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Differentiate Your Business With Quality Customer Service
Customer service is the one aspect of business that can separate the great ones from the not-so-great ones. Products, services and even prices will usually be in the same ball park. Customer service is where you can really make a difference.
This is especially true when small businesses try and rise above their big business competitors. Corporate business, even though they typically have a whole department dedicated to customer service, have a tendency to make the client feel ignored and unimportant because the company “deals with so many people, something is always bound to go wrong.”
Most customer service representatives, though trained to handle irate customers, often lack the sincerity that the customer desires. And most companies place customer service as a top perk in their advertising, but research shows that customer service satisfactions has gone from 82% to 68% in the past year. Those aren’t good numbers.
Smaller businesses, however, have the capacity to more easily guide their employees in the best way to handle client problems and complaints because things are on a smaller scale and more visible.
Here are few tips on how to offer superior customer service:
Don’t Just Manage, Train
Don’t rely on your employee hand book to provide adequate training for your employees’ customer service skills. Provide hands on training, with plausible scenarios for your employees to work through.
And I know that many places we call these days say “this call may be monitored or recorded for training purposes,” but be sure that you actually do it. Record your employees’ customer service calls and then analyze them together, pointing out the positives and the areas where they need work. It should be a constant training process.
Break Down Department Divisions
An all too common excuse when a problem is presented to an employee is “that is not my department.” This should never be something that comes out of your employee’s mouth because it simply makes the customer feel obsolete and passed around. I will cover this area, and ways to avoid department divisions, in a post next week (How Department Divisions Can Hurt Customer Service).
Establish Listening Skills
Customer service representatives need to be good listeners. This seems obvious to me, but it is rarely the case. Sometimes a customer just needs to vent about the situation and then they are ready to hear the options you have for resolution.
And good listening skills are not simply setting on the other end of the phone and saying “uh-huh,” occasionally. Customer services reps should occasionally repeat what the customer conveys, as a means to make sure they understand the information correctly, and as a way to show the customer that they are truly listening to what the customer has to say.
Provide a Quality Response
Another important part of listening skills is your response to what the customer has to say. Tone, especially over the phone, is crucial to developing a positive outcome. Customers can tell immediately whether or not “we will do what we can to help you” is said with sincerity or simply as part of a script.
Another important response is sympathy from the customer service representative. You have to justify the customer’s feelings, whether they truly are or not. Put yourself in their shoes and realize that, most of the time, you would probably react the same way as they are. And let them know. Emotional justification is often what the customer is looking for when the call — it’s right up there with a resolution to the situation.
When listening to the customer’s situation, read between the lines — discover the unstated desire that customer has. If they ask for a refund, give them a refund AND a 10% discount on their next purchase. If they want a replacement for their defective product, throw in a free gift. Customers are not easily satisfied these days, as the stress of life has made their expectations higher than they used to be. Brighten their day and surpass their expectations.
Do everything you can to make your customers’ experience with your business more than a simple business transaction. Establish a relationship with your customers by providing excellent customer service. That is what builds their trust and loyalty, above all else. That is what brings in their friends and family. That is what will make your business stand out in the crowd.
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A Contingent Approach to Leadership Effectiveness
• BusinessWeek.com: Building Customer Relations by Listening
Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
How Department Divisions Can Hurt Customer Relations
The Importance of Branding
What Ever Happened to Customer Service?
A Bad Customer Service Experience
Tips for Dealing with Calls from Upset Clients