How to Improve Customer Service

ArLyne Diamond’s top tips for taking your customer service to another level.

Customer shopping in store

The need for superb customer service is not startling, and the means for bringing it about are relatively well known. Nevertheless, too many businesses seem to accept the need and means in theory but in practice they continue to deliver poor service.

Following is an example and an illustration of why many businesses are doing so poorly in customer service:

I recently walked into a retail store that offered gifts appealing mainly to mature shoppers. The sales clerk was unkempt and barefoot, and was clipping his toenails while listening to loud rock music. He completely me ignored me – a customer who promptly walked out.

How could any caring manager assume this employee and this store were a good match? Shouldn’t the manager have looked for a more mature sales clerk? Shouldn’t he or she have dictated the type of music played in the store, and, of course, fired this guy immediately upon observing his behavior?

Another common error is letting staff assume they are right and the customer is wrong.

A frequent customer of one company received a bill for merchandise he had returned. Company personnel not only ignored his repeated explanations, but treated him as though he was a liar and a cheat. He vowed never to return and told his family and friends, who supported him by not engaging in any business with the company.

Anyone who has tried to get technical support over the phone knows how infuriating it can be when support personnel assume they know everything and the customer — the person with the problem — knows nothing. They rattle off a speech — and almost never listen. What’s more, their solutions often have nothing to do with the customer’s problem.

Often people stop seeing a physician or attorney because of the poor service and superior attitude of the front-line staff.

Here Are 4 Ways To Improving Your Organization’s Customer Service:

1. Owners and managers must realize they lose a great deal of money by allowing poorly trained employees with surly personalities to represent them.

2. Skills can be taught. The right personality must be hired to begin with Hiring the cheapest employee rather than the best is more costly in the long run.

3. Managers must treat and train better and serve as role models. Among the behaviors they should reflect and help employees adopt are:

• Listening to what the customer is saying and actually try to understand.

• Say, “Yes, we can” more often than “That’s not the way we do it here.”

• Never say, “I don’t know,” but rather offering to find out and let the customer know.

• Not taking frustration, anger and irritation personally, but instead realizing the harsh words is directed more toward the situation rather than the company representative.

4. Remember your employees are your company’s most important marketing and advertising tools. How they treat customers will determine whether customers return, and what kind of word-of-mouth they will spread about the company.

Good service will bring the customer back. Superior service will give customers something to tell their family and friends. Such word-of-mouth marketing is the most valuable marketing.

Nordstrom and Rolls Royce have learned these lessons very well. Urban legends abound regarding the superior service they provide. The legends may or may not be true, but what is true is that both companies are known for their incredible service – and thousands of new customers have flocked to them as a result.

About the Author

ArLyne Diamond, Ph.D.,a professional development and management consultant specializing in people and processes in the workplace for more than 30 years’ can help your organization’s management with marketing, business and people development.

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