800 words on how to enhance customer service – are you kidding?
Volumes of books have been written on this subject – so what am I to put in these 800 words that will actually help you the reader improve the service you provide to your customers?
Never one to back down from a challenge let me drill this down to the essential things you have to do in your business to enhance customer service.
First: Beginning at the top of the organization, there must be a passion to service customers. If the business Owner/President/CEO does not have this passion, don’t expect the rest of the organization to have it.
The drive to delight customers must be a top down philosophy that is lived and breathed every day throughout the organization. With all due respect to Vince Lombardi: The customer isn’t everything – He is the only thing!
Second: Don’t treat customers like they are an interruption to something more important you need to do. When a customer calls, drop everything and focus completely on that customer and their needs. How do your customer contact people treat customers?
Face to face or speaking with them on the phone. Is their tone of voice helpful and sincere? Do they smile? (Yes, you can hear a smile on the phone.) Do they give the customer the time and attention necessary or are they pushing on to the next thing whatever that might be?
As you build your top down passion for servicing customers make sure everyone gets the message that the customer is THE most important person in the organization. Leave the CEO on hold to talk to a customer – not the other way around!
Third: Find out what your customers like about the way you treat them and what they don’t like about how you treat them. What you don’t know will hurt you. Never be afraid to learn from the customer. You may be surprised by what you learn.
For example, most customers do not expect perfection – but they demand responsibility. If there is a mistake or error – take complete accountability for it and fix it. Your customer contact personnel need to have the power to fix what is wrong on behalf of the customer. Remove any barriers to making that happen.
Fourth: Invert your organizational chart putting your customer service reps at the top and the President/CEO at the bottom. In short, satisfied employees satisfy customers.
An unhappy employee might be difficult within the company but they are poison to your customers. Reward the behaviors that satisfy customers. Recognize employees who do what it takes to make your customers happy.
We work with customer service reps that handle 80 to 100 customer calls each day. Not an easy task. Doing it well all day long requires a skilled and dedicated employee. Your job is to keep them fresh and excited about what they do.
They need to know that you understand the value of those 80 to 100 contacts. In my mind, there is no more valuable employee in any company than the people who touch the customers on a daily basis. Nurture them. Reward them. Serve them.
Fifth: Pay attention to the little things. When ever I am asked the key to providing service that creates delighted customers I smile and say: “You already know but probably take it for granted.” That’s because it is the little things that add up to superior customer service. Here is a brief listing of those little things:
A friendly tone of voice on the phone; a warm smile and eye contact in person
Empathy with the feelings a customer may have – but unspoken empathy is worthless – let the customer know you understand
Never say any of the following to a customer: No; I can’t; That is not our policy. I always get a funny look with this one and someone will ask, “But what if the customer wants something shipped to arrive tomorrow and the last shipment is gone?”
My response – you say this: “I am so sorry. Our last shipment left about 30 minutes ago. I will take personally responsibility to get this out on our very first shipment tomorrow, which means you will get it early on Thursday. Will that work for you?”
Never rush a customer or do anything that might make then feel rushed. You have no business without them so what could possibly be more important than giving them the time and attention they need.
I’m at 754 words so I will close with a final thought. 68% of customers who stop doing business with you do so because of a perception of indifference.
If customer service is not your passion, it will be for your competition. Something to think about.
About the Author
Bill Gessert is President of the International Customer Service Association (ICSA).