Be There When They Need You The Most12/30/2015
A critical aspect of providing world class customer service is the ability to be there for your customers when they need you most. It is simple to serve a client or customer whose needs are easily met. If you truly want to exhibit exemplary customer service it is crucial that you not only deliver quality service when it is easy but also when it is very difficult.
The first step is to understand what your customers think world class customer service is. You can determine this by asking. You can use direct mail, phone, email or online surveys. Customer comment cards or an informal exchange at check out will also help you understand what your customers deem as quality customer service. In other words, listen and pay attention to what your customers needs are.
Provide solutions to your customers problems. Imagine a car dealer who has a potential customer asking for a particular model and specific color of car. If the dealer tells the potential customer that he has that model but not in the customers desired color, the dealer is likely to lose the sale (which could result in losing the customers business for life). If instead, the dealer offers to find the model in the sought after color and have it delivered to the dealership the likelihood of making the sale and becoming the long term dealer for the customer rises exponentially.
The most difficult situation for any business owner or employee to deal with is an irate or distraught customer. In my experience the upset Customer is almost always justified in feeling the way they feel. This does not mean necessarily that you as a business owner or one of your employees did anything wrong. It simply means that the Customers understanding of the situation is the cause behind their anger. Genuine empathy for the plight of the customer is pivotal in minimizing their frustration. Attention to the problem and acknowledging the underlying issue can help diffuse a difficult situation without assigning blame to your business. Employees should be trained to keep their cool regardless of the customers demeanor and to assist them directly or introduce them to someone with the authority to resolve the issue.
Guide and train employees to exhibit kindness and manners in all circumstances. Teach employees to avoid lingering or finishing personal tasks when a customer is waiting. Customers want to know that their business is important to you and that they are valued as customers. Greet customers when they enter and engage them in conversation. If you aren't sure what to say, notify them of any specials you may be having, direct them to different sections of your store (such as men's dept., woman's or children's section) or simply ask if you can be of assistance. Be attentive but not overwhelming.
Maintain purchase and or service records for each customer if possible. Information is a very powerful tool when it comes to providing exemplary customer service. Customers appreciate the fact that you cared enough about their purchase or service to keep a record. The same information can be useful for marketing purposes. If your records indicate that someone buys a certain product every few months and that product is going on sale, it would benefit your customer if they were notified of the sale. Most customers not only appreciate the thought put in to the notification but they also enjoy the savings.
Create a customer service policy hand book (this doesn't need to be fancy) and share it with employees. Use it as a training guide but also demonstrate the policies Yourself to encourage Your employees to do the same.
Go the extra mile, surprise your customers by doing things they don't expect. I once read somewhere that offering value gave customers the feeling of victory. Make your customers feel victorious without any hassles. Deliver exactly what you promise and more. Accept when you are wrong and apologize. Remember your customers are never wrong. I mean never. (Of course they are wrong at times, but it is never necessary to point it out to them.) Never pretend to know something about a product or service that you don't know and don't guess. Offer to find any information you are uncertain of.
Do all of these things quickly. In today's world, where everyone wants everything yesterday, it is important to follow up as soon as possible. If you offer to find information for a customer, find it as soon as you can and contact the customer to relay the information. If you resolve a problem, follow up with in 24 hours to make certain the solution satisfies the customer. If a customer believes you are ignoring a request or simply delaying a reply they may choose to go elsewhere.
Finally, never settle for the level of service you currently provide. It may be good enough, but do you just want to be good enough? Remember, be there when they need you the most and you will reap the rewards. Studies show that maintaining a larger percentage of your existing customers is the fastest and most rewarding way to grow your business.