#09: Adam Toporek: Everything You Have to Know About Exceptional Customer Service
21 July 2016
00:00 00:00 CC Download
“The reality is the better your customer service, the more you’re going to retain your customers. And not only are you going to retain them longer, the better your customer experience is, the more money they will spend with you.”

From today’s episode you’ll learn:

Today's guest

Adam Toporek
Adam Toporek is a customer service expert, keynote speaker and workshop leader. He is the author of Be Your Customer's Hero: Real-World Tips & Techniques for the Service Front Lines, as well as the founder of the popular Customers That Stick® blog. Here's a link to a free pdf that Adam prepared for you: “10 Power Words You Absolutely Must Use.” It can be a handy cheat sheet for all those who work with customers!

Podcast transcript

Hello to you all and welcome to Business Sidekick, a podcast dedicated to growing your online business.

I’m Justyna, LiveChat content writer and marketer.

If you have listened to previous episodes, you already know how to do market research, how to design an amazing website, how to drive traffic to this website and you know the basics of selling, so it’s time to discuss customer service and customer experience.

My today’s guest is Adam Toporek, the author of “Be Your Customer's Hero”, founder of the Customers That Stick blog and a customer service expert.


Hi Adam, thanks for being here!

Hey Justyna, how are you thanks for having me!

I was thinking that everyone is talking about extraordinary customer service, you know the first-class or stellar customer service, but I was wondering what does exactly mean. Because, you know it’s like 2016 and amazing customer service is kind of a benchmark for all industries. So can you tell me what nowadays extraordinary customer service mean?

Well absolutely! We actually use a term at our CTS Service Solutions called hero-class customer service because as you know we have a book “Be Your Customer’s Hero”. And for us, we take a little bit different approach, because there are three things you need for hero-class customer service. And the first is to meet and whenever possible, exceed expectations. The second is to provide a hassle-free, frictionless experiences. And the third one is to do number one and two consistently.

You see, we see all these things about viral stories, big stories about the amazing acts of service. But those aren’t usually scalable, those are usually one time things. And what true extraordinary or five star, five diamond or hero-class customer service really is about, is delivering exceptional customer service, meeting or exceeding those expectations and doing that consistently.

And can you give an example of such customer service?

Oh, absolutely! There are examples all over the place, let’s take the Ritz-Carlton, and that’s obviously a pretty easy example, but they’re known as a great customer experience company. And what they do is, you pay up, it’s a premium hotel obviously, it’s a high-end hotel, but when you go to Ritz-Carlton, you know what you’re going to get. You get a customer-centric culture that revolves around you as a customer.

And they have such great systems, and processes and training, three things that are incredibly important, that they deliver consistent customer experiences. Now it doesn’t mean that they never make mistakes, it doesn’t mean they never get it wrong. But what they do is they are trained to make it right. Even when they do get it wrong, perhaps if they didn’t do anything wrong but the customer’s expectations didn’t match what they provided, they’re trained and they’re empowered to handle those situations and they turn the service issue around.

It’s a very good example! OK, so once we know what the awesome customer service is, can you tell why it is so important?

Yes, there are so many statistics on customer service and you can Google “customer service retention statistics” and you’ll find a few. But the reality is the better your customer service, the more you’re gonna retain your customers. And not only you’ll gonna retain them longer, the better your customer service is, the better your customer experience is, the more money they will spend with you. Also the better your customer experience, the better customer service, the better it is for your staff and your team, it creates some positive environment and you have better retention.

I have impression that many people thinks that customer service starts at the moment when you hire your first agent or representative. So I think that they don’t understand that you’re providing customer service from the very moment when you reply to your first email or answer a call, right?

Oh absolutely, if you haven’t hired anybody and you’re a solopreneur as they call them, and there are a lot of people that are using this business model now, even in that model you are in customer service, if you’re dealing with the customer in any way, you’re in customer service and you have to be focused on customer experience.

OK, so let’s imagine that you’re talking to a small business owner or a solopreneur, and he has just started selling his products and he’s getting first inquiries from their customers, and have no idea how to deliver the awesome customer service. What would be your advice?

Oh, wow, we could probably talk whole day, how long do we have?

A couple more minutes!

A couple more minutes, OK, and I’m not doing it as a shameless plug, but my book “Be Your Customer’s Hero” is for front line, so I would advise that book or get other books, educate yourself, but here’s a place where you can start.

One is you really need to sit down and look at your entire journey. Create a journey map, it really doesn’t have to be anything complicated, but map out your journey and understand what your customers are experiencing. So when you look at your customer’s experience, that is the sum of all the interactions the customer has with your organization.

And if you’re just starting out and you’re new to customer experience and customer service, understand that it doesn’t just mean when you talk to them or when they make a purchase. That means when they see your marketing materials, that means when they see your social media, that means when they’re referred by a friend, every time they’re going to contact with your brand is a part of the experience. All the way through, to their last transaction. One thing to do is to map that process out and understand that journey.

Then, look at each touch points. Look at when they’re shopping on your website. Look at when they’re transacting and purchasing. Look at when there’s a service issue, what type of response time, what’s the team, what type of process you have for issue resolution. Look at all the major touch points and start saying: how can we do this better.

I love this approach because it means that customer service is not about responding on social media or via email, but customer service starts from the moment when the website visitor enters your website!

Absolutely. And then every moment after that is a part of their customer experience.

And do you have any advice on contacting customers directly, for example any email best practices or phone call or chat?

Absolutely. The first is to try to be as hassle-free and effortless as possible. Always be thinking about how you can make whatever the communication medium is, how you can make it easier on customers.

And one of the ways to do that is to respect the medium they’ve chosen. Which means that if they came to you over Twitter, then you should respond on Twitter. If they came to you by email, you should respond on email. Now, that doesn’t mean that you don’t try to move them to another channel that’s more appropriate. For instance of they contacted you on Twitter but it’s a very complicated issue, you obviously gonna wanna move that to phone or email or of course chat, chat is very powerful.

So whatever you can do, try to find the appropriate channel, but always respect the channel they’ve came on because that’s the channel they’ve chosen.

Yeah, that’s very important because a couple of years ago the companies weren’t responding on social media, can you imagine?

Well, absolutely, and there’s a great book on that by Jay Baer that’s called “Hug Your Haters” for people that are just starting with customer service and customer experience. That is an incredible book on social customer service.

OK, and how about responding to emails?

Yeah, first thing is “reply” of course. You know, it can be challenging sometimes, especially if you’re a solopreneur and just have one person in your organization. That can be very challenging. So responding is big. And what I found in recent years and really in last half year, you’ve got to check your spam filter. The spam filters have gotten really bad and have a lot, even in my business, a lot of missed communication both in and out through the spam filter. So believe me or not, I think that’s becoming an important part of customer experience and customer service by email.

The next thing is, understand the common issues. As you’re developing your business and it’s getting bigger and you have more transactions, and you have more service issues, understand what are your top three issues, what are your top seven, ten. Get, and I’m gonna be careful with this word, canned responses. Canned doesn’t mean that you send canned response, but you have a script you can use.

Once you get some good language, use that language, have responses that are ready, but just make sure that you don’t just cut and paste, you cut and paste and then you customize and make sure that you are answering this specific question and customer specific needs. But it can be a great time-saver and can help you not to reinvent the wheel every time, you at least have the basic bones of these common response that are ready.

And a good way also is to provide a self-help, for example by creating FAQ... Sorry, it sounds really improper!

Well thank you!

I mean Frequently Asked Questions section or knowledge base because it’s a part of customer service, right?

Oh absolutely, anything you can… Look at this this way: one of the biggest things we teach is customer effort and removing the hassle factor. And the reality is there’s a huge percentage of your customer base that wants to just solve it themselves as quickly as possible. Especially for non-complicated issue.

So the more you can do on your website and through resources such as an FAQ, video, anything you can do to answer those questions. It’s a win-win. It enables the customer to solve it faster and easier without having to talk to somebody and it of course is more profitable for you!

If your FAQ is just there and you have updated it once in awhile, but it’s just there and it’s not staff time, it’s not a call, it’s not an email.

Yeah, FAQ, this is how I should spell it, thanks! OK, the last question. I have impression that many entrepreneurs are afraid of accepting customer requests if they’re from out of the process. Do you know what I mean, they sometimes don’t want to agree on what customer requested.

I think it’s always a challenge in customer service but my general philosophy is you try to give as much as you can. And don’t worry about that you’re gonna have to set a line.

I think that “slippery slope” is a bad way to look at it. Look at it this way: if somebody asks you for something and you say “this is what we offer, this is all we offer” and you’re drawing a line here as opposed to “OK, this is a small thing, we could give it to them we could make them happy,” but you’re worried that they’re coming back for more, then all you’re gonna do later is to draw an another line.

You’re still drawing a line, you’re still gonna have to basically step up and push back to the customer, what you never want to do if you can avoid it, but it’s reality, sometimes you have to draw a line, you cannot offer everything… So my point is you need to be strategic about how you do it and what really matters.

If you’ve ever had your drink messed up in Starbucks, what do they do? You say: hey, this is wrong, they don’t question you, they don’t push back, they immediately make you another drink and hand it to you. They don’t blink. Why? Because, and I’ve seen different numbers, but the customer lifetime value of the average customer at Starbucks, at least in US dollars, is somewhere like 12.000-14.000 dollars.

Why would they make you mad over a cup of coffee that costs them 50 cents? And that’s the way you should look at it, you should understand the value of that customer and are you really gonna tick somebody off or you’re gonna make a 5 dollar problem into a 500 or 5000 dollar problem.

Exactly. OK, so “give us as much as you can” as the final quote. I love it! Thanks very much for this interview!

Oh, thanks so much for having me, it was fun!

Oh yes, it was fun, however I do hope that you will quickly forget about my small FAQ faux paus!

Especially that Adam has prepared a small gift for all of you: a free pdf “10 Power Words You Absolutely Must Use” which can be a handy cheat sheet for all those who work with customers. You can find the link in this episode’s description on Business Sidekick website,

Also remember that you can find this podcast on iTunes, so don’t forget to show me some love and rate it!

Thanks a lot for listening, all the best!

#Business Psychology #Customer Service


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