Two weeks ago i received a short message from my car manufacturer which told me to have certain parts of my car replaced because of manufacturing defects. Needless to say i was concerned because of the safety implications. In the message there was also a toll free number that i could contact for more information or alternatively i could contact the nearest authorized service center. So i dialed the toll free number…
“Hi, i received a short message from you guys asking me to have the parts change. How does it work?” i said,
“Good morning ma’am, can i please have your car number?” the customer representative asked and later confirmed that my car was affected. Subsequently he asked me to contact the nearest service center to arrange for the part replacement.
“So how long will it take for your service center to fix this for me?” i asked
“Sorry ma’am, it’s best to refer to your preferred customer service car center.” he said.
“Okay, do i have to leave my car overnight at your center to have it fixed? I asked impatiently this time.
“Sorry ma’am, i don’t have the information to that, it’s best for you to call your car center and have them to advise you.”
I replied “if all you could do was to refer me to my nearest car dealer, why send us a message telling us to contact your center for more information? I didn’t call you to have you tell me what i already know” and then i calmly put down the phone, regretting my decision to talk to customer service because they wasted my time. I find this encounter rather amazing and underscore the importance of delivering good customer service.
Customer service is one of the true business essentials. Everyone remembers the bad customer service they have had, and most will also remember instances of good customer service. And customer service means different things to different people. To some it means going beyond what’s expected of you. To others it means adding value and integrity to every interaction. For some of us it could mean taking care of customers the way you would take care of your grandmother.
We might all define customer service a little differently, but we can all agree on one thing: to provide great customer service, you need to put energy and enthusiasm into your interactions with customers and do your best to satisfy customer’s needs and help solve their problem.
So here are 7 ways you could adopt that will go a long way to assisting you to deliver excellent customer service and further differentiate you and your business from the other service providers.
- The buck stops here
Great customer service begins with a great attitude. A good example of this could be seen from Ritz Carlton’s services. Just observe the concierge and you will begin to have an idea of what good service is about. Customer’s problem is attended to by the employee and the employee is empowered to solve the customer’s problem efficiently. Should the issue couldn’t be handled by them it is quickly escalated to the next person in charge and promptly followed-up to be resolved. Empowering the employee and training them so that ‘the buck stops here’ should be the standards to be adhered if any organization wants to deliver exceptional service to their customers.
- Meet basic needs
Customer needs are usually fairly self-explanatory, at least on a basic level. Judging on the basis of what your business is, there are often only a few things they can possibly be looking for. What is essential, though, is that you allow the customer to communicate their needs to you rather than attempting to tell them what they need. They know what they need, and that’s why they are here. Any attempt by you to project something on to them is simply going to be taken in a bad way, and is as likely to hurt your sales as anything. Where you can help them is in explaining how those needs can best be met. Every customer will have certain needs that have to be met in order to feel that they can walk away from a transaction satisfied. This is something that the best salespeople and any kind of staff will look to achieve at every opportunity.
- Go the extra mile
Going the extra mile is important for the very reason that it is not necessary. The customer will remember the things that someone did for them that were completely unexpected, that another organization or salesperson might not have done.
As far as what those extra miles means, it can be something as simple as carrying the item which has been purchased out to the customer’s vehicle. It might be also be something as small as writing a thank you note, to recognize that the customer had a wide range of places to choose from, and appreciate that they chose you. Whatever the case, it is important to consider how you can demonstrate to your customer that you appreciate their business and creatively think about ways to do something for them which will stay in their memory for some time. Think about your last customer, what could you possibly do to go the extra mile for them?
Picture source: Scooped by Ivo Nový
- Provide timely after sales service
Your customers are like everyone else. They want to feel unique and appreciated. If they feel that you have forgotten about them as soon as a transaction is complete, they may take their business elsewhere. Following up after a sale or any customer contact is something that some people consider an optional extra in business. After sale service can take on many forms. It may be the person or persons who are on the spot to provide advice and customer support if the customer has difficulties with the purchased product or service. It may be a call a few weeks after the purchase is made to find out whether the customer is happy with their purchase and whether there is anything more that you can do for them. Showing a customer that they mean something to you and your company is a very important part of giving customer service that is not good, but great. Remember that it costs at least five times more to attract new customers than it does to keep existing ones. So this is an area worthwhile investing your time and effort.
Sometimes delivering exceptional customer service could be as easy as being courteous and by using the right language with customers. It matters not only how we say it but what it’s being said. Often even well-meaning employees could sabotage your customer service experience and drive customers away. They do it by uttering thoughtless words and phrases that leave a bad taste in customer mouths. And the worst part about it is that they do it without any inkling that they’re doing anything wrong. So to help your employee avoid this mistake, I would like to share with you 3 phases that your employees should avoid using when they talk to customers.
- “I am not the person in charge to solve this problem. Can you call this number instead?”
Now this is the number one phase in my list to avoid saying. Imagine if you are a customer and you just spent the last 5 minutes explaining your issues and then you are given this respond. I think no customer would like to repeat themselves multiple times until they met the right person. So the right way to do this perhaps is to say something like this
“I am sorry I may not be able to solve your issue right now, can I have your number and I will call you by 3pm today to resolve this.” How does that sound? Even if it means getting your colleague to solve it for you, you should always act as a bridge to ensure that the customer doesn’t need to repeat themselves and issues are solve as efficiently possible. Such gestures will always be welcome by your customers.
- “Again or Like I say”
When you tell a customer, “Again, Mrs. Tan will be closed on alternate Thursdays from noon to 2 pm,” it conveys to Mrs. Tan that she’s not listening up to your standards!
As a professional serving customer it is your job to convey information, not to judge the attentiveness and comprehension skills of your customers.
- “Logically speaking…”
When you say something like “Logically speaking Mr. Thomas, if the screen doesn’t light up it means that something is wrong with the electronic component,” you are implying that the customer is not using logic in his thinking. It may be that you are more informed and just trying to get your customer to see your point of view, yet using such phrases is not going to get your customers goodwill. I bet, logically speaking neither will they buy from you if they think you are insulting them. (Pun intended)
When your job entails dealing with customers, it is inevitable that from time to time some of those with whom you deal will be dissatisfied and in something of a mood. Your responsibility in this case – as in all cases of customer service – is to ensure that the issues are dealt with promptly and efficiently. If this should mean that you have to listen to some ranting first of all, then it is worth accepting that this will be the case, and allowing a customer to say what they feel they have to say before getting to the heart of the problem.
When all is said and done, you will be seeking to get the point across to the customer that you both have a common goal – the resolution of their problem. Remember to always employ good listening skills and also be patience. Ask questions about the problem to demonstrate that you are taking it seriously. Then begin to formulate a solution and explain what that will be. Allow the customer to be part of this process, and you will gain their confidence. Once the issue is solved, they will remember you as a person who helped them, and will see you and the company in a more positive light.
- Communicate your limits
As a professional customer representative it is often expected that you will have the solutions to all problems with your company’s products or services at your fingertips. Of course this simply is not possible. Sometimes a customer will come to you with a problem that simply is insoluble, and you will have to tell them so.
There are many possible reasons why you may be unable to help a customer with their problem. It may be that they are simply being unreasonable – a defect may have occurred with a product that they bought because they used it for an application it wasn’t meant to perform. It may be that the product for which they are seeking help is now obsolete and that the problem is impossible to repair. In either case, the fact remains that you will not be able to grant their request, and you will need to communicate this in a way that allows them to leave on good terms.
If you cannot solve a problem, then it is essential to explain why this is the case, and to give the customer all the help possible to find an alternative solution. The more you can do for them along these lines, the more they will understand that, although you could not solve the problem then and there, you gave it your best and you provided them with some help. Demonstrating that you are willing to do what is possible will win you customer’s goodwill in almost every case.