customer service

We all know the basic fundamentals in delivering exceptional customer service; good communication skills, a friendly personality, patience, empathy and smiling is important. However these qualities alone will not create a customer focussed environment.

Many businesses, government agencies and non-profit organizations are becoming more aware of the need to identify who their customers are and take strategic steps to create a positive experience.

Too often we concentrate all our efforts and energy on customers; not as much effort is considered with employees. An important fact to consider is that employees are the very people that serve your customers. They also influence the culture in your organisation. Overlook employees and they will eventually become tired, burn out, negative and dispassionate.

It is important that your customer service strategy considers your customers and employees with equal importance.

While the exact nature of a customer service strategy will vary from one business to another, there are a few basic factors that should be considered in any setting.

  • Identify your customers
  • Assess the needs and wants of your customers
  • Establish a Customer Service vision – this step is important for everyone to understand their role in achieving the vision. Consider incorporating the organisations values and behaviours – its acts as a foundation on what you are all about.
  • Implement and communicate your Customer Service standards and expectations – include marketing and delivery
  • Accountability – it is important for all staff to be held accountable in achieving the standards and expectations.
  • They need to understand how „their“ service will affect the company’s overall performance. It is a cultural expectation.
  • Training – Focus on how the organisation expects each employee to behaviour in any given situation. Training should include; how to respond to complaints, managing angry customers, addressing customers needs, how to speak and interact with customers.
  • Focus on recruiting and retaining good employees
  • Reward and recognition – create a system for acknowledging and rewarding employees. Positive reinforcement for desired behaviours.
  • Measure your Customer Service satisfaction levels regularly
  • Review your strategy and modify as required

Take the time to develop and implement your customer service strategy. Organisations with an exceptional service culture did not achieve this by accident. They have strategies that encompass their business goals, these goals also impact corporate objectives and priorities. A well defined and executed strategy is the first step in achieving an exceptional service culture.

It seems that as our technology improves, the business/customer relationship is declining. With online technical and sales support, the personal side of customer relations is not as prevalent. There is no longer any loyalty to a business and its products and services. This trend can cause a significant decrease in sales. One way to counteract this trend is to resolve customer service problems successfully and efficiently in order to retain customer loyalty.

The following list outlines simple but effective methods of successfully resolving customer serviceproblems:

Create a Customer Complaint Department: The best way to deal with customer complaints effectively and efficiently is to have experts who are able to manage irate customers with their problems

Be Polite and Courteous: If a customer walks into a business or calls, it is important that the customer servicerepresentative takes the time to show that they care and are willing to listen and help. Empathize with the customer’s problem. An angry customer will calm down if they feel they are valued and respected. Be positive.

Record the Problem: Writing the complaint down and the actions that will be taken helps avoid any misunderstandings. It also shows the customer that the matter is important to the business.

Provide Solutions or Methods of Resolving the Problem: Don’t list business policies and practices. This will only infuriate the customer. Work with the customer to come up with a solution that will satisfy the customer. If possible, don’t pass the problem off to another representative or transfer the call to someone else. If you do, make sure the new representative has all of the pertinent information so the customer does not have to repeat himself.

Empathize, Don’t Apologize: A direct apology will assign blame to the company. It is better to empathize using such phrases as: ‘I am sorry you have had such a difficult time with our product.’ It will show that you care about the customer’s situation. Try to understand the customer’s feelings and point of view. Understanding will go a long way in satisfying the customer.

Keep Your Promises: Make sure that you don’t make promises that you can’t keep. It will reflect badly on the company and make you look incompetent. The customer will also appreciate reliable service.

Produce Positive Results: Always follow through with your plan to resolve the problem. Bad or poor quality service will cause you to lose customers. The key to maintaining customers is to always follow through with your promise.

Offer loyalty Incentives: If the problem cannot be adequately resolved, offer a customer an incentive so they will continue being a loyal customer. This can include giving them a replacement product or service along with a gift or discount on their next purchase. Everyone loves free things. It will make the customer feel appreciated.

Think of customer complaints as lessons for improving customer care. The solution to great customer serviceis being able to identify the type of customer you are dealing with. To reap the rewards of customer loyalty, the customer needs to be put first when there is a problem. Showing the customer you care and are willing to resolve the problem efficiently and effectively will go a long way in retaining customer loyalty. Customer loyaltycannot be established immediately, but the investment is well worth it. A happy and satisfied customer is essential to achieving a successful and long term business.

– Amy Nut