In a global world in which competition is often only a computer mouse click away, service providers must constantly work to create and maintain positive customer relationships.
One way to do this is striving to create a partnership with each customer by showing that you are working in their best interests and aim to meet their needs, wants and expectations.
Customers who feel that they have an active role and power in a customer-provider interaction often feel more important and valued. Your efforts to improve interpersonal communication and deliver the best possible customer service can help create this situation. They can also lead to higher levels of customer satisfaction and retention and reduced stress for you and your co-workers.
Take advantage of the following strategies to build stronger relationships with your internal and external customers.
Ask for customer comments when possible. By knowing more about their needs, wants and expectations, you will be better able to offer services and products that satisfy them. Use a variety of strategies to gather information from customers.
People tend to like what is familiar. If customers come to know that they can depend on you and your organization to regularly give timely, factual information, they will likely be more loyal. Provide information and updates to customers on a regular basis, not just when it is convenient to you. This is especially true when you are working on a problem or service breakdown. Remember that they do now know what you know. For example, if you are gathering information or need more time than expected, come back to the customer with periodic updates to give them a status check.
Customers often want to see that service providers understand them on a personal level. The worst thing you can do as a service provider is to hide behind policy or deflect responsibility when dealing with a customer issue or question. Think of how you likely react when a service provider says something like, “I can’t do that because our policy says… ” You probably feel the hairs rise on the back of your neck and become agitated. Your customers are no different. When interacting with them, take the time to put yourself in their place before saying something or taking an action that might create an adversarial situation.
“All business” or robotic service providers often fail to get high marks from customers. Even if you are knowledgeable, efficient and follow all the rules in delivering service, you could end up with a customer who is dissatisfied if you do not demonstrate some degree of humanness. That means connecting on a personal level, actively listening, and showing compassion and concern for your customers and their emotional needs.
For example, if someone tells you during an interaction that they are celebrating a special event take the time to explore the topic briefly or relate a personal example. If it is their child’s birthday, you might turn your attention to the child, wish an enthusiastic “Happy Birthday,” and ask him or her how old they are or what they hope to get for their birthday. Depending on the type of business you are in, you might even offer a small present (e.g. a free dessert, a piece of candy, a toy, coupon for a discount on their next visit, or whatever might be appropriate). At the least, upon concluding the transaction, wish them well or congratulate them one more time.
Excellent customer service is about taking time to consider the customer, how they feel, and what they need, want and expect from a customer-provider interaction. Make sure that you empathize and imagine how you would feel in their shoes during each interaction. Then, act accordingly.
About the Author
Robert (Bob) W. Lucas is an experienced customer service consultant and has written many books, including the top selling college textbook, “Customer Service Skills for Success” and “Customer Service: Building Success Skills for the Twenty-First Century.”