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E181 | How to Deliver Outstanding Customer Service with Jeff Toister

What do your customers say about you? What sort of customer experience do you deliver? Today’s guest, Jeff Toister, has quite literally written the book (well, four books) on service culture, and he’s here to discuss his latest book – The Service Culture Handbook. 

Jeff has trained over 1 million people in customer service. He has the number one training course on LinkedIn Learning, and he makes a living from being a public speaker and author on this very topic. 

So just how do you guarantee customer experience? What can you do to set your business apart from the competition? 

Don’t miss this fantastic conversation, and listen to the very end where Jeff shares a fantastic exercise for leaders to try – something they can do today to make a difference to the customer service in their organisation. 

On today’s podcast:

  • Do employees need to love the products?
  • What customer experience are you trying to create?
  • What guarantee customer experience looks like
  • How to make a difference tomorrow


Delivering outstanding customer service with Jeff Toister

Jeff Toister’s first customer service interaction ended in a service failure. Vowing to learn from

that experience, he became obsessed with customer service.

Today, Jeff is an author, consultant, and trainer who helps companies develop customer-

focused cultures. He’s written four books including The Guaranteed Customer Experience. And he sends out a weekly email to thousands of customer service professionals around the world, where he shares his Customer Service Tip of the Week. Finally, over 1 million people have taken one of his video-based training courses on Linkedin Learning.

So what can we learn from the master of customer service? 

Do employees need to love the products?

First things first – is it vital that employees love the company and the product in order to be great sales reps?

“I don’t think you have to love a product, it really helps, but you better be curious about it or enthusiastic about it. Otherwise, why would you care?”

And Jeff knows a fair bit about the importance of caring in customer service. 

In his very first job as a customer sales rep, he failed. He was working in a retail clothing store and the person training him spent 15 minutes going over the basics before going on break, leaving Jeff to deal with a customer on his own. The customer was irritated, Jeff couldn’t help, and the customer got angry and stormed out of the shop. 

“In that moment I resolved two things based upon that horrible feeling that I had. One is that I’m never going to let that happen again, I’m going to figure out a right way to handle it. And the second thing is, I don’t want other people to feel the way that I felt. And that’s been my mission ever since.”

Since that fateful day, Jeff’s worked with thousands of employees, helping them improve their customer service and helping leaders improve their management. 

What experience are you trying to create?

The answer doesn’t lie in measuring data, says Jeff. 

“I think we’re confused about why we’re measuring data, we really need to start at the beginning, which is, what’s the experience we’re trying to create for our customer?”

If you can’t answer that question clearly and concisely, how can you deliver that? How can your employees deliver a great experience? It just leads to confusion. 

The starting point, says Jeff, is to define what you stand for. What are you trying to achieve with your business? And then make sure that every single employee in the organisation can answer that question and clearly state what a great experience looks like, and know how they can contribute to it. 

Take REI as an example. REI, says Jeff, exists to help people enjoy the outdoors. Their philosophy permeates through everything they do from their product selection to their support to the retail experience. And their employees don’t necessarily love every product they sell, but they do love the outdoors. And they do love a lot of the products. 

And you can’t recreate this example with training, says Jeff. Too often organisations assume that the solution to everything is training, when in fact, the training only serves to take away from solving the root of the issue. 

“I worked with an airline once where they wanted to offer training to their customer care team… They wanted to give training on how to deal with upset customers, which is great, I think we need to give people those skills. But it was taking them on average 30 days to respond. So maybe start there.”

It’s an obsession about delivering customer service from the top down that makes the difference, says Jeff. 

Guarantee customer experience

Experience guarantees are a great way to differentiate your business from the competition. It’s a way of creating a practical view of customer experience that’s much more tangible. A guarantee is usually associated with a physical product i.e. we guarantee this product won’t break within a year and if it does, we’ll replace it or fix it. 

But what if you applied that very same framework to customer experience? That’s where an experience guarantee comes into place. 

A good guarantee has three things, says Jeff:

  1. The first element is a promise to the customer that provides some level of assurance. 
  2. The second step is you have to actually deliver. You can’t just promise what you say you’ll do, you have to take action and deliver what you’re marketing, what you’re advertising.
  3. The final step is recovery, because sometimes things will go wrong. And recovery is about rebuilding trust. How can you convince the customer that you’ve got it figured out and they can trust you again to do it right next time. 

How to make a difference tomorrow

You can do this no matter what your role is in the organisation, says Jeff. Take a moment to imagine that a customer wrote you a thank you letter, you did something so amazing that they just had to write you a letter and thank you for it. 

And then write that letter down that you would hope to receive. And be specific. Imagine what exactly it was that you did to earn that thank you letter. And once you write it, read that letter every day for three weeks at the start of your work day, and then set an intention to receive that same feedback from an actual person that you serve. 

It’s an immensely powerful exercise that can work for anyone. And all it does is it gets you thinking about the outcomes, says Jeff. 

Book recommendations

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