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, especially as it relates to how company professionals serve their customers. In part four, Tracey Gibbs, Regional Parts Director at Hugg & Hall, ruminates on how customer service can influence customers and their prevailing impression of the company. Gibbs defines customer service as taking care of customers, 24/7, and taking ownership of their needs.
“Making their needs our own,” said Gibbs, referring to how she describes great customer service. “When we go above and beyond to make sure they are up and running, they are pleased with their experience.”
Customer service can alter the way one perceives a company and a single bad experience may negatively impact the way an entire organization is viewed in perpetuity, despite the good intentions of many. Gibbs views customer service as a conduit to company reputation and, fundamentally, characterizes the concept of customer service as treating others as one would like to be treated.
“Customer service is what builds our reputation,” said Gibbs. “It is what keeps our customers coming back to us without hesitation. I expect good customer service everywhere I go, and our customers should expect it from us.”
When asked if she leads with a mission or vision statement in mind, Gibbs noted that she approaches customer service with the attitude that customers should be treated with the same respect and consideration that she expects when served.
“Treat your customers the way you expect to be treated,” said Gibbs. “Customers are the reason that we exist and without them we fail. We should strive to make every experience a good one and if we fall short, we need to learn from it.”
Hugg & Hall branch locations house several different departments, usually under one roof, which include: parts, service, rental and sales. From her perspective, Gibbs has noticed specific challenges that parts professionals face.
“We have so many different equipment lines that it is hard to be an expert at all of them,” said Gibbs, referring to the many brands that the parts departments keep in their inventory and/or can order for their customers. However, even with these challenges, she is proud of the service that the Hugg & Hall parts team provides.
“We have great parts managers and parts specialists in our branches today who have built many strong relationships with our customers,” said Gibbs. “We have a lot of the same customers today that we had when I started working for Hugg & Hall 26 years ago. To me that says you’ve delivered great customer service.”
A policy and culture of great customer service can transcend departments in an organization, according to Gibbs.
“One of the things that sticks with me is something Robert Hall told us years ago, we need to deliver ‘Outrageous Customer Service,’” said Gibbs. “If everyone in every department practices outrageous customer service, it becomes contagious and second nature.”
Some ways that a culture of valuing customer service can be built and proliferate throughout an organization is by harnessing accountability, training and good management, according to Gibbs.
“We should hold everyone accountable for delivering a high standard of customer service,” said Gibbs. “For some people it’s natural and for others it takes some coaching.”
A great way for managers to hold their direct reports accountable is to establish standards through leading by example. “By leading and coaching those values every day,” said Gibbs, when asked what managers can do to inspire workers to value customer service.
However, Gibbs noted, there is some personal responsibility in how one serves their customers and workers should not hesitate to adjust their customer service tactics to get the right result.
“I think that certain parts of customer service are trainable,” said Gibbs. “We can teach the basic customer service skills, but it’s how the individual delivers it that determines how it is perceived. If it’s perceived well and the end result is their satisfaction, then the relationship has begun.”
Just as great customer service can affect an organization for the better, poor customer service can affect an organization negatively. One of the ways this can manifest itself is in reputation among customers.
“A lot of our customers are in the same line of business and they communicate,” said Gibbs. “If one of our customers has a bad experience, news travels fast and it’s hard work to overcome that.”
However, just as it is the responsibility of service professionals to provide exceptional customer support, patrons should allocate value to customer service. When asked whether there is anything frustrating about how people generally view customer service, Gibbs noted that the low value some people place on customer service can be frustrating.
“Sometimes people don’t see the value in great customer service,” said Gibbs. “They want the highest level of customer service for the lowest discounted price. Customer service has value.”
Gibbs is proud of the Hugg & Hall team members that exemplify great customer service and views their service as a tremendous asset to the company, especially as it relates to employees that maintain long-term relationships with their customers.
“We have several long-term employees at the branches I work with that are in the product support sales representative position,” said Gibbs. “I think this is a big asset for us as a company, because that means we have a lot of long-term customer relationships.”
For those seeking to better their customer service skills, Gibbs suggests they learn from some of the best.
“Ride along with some of the good product support sales representatives or salesmen when they are out seeing customers,” said Gibbs.