Customer Service Tips

By on May 15, 2010
Customer Service Tips

The customer is always right-right? Regardless of whether you agree with this statement, satisfied customers are loyal customers! Loyal customers keep you in business with repeat visits and referrals. On the other hand, an unhappy customer is like a cancer cell that will spread the word of a company’s bad reputation. As a business owner, one should always strive to improve customer service, and better yet, achieve superior customer service that sets your business apart from the competition. To set the tone, it’s all about being proud of what you do by giving your best in every part of your business. Your best is reflected in your company through effective, awesome customer service!

First Impressions

Superior customer service can be achieved, and it starts with the first impression you make with a customer, known as the “moment of truth.” Think about it, at one point in every day, a customer comes in contact with one of your employees. Your entire reputation, as a company, is in that employee’s hands, and makes a lasting impression. In that moment, we speak to our customers in a voice that is louder than all our community involvement programs, advertising, and public relations campaigns put together.

Your employees should be properly trained before they wait on customers, it will be worth it in the long run. Prior to hiring your new person, make sure a reference check has been completed, along with a role play of customer service etiquette. See how fast they react to you!

Create a career development plan for your team and perhaps also a Nominee Card “You Made the Difference” program that enables customers to recognize employees who have gone out of their way to provide outstanding service. These cards can then be used by managers to select the Employee of the Month and award prizes to team members who have “gone the extra mile.”

Listen To Customers

There is nothing worse than making a customer feel like you don’t care by displaying improper customer etiquette by not listening to them whether they are browsing or approaching you with a complaint. You and your staff should always listen carefully. Superior customer service means surpassing customer needs. When you take the time to listen carefully, you and your staff can obtain the information you need to meet customer needs, as well as adding extra value that gives that “wow” factor that is so important, think about it, everyone wants to be Wowed! Have you wowed your customers lately? Have you given them service beyond the call of duty? If not, you may be surviving, but you’re not building the base of customer loyalty needed in today’s market. Go ahead. Wow your customers! Today at work, make it your goal to wow one customer. Give him or her some service that goes beyond the bare minimum and exceeds the customer’s request. Then look for the wow in their eyes.

On-Line Customers

Gandhi once said, “A customer is the most important visitor on our premises and he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.” Businesses, both on and off-line would do well to heed this advice. Sadly, not all do so, and they pay the price for it in terms of loss sales, it is the perception of loss that often leads to complaints. Unfortunately the world wide web experience for many has become an impersonal place for shopping. Because of this, numerous on-line customers may not feel loyalty to any particular company. There are instances where on-line customers feel quite secure in displaying their dissatisfaction through angry anonymous emails.

Proper email etiquette and efficient telephone service skills come in handy when you’re dealing with an online customer. Remember to stick to the point, when a customer asks a particular question, make sure you answer it and do not divert from the main topic of discussion. Respond to all the questions or concerns of the customer’s email. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. It is never pleasant to receive an email from a business owner or a customer service representative that does not address our concerns or gave a canned response to questions or requests. However this type of response is just what some on-line businesses do either purposely or inadvertently. Don’t let your company fall into this response trap. Always be friendly, helpful and courteous – treating your customers and fellow team members as you would like to be treated.

You should always end emails or calls on a high note. Customers remember the last words spoken or written, because it is all about how you make them feel. People look forward to customer representatives with a genuine fondness for people and patience beyond measure. Remember customer retention is always number one.

Answer Calls Promptly With a Smile

If you have a customer telephone line, be sure you are staffed to answer calls properly and promptly. Overwhelmingly, consumers prefer a live-person answer to a recorded cold prompt menu. Answer calls before three rings and have a smile in your voice. Train phone reps to answer with a brief introduction and ask how they can assist the customer. One trick is to simply smile while talking. A smile helps create a cheerful voice and attitude. When customer’s calls are answered immediately, they feel important and know that their business matters. If necessary always ask the customer if they may be placed on hold and attempt to eliminate transfer calls whenever possible and always ensure that your team member is knowledgeable about your company’s products and services. That’s superior customer service.

The Customer May Not Always Be Right

Customers will complain, but superior customer service doesn’t mean bowing to every customers demand! You and your staff do have the power to satisfy a complaint. Replacing a damaged product is an obvious solution. However, when a product works as promised, or the service is delivered as promised, and a customer is still not satisfied, you may have to look outside the box. That may mean asking the customer what it would take to satisfy them such as a refund, or exchange. If their demands are unreasonable, tell them so and suggest an alternative solution. Call your supervisor or manager if you feel you cannot satisfy your customer’s needs. Always look for a mutual solution. Consider a customer complaint as an opportunity to improve your service or products. It is invaluable feedback and you must avoid taking a complaint personal at all cost.

Always Give Extra Value

Superior customer service means that your quality beats the competition in both service and product. Think about this, do you think your photography business would profit by giving away free portraits on Halloween? The next time all those customers, or their friends, think of a need for photography services, who do you think they’ll call? Always go the extra mile. Give extra value with your products. Think of what extras you can give…Your customers will think you are superior when you do. Always think of what you want in superior service!

Stay In Touch

While being sensitive to customer needs can boost your business, you can go a step further by keeping in touch with your customers on a regular basis. When and where possible, gain information on your customers such as birthdays or anniversaries and remember to send them a card once a year. I know my insurance company does this for me, which always remind me that someone cares! Also you can send a card just because you appreciate their business. If you can’t get the information you need, try a monthly newsletter or holiday cards around key holidays of the year in order to stay connected. This will not only make customers feel special, but aids you in maintaining a list of regular customers who look to you in order to fulfill their needs. Make it a point to inform them about any new service or product added to your existing services. This will help you generate more business as they will recommend these products and services in their social circles or perhaps order new products or services themselves. Most importantly, don’t forget to thank your customers for choosing to do business with you. Customers will surely appreciate these small gestures and will be happy to be associated with you. Effective customer service is necessary to foster a customer-friendly caring attitude. By providing excellent customer service, you convey an important message to your customer – we care. The word tact means using adroitness in handling other people’s feelings. In awkward or embarrassing moments tact saves everyone’s blushes.

Finally, if you practice these responses until they are as familiar to you as breathing, you are guaranteed to retain great customer relationships! Always exceed customer expectations with superior service!

Your first step in learning more about our customer service solutions is to contact Don Robison at 314-539-5305.

About Karin Fowler

Karin is the Senior Program Manager and Customer Service Business Practice Leader at St. Louis Community College, Workforce Solutions Group (WSG) Division, where she manages the Metropolitan Education Training (MET) Center. She manages and develops workshops in Customer Service, Career Development, Resume Writing, Interviewing and Leadership skills. She has been a Customer Service Business Practice Leader and Facilitator with the Workforce Solutions Group since July 1999. Karin has extensive experience in the areas of customer service development, training and delivery. In addition, she also manages on-site contracts to develop and deliver training for displaced and adult workers for coaching and career strategies. Karin consistently receives high praise on course evaluations with such comments as - “Karin’s inner personal attitude makes you want to be better,” “Helped me take a look at myself and helped me with better customer service; “Kept the audience involved” and “Karin re-integrated main points as examples during our group discussions and activities.”

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