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Leadership for Life – Customer Service
Our Leadership experts will be sharing tips and insights for everyone, at any station in life, at both home and work. Leadership for Life – the skills you embrace represent who you really are at all times.
If you’re a business leader, it will come as no surprise to you that for any business to succeed, you need to have satisfied customers – the more the better. In order for customers to be satisfied, their needs must be met. Take a moment to think about what customers need in order to ensure their satisfaction. Then we’ll see if your list corresponds with mine …
The first thing a customer needs is a product that works the way it’s supposed to. Customers expect that when they pull the product out of the box, it will do whatever it’s supposed to do, without a hassle. Have you been tracking that? If not, you need to put together some kind of feedback mechanism or customer survey to help you gather that information. If you have too many customers who are dissatisfied with their purchases, you have a problem! You’ve probably heard that satisfied customers will take their satisfaction for granted, and may or may not tell others. But a dissatisfied customer will likely tell a great many people about their bad experience, and you won’t hear about it until your sales begin dropping off. A formal method of surveying your customers enables you to get the bad news quickly and allows you to make the product improvements necessary in a more timely way.
Many products have a natural life span and will need to repaired or otherwise serviced after a while. Do you offer that kind of service to your customers? Whether you offer it yourself or outsource it to a service facility, it’s your responsibility to make sure that the customer’s problem is being solved within a reasonable time and for a reasonable cost. Whether you sell sun glasses, smart phones, or printers, besides inconveniencing your customer, a product that’s out of service for too long deprives you of the advertising and good public relations that come from your product’s visibility. When was the last time you took a long, hard look at your service policies and practices?
Customers want help in getting done what needs to be done in a timely way, without having to jump through hoops. The best way to ensure that you’re doing this is to put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Try calling your own customer service line and see what happens. Do you have a real human answering the phone? If you have an automated system, is it easy to navigate without having to push too many buttons? Is there a quick and easy way to skip through the automated choices and get to a person? Most importantly, have you asked your customers what kind of service system they want? If your customers are mainly young people, who are likely to be pretty technologically savvy, they might be OK with – or even prefer – an automated system. On the other hand, if your customers are mainly older people – say, over 50 – they will likely prefer to speak directly to a person. To ensure you satisfy as many customers as possible, it’s probably best to have a system that allows the customer to make the choice about how he or she will get help.
If much of your service takes place in a person-to-person mode, have you trained your employees and empowered them to do what’s necessary to satisfy the customer? Customers don’t like to be kicked around among several people in order to get what they need. Your front-line people need to be able to solve most customer problems themselves. You should have clear criteria for escalating a problem beyond a front-line employee. In general, the longer a customer has to wait for an issue to be resolved, and the more people he or she has to talk to, the less satisfied that customer will be.