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Soup or salad; 5 keys to exemplary customer service

By: Janet Barber, Vice-President of Operations

The last time I was at a restaurant, a nice young woman waited on our table. She was polite, she was attentive, she was quick and she got everyone’s order correct. Yet, the experience wasn’t much more than a transaction: food in exchange for cash.

Don’t get me wrong, timeliness, accuracy and responsiveness are important, but they don’t create a memorable service experience because those attributes are simply expected. Without them, we would have been dissatisfied.

What was lacking? Caring and relationships, something we pride ourselves on at Trustmark. Did I go in expecting or asking that the wait staff know why we were there? No. But what if she had?  And what if their wait staff made it a point to ask each customer one simple question: “What brings you in this evening?”

Were we there for a celebration? A special occasion? A business dinner? And how might she have created a more memorable service experience had she known? Where should we be seated? What menu items might she recommend? How frequently should she check in with our dinner party?

Reflecting on this got me thinking, what exactly makes service good? At Trustmark, we take service very seriously. And, as I thought about how we operate, I boiled it down to 5 factors that help us provide not just good, but exemplary service.

1.    Listening

Sadly, you are not a mind-reader, nor do you have all the answers. The only way to find out exactly what your customer needs is to ask them and, most importantly, to listen to what they tell you. It’s easy to assume that what’s worked in the past will work for every client, but you can never be certain. Listening to what your client has to say and adjusting to meet their needs will set you up for success.

2.    Flexibility

Maybe the customer isn’t always right, but you still have to be flexible to meet their needs. Sometimes, it can actually be the right thing to tell the customer “no”, but more often than not, you have to be willing to break from your norm to tailor what you’re offering to your customer’s needs. One-size-fits-all solutions are rare and trying to fit all your customers into the same process will only lead to service headaches.

3.    Being proactive

Being proactive is both anticipating the customer’s requests before they ask (of course), but, more importantly, sharing what makes you or your organization unique. What can you offer your customers that they simply wouldn’t find elsewhere? What makes you special to your most loyal customers? Share it and celebrate it!

4.    Caring

People respond to sincerity. It’s important that when you work with a customer, they are able to tell that you genuinely care. At Trustmark, we’ve made caring one of the founding principles of our service model because, frankly, we do care. Especially in the insurance world, where there is so much at stake for all of our customers, being a company that genuinely cares usually shines through and shows our customers just how valued they really are.

5.    Relationships

All of these steps are part of building a relationship with your customers. Too many companies are looking to solve customer issues by “putting Band-Aids” on their problems rather than addressing deeper-lying causes. Keeping this in mind and focusing on building a lasting relationship with your customer helps to deliver superior service. Not only are you setting them up for long-term success, but over time you become more familiar with one another and better equipped to meet their needs. 

Customer service matters; 62 percent of B2B customers make additional purchases after a positive customer experience.1 Good service requires listening and caring about the people you’re working with and I’m always proud that our Trustmark team delivers on that for our customers. 

1 “Customer Service: The Journey to an Effortless Experience”. DHL. March, 2017.