Henry Ford once said, “a business absolutely devoted to service will have only one worry about -profits. They will be embarrassingly large”. It may sound a little simplistic but there is certainly truth behind this observation.
Good customer service is the lifeblood of any business or organisation.
You can offer promotions and reduce your rates to attract new customers but unless you can get some of those customers to come back, your business won’t be profitable for long. Let's face it, if we don’t take care of our customers, someone else will.
Good customer service is all about bringing customers back. This involves sending them away happy – happy enough to pass positive feedback about your company to other potential customers, who may then try your products or service for themselves and in their turn become repeat customers.
Good customer service needs to be driven by management and is of equal importance for all staff. Here are some basic tips that may help keep you on track:
1) Encourage Good Phone Etiquette
Let's start with the basics. Most people today are on a very tight schedule so when they take the time-out to contact your company, they do not want to wait or listen to a long automated message. Here are some simple phone tips that can make a big impact:
If possible, ensure that phone calls come into a main-switch area and create a policy that the phone MUST be answered within 3 rings.
Write down the customer's name as soon as you take the call and use the name when saying goodbye. It shows the customer that you have been listening.
If the person who they wish to speak to is busy, either take a detailed message or ask them if they would like to go through to their voicemail. Always give the option of taking a message as many people dislike speaking to answering machines.
Ensure that the message is clear and concise and that it is dealt with immediately. Try to give the customer an indication of when they can expect a follow-up but do not over-promise. Include this deadline in your message.
Always conclude each call with a "Thank you" or some message of appreciation for their business.
Ensure that your staff are friendly, courteous and professional at all times. It costs nothing to be friendly but it leaves a lasting impression.
2) Don’t make promises unless you WILL keep them
Reliability is one of the keys to any good relationship, and good customer service is no exception. If you tell a customer you will call him/her tomorrow, make sure you call tomorrow, if not sooner. Otherwise, don’t say it. The same rule applies to customer appointments, deadlines, etc.. Think before you give any promise – because nothing irritates a customer more than a broken promise.
3) Listen to your customers
From a customer's point of view there is nothing more exasperating than telling someone what you want or what your problem is and then discovering that person hasn’t been paying attention and needs to have it explained again. Let your customers talk and show them that you are listening by making the appropriate responses. Take notes at meetings and follow-up with an email to clarify everything that has been discussed and agreed with your client.
4) Get to know your customers
Get to know your customers and their interests. Everyone makes small talk at a meeting but next time actually listen. Write down the details if you have to and remember them so that you can engage the customer. This personal attention combined with a professional approach will help to build lasting customer relationships.
5) Deal with complaints immediately
No one likes hearing complaints and unfortunately many people have developed an attitude that you can’t please all the people all the time. What's worth remembering is that if you give a complaint your dedicated attention, you may be able to alleviate the situation. Dealing with a complaint professionally can have an extremely positive effect and is one of the greatest indicators of good customer service.
Here are some key tips:
If a customer is irate, allow them to talk and do not interrupt. Often once they have vented their anger, they are more willing to listen.
Help to alleviate anger or stress by apologising.
Try to find a 'solution' to the customer's problem, however difficult that may be. Make sure that this solution is acceptable to them and get their approval, in writing where possible.
Follow-up on your solution. Contact the customer to make certain that everything has been handled in a satisfactory manner, and they are pleased with the outcome.
6) Train your staff to ALWAYS be helpful and knowledgeable
Everyone in your company needs to understand the importance of good customer service. Explain how important it is and what is expected from everyone that represents your company. Most importantly, give every member of your staff enough information and power to make small customer-pleasing decisions, so that each inquiry can be dealt with as quickly as possible and customers do not have to wait for someone else to call them back.
A good tip here is to cross-train all your staff so that they understand your products and services and can answer customer questions, even if they are not the key contact in this area.
7) Take the extra step
Doing something small that may not even fall within your job description can make all the difference when it comes to customer service. This could be simply looking up a number for a customer or offering advice where needed. Whatever the step may be, your customers will notice when you make an extra effort and will tell other people.
Always ask if there is anything else you can do for your customer. Taking the time to ask this question can often result in repeat business.
These are just some basic principles, which, if followed, will help to set up the framework for good customer service in your organisation. While personal relationships are important, it's important that you combine this with the utmost of professionalism and this means meeting your deadlines, going that extra step and getting to know your customer.
By providing exceptional customer service, you are converting ordinary customers into lifelong customers. Good customer service will also encourage word of mouth, which will bring in more new customers and help you develop a long-term reputation as a quality service provider.
Article submitted by Breda Newell, Marketing Consultant, Proactive