knew it had to operate with systems that would leave nothing to chance. So, I hired a young woman I believed had the right personality and heart to serve our clients – moreover, a person who dotted “i’s” and crossed “t’s”. This is crucial to the art of creating and, more importantly, sustaining a great Customer Service department.
As an owner, who built this company from the ground up with just a few thousand dollars, I knew exactly how I wanted our Customer Service Department to function. However, the vision for HOW IT was to operate was all in my head. It was time to download my vision – getting “art” onto canvas.
With this intention, I set our new CSR right next to me at my desk in the Customer Service office for THREE solid months.
This is an absolutely TRUE story!
Together, we meticulously documented, step-by-step, in the finest of detail, HOW a customer service representative would perform the job of serving our clients. But, more importantly, we built control tools for ensuring great service. I have to say it – don’t doubt me, it was an ARTFUL MASTERPIECE!
Following is the result of our three months’ work:
- Control Checklist for On-boarding New Clients
- Data Entry Control Checklist for On-boarding a Job in our MIS Software
- Gang Jobs Control Checklist and Planner
- A Customer Service Representative’s Daily Routine Checklist
- A Customer Service Representative’s Job Description
- The System Buster Locator for Corrective Action and Preventive Action (Continual Improvement)
- Outsourcing Work Control Checklist
- Estimating Control Checklist
- Sales Person’s Control Checklist for conveying Job Specifications to Customer Service
- Delivery & Pickup Control Checklist for Truck Drivers reporting to Customer Service
Policies for Customer Service
- Obscene or Libelous Material Policy
- Terms & Conditions for Customer Credit Policy
- Over-runs and Under-runs Policy
- Rework Jobs at Our Cost Policy
- Trade Customs of North America Policies
- Production Scheduling Policy
- Rush Job Policy
- Standard Inks & PMS Ink Policy
- Press Check Policy
- Waiver for Additional Press-checks Policy
- Proofing Online Disclaimer Policy
- CAD Sample Requested by Customer Policy
- Quantity Discrepancy Policy
- Jobs Returned to Production for Additional Work Policy
- Quantity Guarantee Policy
- Turn Time – Production Time Policy
- Email Quotes Out of Enterprise Procedure
- Customer Info Update Procedure
- Uploading Files to FTP site (without Folder) Procedure
- Uploading Files to FTP site (Customer with Folder) Procedure
- FTP Emailed Information Procedure
- Rush Job – Email Notification Procedure
- Job Ticket Filing & Purging Procedure
- Web Orders State Sales Tax Procedure
- Email Customer Status Report Procedure
- Complimentary Gift Box Contents Procedure
- Email Filing Procedure
- Client Christmas Card & Gift Procedure
- Customer Proofs Procedure
- Press Check Procedure
- Many More …
Forms for Customer Service
- Mail Out of House Control Checklist
- Shell Overprint Information Form
- Art Release Form
- Postage Payment Request Form
- Quote/Order Form
- Sample Packet Contents Form
- Many More …
Tips for Customer Service
- Phone Etiquette
- Telephone Habits to Avoid
- Complaining Customers
- Keeping Your Cool Under Pressure
- Keeping Customers Happy
- Professional Service Image
- The Unreasonable Customer
- Many More …
We will continue painting pictures of well-organized, turnkey businesses, with and for owners and managers all over the world. As I shared in the above story, about our world-renowned client’s praise; we soon realized our masterpiece was WORTH MILLIONS.
And, to make the story even better, we got to keep the art.
Did I mention? Great systems work!
Philip Beyer, founder/president of Ebiz Products LLC and founder of Beyer Printing Inc. in Nashville Tenn., is a chronic entrepreneur, business systems analyst and consultant. Author of "System Busters: How to Stop Them in Your Business" and recipient of an InterTech Technology Award for the design and development of System100 business process management software. Beyer speaks to business owners across the country on how to bring lean, sustainable order to their businesses. Contact him at (615) 425-2652.