The corner stone of any good business is excellent customer service.
From the retail and hospitality sectors to education and health care, it is extremely important to maintain high levels of customer service to survive and maintain a good customer base in the increasingly competitive and fragile world economy.
Not only does good customer service engender a good relationship with customers, but it also promotes efficiency and courtesy amongst employees, which leads to a better work environment.
How to Provide Outstanding Customer Service
Customer service is all important to any business, because it is the interface between you and your customer before, during and after the point of sale. Proper attention to service delivery can result in amazing customer loyalty and it is not going too far to say that your success or failure can be determined by the quality of your customer service. Here are some ideas to help you provide outstanding service.
Hiring for Customer Service
When you interview someone for a post in customer service you should be looking at a whole list of attributes but really gut feeling is one of the most important. Body language – although not necessarily something your customers will see – can tell you such a lot about a person and if you read the signs you can avoid making an expensive mistake. Avoid staff who seem glib or untrustworthy; a false sounding laugh or over familiarity will annoy someone on the phone. Even if you will be providing intensive training, you will get a much better quality of service if the person’s natural personality is what you want.
Choose someone who will go the extra mile; check how they have prepared themselves for the interview. Have they done their homework on your business and do they have relevant questions to ask you. This may seem a cliché and you may not immediately see how it impacts on customer service, but have they polished their shoes? It is this attention to detail and the willingness to complete a task properly that will make them a valuable member of your customer service team. Interviews are not usually long and most people can manage to concentrate throughout even the longest, but watch out for the fidgeter – some customers will tend to go on and repeat themselves and there should be no sign of temper or boredom from your member of staff.
Telephone Customer Service
If you have a large customer service department, with lots of phone lines it is worth trying to sound proof each person. It is very frustrating for a customer to try to have a conversation with someone who sounds as if they are queuing for a sandwich in Waterloo Station! If there are lots of voices in the background there is the inescapable feeling that your customer service operative is talking to a colleague and not to you – everyone has experienced this and it is certainly not going to leave a good impression. Whether you have a hundred phone lines or just one, make sure that they get answered promptly. If you must play music, choose something that won’t drive the caller crazy – classical music is fine, pan pipes are a recipe for disaster. Your six year old daughter may well play a mean recorder, but don’t use it as your music for on hold – it is meant to be calming, not irritating. Some large concerns now give you an option so you can hear a beep instead of music; if you have the technology, then go for it; your customers will thank you.
Your team must be knowledgeable and if they don’t know something they should be able to identify and contact someone who does. The whole point about customer service is that it should be seamless – from the very first moment a customer makes contact with your company to the delivery of a perfect product, the customer service should be polite, timely, efficient and all round first rate. This of course takes as read that the product or service is fit for purpose – no employer can reasonably expect that their customer service team should cope with complaints about something which is faulty.
Handling Customer Complaints
It is a fact that many people will complain before they praise and so your customer service team are more likely to be dealing with people for whom your product or service has gone wrong. This can be quite depressing after a while, but their demeanour on the phone or the replies they give in emails, live chat or letters can make all the difference – if they can calm a ranting customer down they will find the experience more positive, even if it started badly. The initial choosing of a customer service employee should be given a lot of attention – settling for second best could be a disaster.
The customer shouldn’t always have to come to you. Communication is vital when thinking about customer service. Returning phone calls promptly and being aware of the initial query a customer has made will develop the business-customer relationship, as you will show the customer that you value their business and are sensitive to their needs. Once a service has been provided, a courtesy call would be another factor in maintaining repeat custom and making sure a customer is made aware of any delay or problem with the service you are providing will show that you don’t forget a customer once the money has changed hands. Communication within the business itself is also vital; an employee knowing where to be and when, and being aware of any changes to a customer’s requirements is both efficient and cost-effective. If every employee is treated well by colleagues then your business will run smoothly and will thrive.
Providing outstanding customer service is not that difficult; by making sure you hire good people and treating them well and having robust processes in place and listening to feedback, you will not only delight your customers, but outshine the competition by a mile!