Thoughts on Leadership: Customer Service Matters for Success

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Northern California, taking meetings, participating in conference calls and digging into the second week of 2018. As an organization, we have very specific Wildly Important Goals (WIGS) to accomplish this year and we’re laser-focused on achieving them.

As part of our 2018 goal alignment, we’re making several changes including switching the name of what was once our Affiliate Assistance Hotline (AAH) to Customer Success Team.

I’ve long been a proponent of offering the highest quality customer service value. In fact, as I always ask: Do you know what the single, toughest thing for the competition to duplicate is? Not just “service” but extraordinary quality service, convenience and value. And do you know why? Because extraordinary quality service, convenience and value requires the most effort. And you know as well as I do that most companies and most people are not willing to put forth the extra effort. Do you know why? Because it’s hard. But it’s the hard that makes you great. It’s the willingness to do the hard that makes you great. It’s the willingness to do the hard that separates you from the competition.

So, now, AAH becomes Customer Success Team and a department created 20 years ago is given a label that more accurately describes what they do. In the beginning, the AAH team was created to give customers the ability to have a single point of contact for all things related to their franchise. Before AAH, a broker, a marketing director, an agent would call someone at the corporate office, be redirected to someone else and then potentially speak with a third person before an answer could be reached.

Another goal of AAH was—and still is—to offload the day-to-day tasks and training that brokers are simply too busy to pursue. We know a broker must spend his or her time running the business; we’re here to take care of the whirlwind of the other everyday challenges. We’re here to ensure your success.

Our Customer Success Team is also always evolving, based on the changing needs of our industry and our network members. In Feb. 2017, we implemented live chat and the initiative was even more popular than anticipated.

Here are some impressive stats:

  • We take about 1,000 individual chats a month, with an average of 60 chats per day.
  • We receive 150 calls per day and about 3,000 to 4,000 emails per month.
  • In this past year, we received more than 70,000 total inquiries.
  • If you call our Customer Success Team, it takes less than two seconds to get someone live on the phone. There is no such thing as getting stuck on hold. (For reference, Zappos, known as one of the best customer service companies, according to Forbes, has a 25-second time between dialing and getting in touch with a representative.)

In addition to dealing with our high volume of inquiries, our Customer Success Team is staffed with employees who work right from our Irvine headquarters and we’re available Monday through Friday, 13 hours each day. Most team members have been with our company for several years and all are expertly familiar with our products and web-based offerings. They also possess a keen sense of empathy and care. When you call our team members, they address you by name and stay on the phone or chat or email with you until your problem is fully resolved. Your success matters to us; that’s again why we give the department a name befitting its mission.

From a practical standpoint, this fun, friendly and intensely effective method of customer service is very much like the lauded customer service representatives at Zappos, often making headlines for their warm, personable interactions with customers. A recent Forbes article revealed that in 2017, the customer service team at Zappos gave out 380 gifts, including a bouquet of flowers to one woman who explained that she had to return a pair of boots because her father passed away and couldn’t wear them.

That level of concern and compassion can be found in our very own Customer Success Team, too. In fact, when our education team or business consultants are out in the field, speaking to a brokerage or holding a training session, they’ll often call our Customer Success Team and without warning, put the call on speaker so the entire room can hear. Then they let participants fire off questions about anything and everything related to our tools, products and services. The unplanned Q&A always goes off without a hitch.

So, what’s the message? It’s of course about customer service and how it is one of the single-greatest competitive advantages and differentiators to any successful business but on a more personal note, it’s also about the dedication and proficiency of our own Customer Success Team. In the coming days and months, you’ll start to see this new name on our marketing materials and Intranet pages. You’ll hear it if you call in with a question. You’ll see it on the email signature if you write to us with a concern. And now, when you ring us and an employee picks up the phone, explaining in that familiar, friendly way that he or she is part of our Customer Success Team, you’ll know exactly why we made the change.

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