Key learning outcomes:
- Understand that customer service is not only about the product or service, but is also about the way it is delivered.
- Establish techniques for demonstrating that a customer is valued.
- Acknowledge the importance of adopting a positive tone when providing a service and personalising the customer experience.
- Identify the need to deliver on your promises to your customers, every time.
Being able to deliver a high level of customer service on a consistent basis can make the difference between success and failure for any business. Customer service goes beyond just providing an excellent product or service; it is about providing it in such a way that the customer is left with a great feeling about the business. When this happens, customers will come back to do business with you again and they will recommend others to do the same. At the end of the day, without customers a business will not survive; therefore, learning the art of providing great customer service is essential to long-term success. This article outlines some of our top tips.
People like to feel that they are valued and important, and recognising this is essential. It is important to acknowledge that you value repeat and regular customers’ business and loyalty. Welcome them back, use their name and say thank you for their repeat business. Having a system in place that alerts you to repeat customers is ideal – think about how well this works for airlines. Frequent flyer programs not only offer customers a benefit and incentive to fly with the same airline, but also allow staff to easily identify repeat customers. When you board the plane and the attendant says, “welcome back, Mr Jones”, the ticketing system has alerted them to your status as a frequent flyer. We are sorry to let you know but it is unlikely the attendant actually remembers you!
When dealing with a new customer, take the time to tell them that you appreciate their decision to deal with you. We saw a great example of this concept in action when in a hotel recently. The person taking us to the room used this dialogue: “We really appreciate that you have chosen to stay with us when there are so many options. We value your business and want to make your stay a special one.” This attitude then flowed through to the rest of the customer service experience throughout the stay.
Maintain eye contact
Eye contact is an effective active listening tool. Looking the customer in the eye when talking to them shows that you value what they are saying and that you are interested. Maintaining eye contact also allows you to monitor the person’s reaction to what you are saying. If their eyes widen and brighten, it is likely that they are responding well to your proposal; if, on the other hand, their eyes narrow or squint it may be that they are not convinced by what you are saying.
The other instance when eye contact is essential is when customers are waiting for service. There is nothing more frustrating for a customer than to walk into a place of business where they can see people working or talking and no one looks in their direction. A simple acknowledgement by looking at the person and indicating that you know they are waiting will keep them calm and will help to convey the message that you value their business.
Create a personalised experience
The more personalised the customer service experience the better. Service providers in the USA are particularly expert at doing this. They make an effort to find out the customer’s name and use it when talking to them. You will also find that service providers in the USA almost always introduce themselves; this helps in building a relationship with the customer. Try to look for ways to incorporate this personal touch into your business and sales process. Your aim is to make the customer feel like they are the most important person in that moment and that they have your undivided attention.
Set the tone
Start with a smile. It is such a simple thing that is easy to do and easy not to do. No matter how you are feeling, it is important to put a smile on your face when you greet a customer. A smile is infectious and helps to create a positive start to your dealings with the customer. Even if you are dealing with someone over the phone, it is important to smile as the tone in your voice lifts and is brighter when you have a smile on your face.
It is not about you
One of the most important things to remember in delivering superior customer service is that it is not about you; it is about the customer. So you are having a bad day, a previous customer upset you or you have an issue at home. Regardless of the reason that you are feeling down, you cannot pass this onto the customer. It is important to ensure that when you are at work you have your game face on. Of course, there will be times when you feel less than 100%; the key is to learn to still perform at your best when this happens.
Imagine that you walk into a store. You greet the salesperson, trade pleasantries and ask “how are you today”. One salesperson replies with “really fantastic, it has been just a great day so far. And how about you?” The other salesperson answers with “oh, not too bad” or “not great, my train was delayed so I was late for work and then my boss went mad at me, and to top it off I notice that it has just started raining.” Not sure about you, but I know who I would rather be dealing with!
Right person for the job
Not everyone is suited to dealing with customers on a daily basis. It is important to ensure that you have the right people in your business dealing with your customers. Typically, these are employees that like people. They are quite extroverted, they are social and they tend to have high levels of energy and enthusiasm. If you put someone who is not suited to dealing with customers into a front-line position, you are setting the employee and the business up for failure.
In today’s fast-paced world, most people equate having to wait with poor customer service. Consumers have become more impatient and demanding, and businesses need to up the ante on service in order to keep pace with them. Look for ways in your business to either minimise waiting times, or if waiting is unavoidable make the waiting time more pleasant for the customer. For example, a beautician may space appointments out to allow for a customer who is late or for an appointment that runs a little over time. In doing this they may treat one less customer each day, but are likely to have a high level of repeat and referral business as they are always on time and are able to provide a relaxed and superior experience for customers.
No matter how good we are, sometimes things do not quite go to plan. Communication is the key when dealing with a difficult customer service situation. For example, if there is an unexpected delay in delivering your product or service, rather than hoping that the client will not mind, it is much better to be on the front foot and let the customer know in advance. Most customer service complaints revolve around issues concerning lack of communication. This may take the form of no communication or where the customer has not been given the complete story. Making a commitment to communicate to every customer with transparency will go along way to helping you to provide a superior level of service.
Just doing what you say you will do, when you say you will do it, will go a long way to helping your business to provide a high level of customer service. Too often businesses make promises that cannot be delivered even when the product or service they are offering is of a high standard. Imagine you phone a hairdresser at short notice seeking an appointment that will have you finished by 3pm, and the hairdresser says “yes, no problem we can fit you in at 2pm”. You get to the hairdresser to find that they are very busy and you wait for almost 30 minutes and your haircut doesn’t finish until 3.20pm. No matter how good the haircut is, you are likely to feel rushed and less than impressed. In this instance, the hairdresser should have delivered what they promised, that is, a 2pm appointment, or they should have been upfront and said “yes we can fit you in but not until 2.30pm, so we will not be able to get you finished until closer to 3.30pm. Would that be ok?” In this case, the customer would have felt more satisfied with the 3.20pm finish.
There is an old saying in business that the customer is always right. Now, while we know that the customer is not always right, we also know that no one really wins an argument with a customer. Even if you feel that you have won, you will have lost the customer and potentially damaged your business through negative word of mouth. It is essential to foster a customer- first mindset in your business. This means that every effort should always be made to satisfy the customer, even if their demands might seem unreasonable. If you are not able to deliver what the person wants, you need to deal with it in such a way that while you might have lost a sale or a deal, you have not lost the customer. There will always be the exception where no matter what happens you are unable to satisfy the customer; however, these instances should be the exception and not the rule.
Customers are the lifeblood of any business. Without them a business cannot survive. It is worth remembering that at the end of the day, it is the customers that are paying the rent, the wages and the bills. At Absolute Best we are passionate about customer service and provide you with a range of learning articles in this section of the website to help build your skills.
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