How to Deliver Great Customer Service
A widely quoted statistic gets to the heart of the value proposition behind customer service: The cost of acquiring a new customer is five times that of retaining an existing one. For businesses that succeed by forming a bond with the customer, the disparity is surely even greater.
Good customer service is essentially a variation on the golden rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated. If people believe that they're being remembered and are known to your business, that will have a positive impact on their disposition toward your business.
Providing good customer service is often a matter of common sense, but that doesn't mean it comes naturally to everyone. For some, in fact, it means behaving differently than they do in other business situations. If you are used to fighting about every detail of a business deal, you may have to adjust your attitude. The same goes if you feel that selling is a zero-sum game; to win customers, you will sometimes have to make them feel they have won, too. Here are some important steps to help you with great customer service.
Caring for Customers
Great Customer Service Begins with You
You must lead by example. If you are enthusiastic and courteous, others will want to do the same.
A Culture of Customer Service Must Be Codified
Start by hanging on the wall a set of core values, 10 or fewer principles that include customer service ideals. We have seven and they are as follows: Customer Success Comes First, Take Ownership, Think More, Improve Everything, Congratulate the Victory, Persevere, and Customer Success Comes First.
Employees Are Customers, too
Companies renowned for their customer service treat employees as they would have their employees treat their customers. Employees take on more responsibility because they know they are appreciated and an important part of the team. People who don't feel like they're part of the bigger picture, who feel like a small cog in a big machine, are not willing to go the extra mile.
Not every business can afford to shower staff with generous pay and benefits, but not every business has to. Small companies can show "intense interest" in employees, in their welfare, their families, and their future. It's also important to recognize an employee “publicly” for a job well done. Some companies also offer incentives for exceptional customer service, but if you can't spare the cash, you might throw an office party or offer another token of appreciation.
Emphasize the Long Term
Short-term sales incentives can sometimes undermine long-term customer satisfaction. Prevent that by building short-term programs atop an ongoing program that rewards broader improvements. Moreover, winner-take-all incentives can drive a lot of unhealthy competition and disengage the rest of the sales force. You improve sales performance by much greater percentages when you improve the performance of the large group in the middle of the bell curve.
Use your customer's name whenever you can. And sometimes you have to give to get. Going the extra mile by showing the customer you care about making them successful, can build a lot of trust.
The best salespeople spend 80 percent of their time listening, not talking. Ask open-ended questions to elicit a customer's needs and wants. Once they've identified what they're looking for, use their words throughout the process, that way, they've sold it for you.
Sometimes It's the Little Things That Matter
Small gestures that anticipate customers' needs or attend to their comforts, such as offering a cold glass of water on a hot day or a children's area with toys, go a long way toward winning them over.
If You Can't Help a Customer, point to an Establishment That Can
And saying "You might try Smith's, on Main Street" won't make nearly as strong an impression as confirming that Smith's has the item in question and giving directions to their location on Main Street. This is the ultimate in customer service, and guaranteed that customer will be back.
Show Your Appreciation
One important element of retaining customers is communication. Personalize the thank-you note after a deal or perhaps a follow-up phone call is also a nice touch.
Treat Your Best Customers Better
If your company relies on a relatively small number of clients to provide a disproportionately large share of revenue, it makes sense to devote a disproportionate amount of time and energy to serving them. (Think of airlines and the escalating benefits in their frequent-flier programs.)
Resolving Customer Disputes
It's bad enough when a customer is unhappy with your product or service. But if the attempt to redress the problem is frustrating or fruitless, it makes matters much worse. A satisfied customer may tell one or two friends about your company, but an angry customer will tell at least 10. Some aggrieved customers can never be placated, but, more often, successful dispute resolution lies with a caring and qualified customer service representative.
Solve the problem when it occurs. Give the people who are the first line of response the authority to resolve problems themselves.
Don't greet agitation with agitation. Our first tendency is to match our tone to their tone, but you don't want to do that. If we stay calm, their voice will start coming down, and they'll begin to relax.
Here is a helpful hint for resolving a dispute as a five-step process called the Five A's: Acknowledge the problem. Apologize, even if you think you're right. Accept responsibility. Adjust the situation with a negotiation to fix the problem. Assure the customer that you will follow through.
Don't forget salesmanship. The skills and techniques of good selling discussed earlier are even more valuable in difficult situations. Address customers by name, and repeat what they've said. Whether you resolve the issue or not, they'll see that you have their best interest in mind.