Being a customer advocate

Recently, a friend liked an article on Facebook that caught my attention. It is a wonderful story about Panera’s clam chowder being specially made for a dying grandmother. It is very clear that the manager went above and beyond with a very simple gesture.

It made me think about how I define great customer service. While the Panera story is clearly recognized as an example of superb service, it’s also a sign that the little things (including those that may go unnoticed) can lead to the best service.

Many service organizations define their products as their expertise in an area, such as IT consulting, home repairs or digital design. When choosing which organization to work with, clients often make the decision based on their differences in expertise. We know this, and acknowledge that one of our most marketable assets is the quality expertise we can offer clients.

However, in some cases, expertise can be hard to measure or compare. In others, successful delivery is dependent on more than just a high level of expertise.

I would argue that the true measure of great customer service comes not from a firm’s expertise but from the level of customer advocacy being displayed. Here’s a great example I experienced this week:

We were discussing the relatively benign task of revamping the login for a customer’s website. The customer had a specific request for where the login capability should exist. Unfortunately, in our expert opinion, this could have hampered the overall user experience. As we debated the best way to solve the problem, the account manager passionately maintained that we needed to find a solution that would both meet the customer’s request and provide a seamless user experience. Afterwards, she felt the need to apologize to the team for “being hard” on us, though we recognized that she was simply standing up for what was best for the customer. The best part: we all knew that there was obviously no apology needed.

Oh yeah, and the customer loved the idea.

The customer doesn’t know about our internal process and really doesn’t need to. They only need to know that we have their best interest in mind, which is evident in the design they receive.

Will this story end up on Facebook with hundreds of likes? Not likely. This will simply be an example I share with my team as a reminder that to successfully provide great service to our customers, we have to strive to do what’s right for them.

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