By Shep Hyken

It’s my favorite time of year… the leaves change from green to gold to red, there’s a chill in the air and the holidays are right around the corner.

And of course, one of my favorite “holidays” is National Customer Service Week, which happens the first full week of October each year. This year it’s October 5-9. Traditionally, Customer Service Week has been the time to highlight and celebrate the great work employees do to take care of their customers. I also believe it’s a time to think about our customers as well.

With that in mind, as this week approaches, now is a great time to ask an important question: What do customers want? Simply, customers want a good experience, and customer service plays a big part in that. It’s more than just the front line interacting with customers. If you have been following my work, you know my belief is that customer service is not a department—it’s a philosophy that is part of an organization’s culture and is everyone’s responsibility. Every employee has an impact on the customer service and the customer experience an organization provides.

So, the next question is what influences a good customer experience? We surveyed over 1,000 consumers as part of our 2020 Achieving Customer Amazement Survey and asked them just that. The top response, with over 65% of respondents in agreement, is that people just want to be treated like a valued customer—with kindness, respect and dignity. Customers are people, not account numbers.

Customers also want the customer service representatives they speak with to demonstrate knowledge and expertise—both about the products and services the company provides, and also about the customers themselves. They want the agents to provide quick solutions to their problems without having to give repeat information over and over again. That goes a long way toward creating a great customer experience.

On the flip side, what influences poor customer service? It’s useful to know what to avoid. The responses we got were pretty common sense (but of course, common sense isn’t always so common!). Rudeness and apathy, not being treated like a valued customer, lack of knowledge and expertise, slow response times and having to repeat information were the top pain points for customers. You’ll notice that these are the opposite of what customers say creates a good experience. Again, common sense.

I’d like to leave you with one final word on this subject—or rather, three words. We asked our respondents to share the three words they felt best exemplified good customer service. The results? Fast, helpful and friendly. This is huge. “Fast” is about creating a convenient experience, something I wrote an entire book on. “Helpful” is about getting answers to questions and solutions to problems. And “friendly” is all about that personal touch—an empathetic human connection—which is even more important than ever these days.

As we move into Customer Service Week, I invite you to remember this information. Share it with your colleagues and employees. Remember, it’s within everyone’s reach to create customer amazement. Without customers, we don’t have a business, but without employees, we can’t take care of our customers.