We all know how important customer service is. Every large company has a whole department devoted to it. Every business accepts they need to satisfy their customers to succeed. It seems quite straightforward. Polite and responsive staff, along with great products and services add up to great customer service. Right? In a nutshell, yes. But, and here’s the thing, there’s an awful lot of tweaking to be done behind the scenes on order to produce a winning formula for exceptional customer service.
It’s not enough to rely on the excellence of your product or service and unless you’re a one-man-band, there’s an awful lot of other people you have to rely on to make sure you are giving exceptional customer service. So how can you be sure that the team are on board?
Here, Mike James and staff management specialist Planday have come up with ten top tips to help you wow your customers.
1. Simply Smile
The first rule of customer service is a smile. No-one wants to be greeted by a grump or a misery at the reception desk or speak to someone on the telephone who clearly isn’t feeling it. It may seem a foolish notion that smiling on the telephone is as important as in the flesh, but it’s a fact that smiling has an impact on the tone of your voice.
2. Keep it professional
The moment you get too friendly with your customers a boundary has been crossed. Your customers expect a professional service and excellent products. Getting pally with your favourite customer may seem like a good idea to build a relationship and keep them on side. But, what if there’s a disagreement? All sorts of problems arise when friendships blur professional lines, and it makes it a whole lot harder to stick to your customer service strategy. Make it a rule to keep your personal life to yourself and never get drunk with a customer.
3. Always be pro-active
It’s no good assuming you know what your customers are thinking. Always make a point of asking customers how you can help them. Check in with your clients to make sure they are satisfied with your products or services. Work hard to keep response times low.
4. Language matters – review, review, review
How you talk to your customers is of paramount importance. Clear communication with customers is key to successful customer relations. Avoid technical jargon and any passive-aggressive language (‘Actually, ..” is a definite no, no). And keep language positive (instead of ‘I can’t get you that until next month’ try ‘great, that product is available next month, would you like me to pre-order it for you’).
It’s incredibly important to coach your staff to use friendly, but professional language. Have a protocol for what happens when things go wrong, and ensure staff are clued up on how to deal with dissatisfied customers. Nothing should be set in stone. As situations arise, review how they were handled. Check in with your staff and listen to their feedback. Don’t be afraid to change the rules.
5. Walk the talk
Regularly try your own products and services, and get staff to do so too. You may think your product or service is amazing, but little things that don’t cross your radar may be annoying and off-putting to some of your potential customers. Even small things, like ordering from your website, may seem like second nature to you because you have an auto login and are well versed with the process. Really nail being in the customers shoes.
It may seem obvious, but don’t hide things from your customers. Even when things don’t go quite to plan, it’s better to fess up and be honest than make up some cock-and-bull story that’s likely to backfire and lose you custom. If you are running late – keep your customer in the picture. Offer some compensation and explain why that happened. Compensation doesn’t have to be much. Giving a little something extra is often enough to placate a disgruntled customer.
And it’s worth considering having a money-back guarantee. It’s an effective way of preventing negative reviews and gossip.
7. Listen – value customer feedback
No matter how small, always take the feedback from your customers seriously. It provides valuable insight and it could take you to places you never dreamed of. Consider it as free customer service consultancy.
8. Reward and acknowledge
Reward and acknowledge customer loyalty. Hanging on to existing customers is your best marketing tool. There’s nothing more annoying to existing customers than getting wind of offers being handed out to new customers, while they’re expected to stay loyal and pay top whack.
9. Empower and incentivise staff
On-going training, listening to staff feedback and motivating your team are all mega important if you’re determined to offer outstanding customer service. Commit to staff development. In the words of Richard Branson, ‘take care of your employees and they’ll take care of your business.’ Wise words indeed.
10. Always appreciate your customers and exceed expectations
Your customers are your bread and butter. Never take them for granted. Accept the 80/20 rule (20% of your customers will require 80% of your time), and always strive to exceed customer expectations, not just meet them.