Bringing back customer service: Going beyond "How can I help you?"
One of the keys to being successful in today's business world is to deliver superior customer service—it can give companies a definite competitive edge. But are today's companies always living up to the customer's expectations? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Many times businesses are not meeting consumer expectations of how they should be treated.
In today's fast-paced, technology-driven business climate, the basics of customer service are lost in the mix of conducting business, whether on the phone or face to face. So, how can companies revive the "personal touch" and deliver superior customer support?
All businesses, regardless of size should review their customer service practices. After all, a large amount of success is due to repeat business and word of mouth.
Customer service today
Where have the days gone of helpful clerks at retail stores greeting you with a friendly "Hi" or "How are you today?" or ending your transaction with "Thank you"? These days (due to technology) when you call a company with a simple question or complaint, you could get 12 different menu options to choose from. Then, when you finally get to the option you want, you are given another six options to choose from. It may be 10 minutes before you can actually speak to an individual. I believe practices like these have pushed the basics of customer service by the wayside and need to be reintroduced by companies.
How you treat the customer is key. Customers can become very upset if not satisfied, even about the smallest of details. We have all heard the saying, "The customer is always right." And many companies train their staff with this adage in mind. However, is this statement true? The answer is no, and understandably there are many reasons why the customer is not always right.
Customers can make unreasonable requests; they can have unreasonable expectations; they may not understand your company and what exactly the person they are speaking to can and cannot do for them. Most importantly, it may be unrealistic to give each customer everything he or she asks for. That being said, this fact does not justify delivering poor customer service. Ironically, part of the problem is that companies that have treated the customer as always being right may be successful in only making situations worse. Instead of overpromising on things they cannot deliver, companies need to treat the customer the way they would want to be treated and listen carefully to what is being said.
Tips for implementing customer service skills
If you have the opportunity to work one-on-one with customers, here are some tips that could strengthen your company's reputation:
- Your communication skills should include both speaking and listening.
When engaging in "active listening," make sure you are hearing what the customer is saying and then repeating back to the customer what you heard. This reinforces that you understand what the customer's concern is and that you care about resolving the issue.
- Treat the customer with good old-fashioned kindness and respect as though their problem is the most important issue that day.
If you're on the phone, tell the customer that you will look into a solution for them and that you will call them back if need be. And do make sure you call them back! Go beyond what the customer expects of you. When companies do this, chances are they will get repeat business from that customer, but more importantly that customer's positive experience will be communicated to their friends, family and co-workers giving you new business. Keep in mind that it is very important to be sincere as you acknowledge and listen to what the customer has told you.
- Leave a positive and lasting impression on the customer and make the customer feel valued.
Do not give the customer false promises or try to deliver on something you know you cannot do. Instead, work as quickly and efficiently as possible to solve the customer's problem. In the end, you may or may not be able to solve the problem, but if you treat the customer as you would want to be treated, they will notice and appreciate it.
Remember that when it comes to customer service, whether on the phone or face to face, just follow this recipe: Start with friendly courtesies such as "Good Morning", "Hello", and "Thank you"; pepper in some active listing, respect and kindness; and garnish with sincerity. You're sure to get a four-star review.