Hugg & Hall Equipment Company is dedicated to providing excellence in customer service. The company strives to continuously improve and created the “Customer Service Series” as an outlet for sharing customer service ideas and strategies with the purpose to both enhance the experience of the Hugg & Hall customer and to provide a place for collaborative thinking.
Customer service is a concept that elicits various ideas and strategies. Hugg & Hall created the Customer Service Series to provide a place for ideas and collaboration, as it relates to customer service. Recently, Tom Mitchell, Regional Director of Parts at Hugg & Hall, shared some of his ideas and strategies on customer service.
“Great customer service is identifying what the customer needs and using all your resources to figure out how to get them a solution to their need, at a good price,” said Mitchell.
Mitchell took time to identify the reasons customer service, and the approach companies take to provide it, can be so important.
“Customer service is what differentiates us from something like Amazon, which has no customer service,” said Mitchell. “You just search around and find for yourself what you think you need and then assume the risk. Good customer service is having a relationship with someone who will dig into what your problem really is, even on nights and weekends, and come up with a solution to solve your problem. It differentiates you from competitors.”
“A policy of great customer service will gain you business and it will keep your business,” said Mitchell. “We’re not the least expensive provider of forklift and heavy equipment services in town, we’re not, and yet people do business with us and it’s because we have good customer service. We follow through. It’s word of mouth. If good customer service will get you business, bad customer service will lose you business. That same activity will either gain or lose you business.”
Managers should train by example and set expectations through proactively conveying customer service skills to their direct reports, according to Mitchell.
“I think managers can teach their team customer service by example,” said Mitchell. “You can tell them all day long but when the chips are down, they’ll watch you as a manager, and see how you react, and then come in right behind you and react that way. You set the expectation and then they’ll follow you.”
Mitchell noted that training is especially important when companies and departments are striving to improve customer service procedures.
“We need to have our people as trained as they can be, with full respect for the time they need to be with their families and for their efforts here at Hugg & Hall,” said Mitchell. “But they need to be trained, they need to be courteous and they need to know that sometimes their customers are upset. They need to be prepared for that and to manage the situation as best as they can.”
It’s especially important that parts professionals be very familiar with the equipment, according to Mitchell.
“For us, it’s about having a knowledgeable and trained staff that knows the equipment, inside and out, and can quickly provide answers to frustrated customers,” said Mitchell.
When asked if he has a customer service mantra or mission statement, Mitchell noted that the most important thing (in the parts division of the company) is to quickly assist customers with their issues so as to minimize downtime and optimize productivity.
“All I know is that we need to get the customer back up and going,” said Mitchell. “I suppose if I had a slogan, it would be ‘no down time.’ That’s our goal.”
Great customer service is something that most professionals seek to provide their clients. Poor customer service is often a result of frustration and a lack of focus. In order to maintain great customer service throughout frustrating situations, Mitchell advises professionals to slow down and take the time to find appropriate solutions.
“I think sometimes you get too busy,” said Mitchell. “Sometimes you have distractions. Sometimes other priorities get in the way. When those things happen, we aren’t all at our best. You have to slow down enough to know what the customer’s need is and then either solve it yourself or find out who in the company can, as quickly as possible.”
For those hesitant to invest time and resources with the purpose of improving an organization’s customer service procedures, it’s important to know the impact of both positive and negative customer experiences.
“When you have customers speak well of you and your efforts, who can be a reference for you which can lead to more business, that is the perfect manifestation of good customer service and how it impacts your business,” said Mitchell.
Mitchell elaborated on the importance of transparency, reliability and efficient communication as it relates to interacting with customers throughout challenging situations.
“If you say you’re going to call somebody back in an hour with a report, you’re going to call them back in an hour because the last thing you need is another failure,” said Mitchell. “They need to recognize that you’re solving the problem, and even if you don’t have all the information, you’re not afraid to go back into the lion’s den and take another beating, if that’s what it takes, but you’re going to call them in an hour and give them what you know. You can’t exacerbate the problem. You have to continue to work toward a solution.”
Customer service is paramount throughout competitive industries. A special challenge for companies striving to stand out among many competitors is to find strategies that don’t simply meet the standards of good customer service but meet and exceed those standards.
“There are certain tactics that you can use in customer service that are over and above standard courtesies, and you should have some standard of civility and standard courtesy,” said Mitchell. “But over and above that, you need to know fundamental things about what people’s general expectations are and how best to meet them. And if not, then go run the traps to try and find the answers but never lose contact with the customer. Good customer service is always following through with your commitments. That is trainable.”
When asked what he would advise those seeking to improve their customer service skills, Mitchell suggested identifying mentors to learn from and imitate.
“I would advise those seeking to better their customer service skills to find a mentor,” said Mitchell. “Someone who they believe does a good job or someone their boss thinks does a good job. I would advise them to try to imitate them and do whatever they can do to be like that person.”