The customer is the most important part of any business. With the web and fierce competition from the likes Amazon, Walmart and Target, today's consumers have more choice than ever before. This means that you should re-evaluate your customer service processes to keep up with your customers.
With more information available than ever before, customers today are more informed and empowered than just a few short years ago. In addition, a poor experience with your product or bad service while visiting your store or restaurant can lead to a backlash on social media.
A satisfied customer will likely return and refer others to your business. Whether it be face-to-face or over the phone, exceeding customer expectations benefits everyone.
Tips for Excellent Customer Service
1. Make your customer feel welcomed
An age old tip for customer service is to make the customer feel welcome while in your space.
First, you must acknowledge that the customer has a choice as to who they do business with, so assure them that you are the right choice. This can be done by greeting customers with a sincere welcome, followed by an indication that you are there and happy to assist them. Be careful not to overdo it. Relax and be as natural as possible.
2. Listen to your customer and their needs
Listening is an important aspect of customer service. It is impossible to effectively help a client if you do not accurately listen to their needs.
Empathize with the customer and help them reach the ideal solution to their particular problem. Not listening and being too pushy will frustrate the customer, and will reduce the likelihood of a repeat visit.
3. Have the right expertise
Expertise is imperative to successful customer satisfaction. Customers are going to have questions regarding your product or service, and you must to be able to answer them, even if they are not directly related to your position.
Also, admit if you do not know the answer to a question. Never make up an answer. Instead, admit that you are not sure and try to find a co-worker who knows the answer.
I learned this at a young age working in my family’s Benjamin Moore paint store. In that business, customers rely on the store to provide them with the right products to get their job done. Now imagine the dissatisfaction if they are instructed to put the wrong paint product on a wall or even worse on their whole house.
Training has always been critical in that business. Employees must know what they are talking about or it will cost you future customers.
4. Own up to your mistakes
The cliche of “the customer is always right” has been challenged by some organizations in recent years. In principle, however, this should be the default approach when dealing with escalated customer issues.
Disrespectful customers of course, should be dealt with differently. However, owning up to mistakes when your business is in the wrong allows you to turn a negative situation into an opportunity to show your customer your true commitment to doing the right thing.
Sent the wrong product? Apologize. Forgot to make a shipment? Admit it. Own the issue and do not make it the customer’s issue.
This will build trust in the long run. Imagine how that customer will talk about you. People want to do business with honest people and businesses. Consumers can be forgiving if they feel that a negative buying experience is an exception to the norm.
5. Put yourself in their shoes
The best way to understand a customer is to put yourself in their shoes. Very often, being on the other side of the counter from a customer leads employees and business owners to forget how little customers know about their product or service.
Regularly putting yourself in the client’s shoes and having your staff do this helps. Sometimes this is hard to do in your own environment. So think about visiting your competitors incognito of course.
See how the experience feels and then consider what is better or worse for your customers. Encourage your staff to do this as well to get a broader perspective.
Keeping true to your word is essential when serving customers. Only offer something if you are certain you can provide it. It is better not to mention a shipment date and to ship the next day than to say you will ship tomorrow and to not ship tomorrow.
Never make promises you cannot keep and immediately inform customers if circumstances change.
Where should you start your customer service process review?
To begin, put yourself in your client’s shoes. What do they want? What might they be skeptical of?
It is critical to know your customer’s needs. From there, you can begin to assess methods of exceeding their desires and diminishing their doubts. Brainstorm this with your staff and visit your competition to gain perspective on this.
Also, you must know what you are selling.
Every customer will have queries, and it is your responsibility to help them make an informed decision. This includes intently listening to what your client is saying.
Think about ramping up your training program. Make sure you have an operating manual for new staff and get your existing staff to help you put it together.
When errors occur, accept the blame. Correct whatever you can, and ensure your customer that you are attempting everything within your power to make amends.
However, you need to ensure that you can deliver on the promises you make. Make sure that staff are given sufficient leeway to compensate a customer for a bad experience but of course, make sure you have the right tracking mechanisms in place.
Most importantly, remember to instill in your staff the idea that a customer’s presence is a privilege. Encourage them and educate them on the competitive forces so that this point is crystal clear.