Service and a Smile
(HAVING recently disclaimed any association with the MBA types, I really feel that it is not my place to wax eloquent about the joys of serving people, more specifically customers/ clients. But this article was inspired by an anguished reader mail who had been fired for his poor customer service skills.)
Being an irate customer is pretty easy. It is difficult to be a satisfied one. And customer satisfaction is one of the key aspects that every organisation is concerned with. Most have learnt the hard way that if they don't take care of their customers, their competition will (whoever said the customer is the king knew what he was talking about). Customer service is not merely about knowing what the customer wants; it is about quality and building lasting relationships. It is not an extension of a job; it's an integral part of it.
With customer traits changing frequently, organisations have to work harder on relating with them. If you want them to become return customers, you have to make it easy for them to do business with you. The following Ten Commandments of customer service could tip the balance.
I'm the Boss!
You aren't, not really. The customer is, for he pays your salary. When you make it a habit of really listening to your customers you will know what their needs are and be able to provide better service. Show concern about what matters to them - that's your business, right?
It is not just listening but listening effectively. Ask your customers relevant questions to know how they really feel. Notice their body language, tone of their voice. Do not make assumptions of what they need. Do not presume that just because they are old customers you will intuitively know what they are looking for. Give them your undivided attention.
Customer needs are almost always emotional than logical. Your customers will come back to you if you manage to sell them dreams and feelings; products and services are just incidental. A customer desperately seeks a `delightful' experience that can only come from personalised service. Hence the more you know them; the better you can anticipate their needs. Listen to the `customer's voice' and act accordingly.
Your customer is an individual as well. Make him feel appreciated and important. It is actually necessary that they trust you. They can be ultra sensitive and will know immediately whether you care about them or not.
Help them understand
You may have the best and the easiest of systems in place but it could all be Greek and Latin to the people you serve. Let them not get annoyed and frustrated with the systems and you. Take the time to explain how the systems work and do so in simple language. Don't let your systems overshadow the human face of your organisation.
Look for ways to help your customers. Appreciate the power of saying `yes'. You should never underestimate the feel-good factor which a helping hand can generate. Look for ways in which you can make doing business with you easy.
Know when and how to apologise. It makes the customer feel vindicated and yes nice, no matter that it wasn't your mistake in the first place. The customer must win all the time. After all, this is what will get them to you in the first place. Deal with their problems pronto and (ostensibly?) welcome their suggestions/complaints. You may dislike the exercise but it can indeed be an opportunity for you to improve. If you fail to address a customer concern properly, not only will you lose that particular customer but his friend and his friend too. No amount of advertising can undo the harm done.
Do some more
Happy customers can take you ahead of your competitors. So try and give them more than they expect. A few things that you can think of:
Providing them with service that they cannot get elsewhere
Following up and thanking them even when they do not buy anything
If a customer is having a particularly bad day, go out of your way to make him feel comfortable
Give him something that's completely unexpected and you would have earned a customer for life
Customer feedback is one of the mechanisms that can help you know whether your performance is up to the mark or not. Their complaints can point out where you are going wrong and what you are doing right. To find out if you are on the right track or not listen carefully to what they are saying, welcome constructive criticism and comments. Customer service is also about consistent quality.
Treat 'em well
Not just your customers but your employees too as they are your internal customers. (Obviously my reader's boss doesn't belong to this category) Motivated employees take better care of customers. Appreciate them and they in turn will value others. Most organisations consider providing good customer service their sacred duty. They know that the closer they work with the customers the better quality of service they can provide which in turn brings in not just the bread and butter but milk and cheese too.
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