Improving customer service is often something managers
imagine they'll get around to -- in time.
Sadly, that time rarely comes. The day-to-day running of an
organization takes over, and customer service is relegated to
the back of the queue.
We all know, deep down, that customer relationships should
never be left to chance. So now is the time to seize that
moment! Here are ten simple improvements that you can get
started on today.
1. Check Your Customer's Pulse - No, not to see if they are
still breathing, but to check their happiness level. Every time
you interact with a customer, in person or over the phone,
initiate a quick discussion to gauge how they are feeling. And
as you begin to build a relationship with a customer, (and get a
feel for their perception of your business), consider doing a
quick survey or comment card. This will easily demonstrate to
customers, employees and competitors alike, that you intend to
continually improve on your service.
2. Check Your Employee's Pulse - Your employees are an untapped
source of customer information. They know how your customers
really feel. And, given the chance, they'd love to share it with
you. Take the time to listen and understand. It can be a real
eye-opener. They see the obstacles your customers have to
overcome in order to use your products and services. They might
even see business opportunities. Years ago, when working for a
large telecommunications company, I discovered customers using
our products and services in ways the product development people
and marketing folks had never dreamed of. Your staff are the
ones closest to your customers. Use their wisdom.
3. Define Your Customer Service Belief System - Ask any number
of your staff for the definition of customer service and see
what you get. You might be surprised. Most organizations assume
that everyone is on the same page, that somehow everyone knows
the significance of customer service and what it means to
customers and the organization. It is rarely the case. Everybody
has their own "take" on standards of service. You need to agree
to a definitive version right away.
4. Understand Your Customer's Obstacles - Many managers forget
(or don't know) what it is like to be a customer of their own
business. Observation is the keyword here. Watch your customers'
movements and behavior when they are in your organization. Are
they visibly annoyed? Do they stand in line, looking at their
watch? Can you tell by their body language that they would
rather be somewhere else? Do your frontline staff seem attentive
to their needs? Gather this information as you go about your
5. Data Drive Your Business - If you don't currently collect
valuable customer data, then now is the time to begin. It
doesn't have to be in any great detail. Just the basics - name,
address, phone number, e-mail address - if your customer doesn't
mind. Utilizing this information is paramount to keeping
customers connected to your organization. The idea here is not
to inundate the customer with promotional material - there is a
time for marketing. It is more to do with adding value to their
relationship with you. After all, this is a relationship based
on trust. They have already shared their "private" information
with you; now you have the opportunity to give something back.
How? Send them a periodic e-mail that gives tips and hints on
how to change their lives for the better. Sometimes your product
or service will have a place in this information, sometimes it
6. Change Your Employment Policy - I often see ads for frontline
customer service staff saying: "5 years' experience required."
It is understandable that businesses would want new people to
hit the ground running. But this may not be the best approach
when it comes to customer service. We have all heard the saying,
familiarity breeds contempt. This is often the case with veteran
customer-facing staff. They can be battle-worn, preferring to
concentrate on acquired technical skills instead of focusing on
the customer. Unless high levels of technical skill are required
for the post, it might be better to hire largely for a positive,
upbeat and enthusiastic outlook and train for the rest. It won't
suit every situation of course, but hiring cheerful, and
training for skill, has its strengths.
7. Lay Down The Law Of Customer Service - Unless you are blessed
with the gift of telepathy, sooner or later you are going to
have to create a customer service "law" for your business. It
simply needs to assign the customer as THE number one priority,
in a clear and understandable way, and it needs to be obeyed.
Make sure that everyone who interacts with a customer, lives and
breathes the "law" of your customer service on every occasion.
8. Turn Customer Service Into A Sales Driver - What better time
to introduce a customer to the greater benefits of your product
or service than at the point of sale. Educate your customer
service people to fully understand the many benefits you are
offering, and train them to explain these benefits to the
customer in a comfortable, conversational way. Many employees
freeze at the mention of "sales". But a helpful conversation
with a customer is not the same as a sales discussion. Encourage
your customer service folks to talk to customers like an
adviser, not a salesperson.
9. Establish Visible Measures Of Success - Every business is
different. But the one thing they all have in common is the need
to keep customers happy and to keep them coming back. Determine
core customer service measures of success. For instance, if you
want your regular customers to return or increase the amount
they buy, then measure that as a goal of your customer service
team. If you have an established survey method, use the results
to drive understanding of where you can and must improve. A note
of caution - avoid measuring something just because you have the
tools. Your measurements must be meaningful. They must improve
your customer service.
10. Communicate - Even if managers do find the time to launch a
customer service improvement campaign, many struggle to maintain
the effort and therefore never see lasting results. Often the
problem is rooted in the management desire to do it once and
done. Unfortunately, customer service isn't like that. It has to
be reinforced, learned and practiced continually, with regular
management input. Try a simple management communication
technique that you can start today. Hold daily 1-minute
"huddles"! Gather frontline or backroom employees in a hallway
or lobby, once a day, just for a minute, to confirm their
customer service understanding. Many retail organizations do
this. It allows you to chart the day's goals and it reminds
employees of the most important person in the organization. The
Improving customer service will never be a quick fix. It is an
endless journey, but a crucial and rewarding one. Make this your
decisive moment and embark on the journey today.
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