A great business with a great product will only stay a great business if the customer is satisfied. No matter how terrific the sales staff is, the actual measurement of success is the customer coming back for more. A customer who gets substandard service when they call in with questions or issues is not going to buy again. This is especially true if they can get the same product and better customer service elsewhere, even if it will cost them a little more.
Think about it, is there a website, retail store, or restaurant that you avoid, simply because you received poor customer service? Thanks to Yelp, you don’t have to be on the receiving end of the bad service to choose to look elsewhere for what you need. Customer service reputations are the life’s blood of any business that counts on repeat buyers.
I thought about all the customer service training I received over the years and put together a list of those things that seem to be universal, regardless of the type of business.
1. RESPECT THE CUSTOMER!
If a customer has an issue and reaches out to you for a solution, regardless of their attitude and emotions, they come first. I will say it again for those in the back – THE CUSTOMER COMES FIRST! The customer may not always be right, but you never let them know it. A client with an issue is not a bother or an annoyance. They chose to buy your goods or services, so you owe them gratitude and your undivided attention. Their problem could very well be an opportunity to fix a more significant issue or find new solutions for all your customers.
“To say that a person feels listened to means a lot more than just their ideas get heard. It’s a sign of respect. It makes people feel valued.”Deborah Tannen, author and professor of linguistics, Georgetown University
10 Quotes to Inspire Active Listening By Robert Half
on The Robert Half Blog – April 22, 2015
2. KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER
Most industries have a customer avatar in mind while designing their CRM systems. The idea is to capture the general information, relevant to your services or business relationship, about the average customer. Where you can step up the game is to make a note of those things about your client and their business that may be unique or set them apart from the average.
When the customer calls, get their name and use that name. You should take a moment to review the notes from any previous issue or call. Acknowledge that you talked with them, or know they spoke with another person at your firm about the current issue or a past issue. A customer should never feel like merely one of many – they should feel valued. They should be valued! Without them, there is no business.
3. REMAIN CALM, COOL, AND COLLECTED
Dealing with customer issues is not the best place to be matching energies. The customer can be intense because they have a deadline, or they are confused or have a boss breathing down their necks. You need to be the calming force that puts them at ease. That isn’t to say you have to take abuse, but you do not have to take ownership of their bad day. Let them know you understand the issue and that you are committed to assisting them in finding the solution.
4. BECOME AN ACTIVE LISTENER
Real listening is not merely waiting for your turn to talk. Listening is a skill that you hone over time. You need to quiet your mind and truly hear them out. Pay attention not only to what the customer is saying but how they are saying it. There are nuances and verbal cues that help you best decide how to approach a solution for them. Even if they sound belligerent and angry, they need you to hear them. Often, after letting them vent their spleen over the issue at hand, they are more receptive to the calming reassurance that you are there to help. They should never feel worse for calling – they should feel heard.
5. IF IT’S YOUR ERROR– OWN IT & FIX IT
When a customer calls with an issue, to them, you are the company. Once you get all the information from the client, let them know that you acknowledge the problem and will get to the bottom of it – or get them to somebody who can. If the issue at hand turns out to be an error on your side, take ownership. We are all human, and mistakes will happen. Be sure to take ownership and FIX IT gracefully. Don’t ever give in to the temptation to justify the error or – even worse – attempt to shift part of the blame onto them. Fix the problem, then make changes in your systems to eliminate the probability of the same error happening again.
6. TAKE QUICK ACTION
Once the issue is clear, act fast. Solve the problem for the customer now. Work on preventing future occurrences after they are satisfied. Your customer’s time is valuable to them, so it needs to be valuable to you, too. They need to feel that you are acting in their best interests, not yours. Quickly responding shows them that you value what they value. Acting fast does not mean rushing them or giving them the impression you’re in a hurry to get them off the phone. Just respond early and, if the solution or investigation takes time, keep the customer updated throughout the entire process. Problem resolution should always be on the front burner and continuously monitored until finished.
7. PLAY THE LONG GAME
Building a relationship of trust is creating a path to loyalty. Loyal clients are like unicorns; once you find one, you never want to let it go. This relationship is why you need to encourage your people to go that extra step, to do the unexpected extra that wows the customer. Businesses still count on referrals, and a referral from a loyal customer is like having a unicorn that markets for you – for free. Feed your unicorns on a steady diet of excellent customer service, so they remain loyal customers for life.
8. SHARE YOUR TOYS
We all have them, those special tools of the trade that we keep to ourselves to help us do tasks or check things. If you have a non-proprietary tool that is available to a customer that will help them prevent issues in the future – help them help themselves – share it. Whether it’s a website, a document with instructions, a chart or cheat sheet, SHARE IT. They will always think of you when they use it, and that is branding you cannot buy.
9. KEEP YOUR WORD
Deliver on promises. Think long and hard before making promises to customers. Your word is your bond – your reputation. It can be ruined nearly overnight if you cannot make good on promises. If you fail to keep your word, your reputation will suffer almost immediately, thanks to the internet, especially social media. Even if you apologize and make good on the promise later, you’ve tainted the relationship and disappointed a customer. Once you do make a promise – KEEP IT
“A promise is the words that we say to declare our intent. Commitment is my willingness to do whatever it takes to keep my promise.”Brandie Hinen – Ep. 37: Conversations for Action Promoting Implementation and Accountability (on Spotify) by Spot On Insurance | Dec 5, 2017
10. TRAINING, TRAINING, TRAINING
Education is empowering. A well-trained staff will be able and willing to handle customer issues and provide excellent service. Knowledge is a tool, and a leader’s job is to make sure that the staff has the right tools to do their jobs. The more your team knows, the less likely your customer is ever to hear, “I don’t know.” I’m not suggesting that each staff member has to know everything. What I mean is that a knowledgeable staff member knows who can genuinely help, and say, “I know who can help you, let’s have them join us …”
“Most organizations nowadays have some form of employee development and training. There are numerous obvious benefits to training, such as ensuring your employees have specific skills …”Amber Kilpatric – 8 Training & Development Ideas for Your Employees
Empowerment, granted to the staff through continuous training, will go a long way in building trust between customers and staff and between staff and management. The team will feel that management trusts them enough to make correct decisions that will help solve customer issues, and the customer will feel they are dealing with staff that knows their stuff.
I have been in the customer service game for a long time, but I hope I am never finished learning. If you have some fantastic customer service ideas or stories, please share them with me at firstname.lastname@example.org or message me on LinkedIn.