by Steve Adubato, PhD

Great customer service is about making someone feel special. It is about making him or her feel like for that limited period of time, he or she is the only one that matters.

Consider the following scenario. Joe calls his attorney who is handling a very sensitive and important matter for him. He has known this attorney for years and the lawyer charges $400 an hour because he is considered one of the best in his field. At those prices, you’d expect great customer service and personalized attention. Yet, recently, Joe got very frustrated by what he perceived as a lack of responsiveness on his lawyer’s part regarding a particular issue in his case.

After Joe let his lawyer know how upset he was, the lawyer shot back; “Hey, Joe, do you think you are the only client I have? I don’t have your file memorized. I need to be in court in the morning, I’m taking depositions all afternoon and I just came back from vacation. It’s okay with you if I go on vacation, isn’t it?”

At that moment, Joe couldn’t imagine why he was still paying this guy $400 an hour to give him such poor customer service, not to mention attitude.

Q—Isn’t the lawyer right on some level? Joe isn’t the only client he has. What’s wrong with the lawyer just being honest?

A—It doesn’t matter how many clients the lawyer has. That’s the lawyer’s, not the client’s, problem. Great customer service is about making everyone you interact with feel as if he or she is the only person that matters at that moment. There are no exceptions.

Q—But what if you are really being pressed on several levels by many customers? How do really give any individual that kind of attention?

A—Discipline, practice and making great customer service a priority. It is also the ability to stay in the moment and empathize. Your customers don’t care what you did before or what you are going to do after you interact with them. All they care about is their situation and they have a right to expect that you will do everything you can to help them solve their problem, regardless of what other pressures you face and particularly when they are paying top dollar. The professionals who understand that reap big dividends.

Q—So what exactly IS the payoff for extraordinary customer service?

A—First off, loyalty. Any customer who receives this kind of service is going to be hard-pressed to go anywhere else. This can translate into a lot of repeat business. Further, when customers feel as if you’ve gone the extra yard for them, they are bound to tell others; “Hey, Bob. I heard you are looking for an attorney. You should really check out Mary Jones. She is terrific. Every time I reach out for her, she gets back to me right away and is so helpful. If you want, I’ll be glad to call her for you.” You can’t pay for that kind of promotion. Word of mouth is still the best advertisement.

Another payoff is the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve made a difference in a customer’s life. Some say it’s not personal, it’s only business. Well, don’t believe it. When you help someone solve a big problem or provide the kind of service that improves their quality of life, that’s not just business, that’s VERY personal.

Write to me with an example of extraordinary customer service you experienced recently. What made it so special and how did it make you feel?