The Four Levels of Customer Service

About 10 years ago I was in Denver at a company regional meeting drinking the same water through the same fire hose and hoping someone would find the faucet. It was the afternoon of the third (and final) day and my buns were numb to my knees when, low and behold, one of our regional managers stood up and said something worth writing down.
This was the nugget that was worth the numbness. Here is what she said:

There are four levels of customer service:

1. Accuracy – You don’t get extra points for being accurate, but you lose points when you not. Your invoices are either right or they’re not. Your written correspondence is either written correctly and your spelling is correct or it’s not. You either get a hundred or zero. There is no grading curve.

2. Availability – You are there when your customer needs you. This is the ‘event driven’ level. It makes you feel good, but after the ‘event’, it is easy forgotten by the customer…..until the next event.

3. Problem Solver – You understand your customer’s business and you come prepared with reasonable solutions. Now you’re moving into the deep in of the pool where the big dawgs swim. This is where your true value proposition begins. When you and your customer become ‘bottom line buddies’

4. Trusted Advisor – You sit on the same side of the table with your customer. You are involved in their strategic business decisions. Your opinion is valued. You are a confidant. When the trust is there, the competition is toast.

However, the issue with trust is that it takes a long time to earn, but it can be lost in a second. And once you’ve lost it can never be re-won. Now you’re the one who is toast.

The key to acquiring a reputation as a trusted advisor is being able to prove it. Acting like one doesn’t count.

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