“A widely quoted statistic gets to the heart of the value proposition behind customer service: The cost of acquiring a new customer is five times that of retaining an existing one. For businesses that succeed by forming a bond with the customer, the disparity is surely even greater.”
When ‘customer service’ is well-conceived & properly-executed it’s often the ‘wow’ factor in business success. According to Turban et al; “Customer service is a series of activities designed to enhance the level of customer satisfaction – that is, the feeling that a product or service has met the customer expectation.” From the point of view of an overall sales process, customer service plays an important role in an organization’s ability to generate income and revenue. A customer service experience can change the entire perception a customer has of an organization.
The key for customer service is to focus on areas that really matter to the customer and re-inforces the overall customer & sales engagement strategy, i.e., areas that deliver the most value to the customer, e.g., cost saving, efficiency, up-time, performance, etc. In addition, customer service must be such that the staff sincerely believe that they can make a difference to the customer.
One of the most important aspects of a customer service is often referred to as the “Feel Good Factor.” Basically the goal is to not only help the customer have a good experience, but to offer them an experience that exceeds their expectations. Several key points are:
- Know Your Products/Services – Be fully prepared and know all about your company’s products/services. It’s okay to say “I don’t know,” but always follow-up with “I will find out”. Don’t leave your customer with an unanswered question.
- Communication/Body Language – Communicate clearly and effectively, and body language is an important element for positive communication. Look your customers in the eye and show them that you are listening, and a smile is much more inviting than just a blank look on your face.
- Anticipate Needs – Surprise your customer and go the extra mile to help them. Always look for ways to serve your customer more than they expect. In doing so it helps them to know that you care, and it will leave them with the “Feel Good Factor”.
In the article “8 Rules For Good Customer Service” by Susan Ward writes: Good customer service is the lifeblood of any business. You can offer promotions and slash prices to bring in as many new customers as you want, but unless you can get some of those customers to come back, your business won’t be profitable for long.
Good customer service is all about bringing customers back. And, about sending them away happy; happy enough to pass positive feedback about your business along to others, who may then try the product or service you offer for themselves and, in their turn, become repeat customers. If you’re a good salesperson, you can sell anything to anyone once. But it will be your approach to customer service that determines whether or not you’ll ever be able to sell that person anything else.
The essence of good customer service is forming a relationship with customers; a relationship that the individual customer feels they would like to pursue. How do you go about forming such a relationship? By remembering the one true secret of good customer service and acting accordingly; “You will be judged by what you do, not what you say.” Providing good customer service is a simple thing; just have a good plan and work at it…
“When customers have a problem and you fix it, they’re actually going to be even more satisfied than if they never had a problem in the first place. It has to do with expectations.”
In the article “The Ten Commandments of Great Customer Service” by Susan A. Friedmann writes: Customer service is an integral part of our job and should not be seen as an extension of it. A company’s most vital asset is its customers. Without them, we would not and could not exist in business. When you satisfy our customers, they not only help us grow by continuing to do business with you, but recommend you to friends and associates. The practice of customer service should be as present in any sales environment. My ‘Ten Commandments of Great Customer Service’ are:
- Be a good listener. Take the time to identify customer needs by asking questions and listen to their words, tone of voice, body language, and most importantly, how they feel.
- Identify and anticipate needs. Customers buy solutions to problems and good feelings. Most customer needs are emotional rather than logical, and the more you know the better you become at anticipating their needs.
- Make customers feel important and appreciated. People value sincerity. It creates good feeling and trust. Customers are very sensitive and know whether or not you really care about them.
- Help customers understand your systems. Your organization may have the world’s best systems for getting things done, but if customers don’t understand them, they can get confused, impatient and angry.
- Appreciate the power of “Yes”. When the customer has a request (as long as it is reasonable) tell them that you can do it. Look for ways to make doing business with you easy.
- Know how to apologize. Deal with problems immediately and let customers know what you have done. Make it simple for customers to complain, value their complaints, and when appropriate apologize.
- Give more than expected. Consider the following: What can you give customers that they cannot get elsewhere? What can you give customers that is totally unexpected?
- Get regular feedback. Find out what customers think and feel about your services. Listen carefully to what they say. Check back regularly to see how things are going: Get their feedback.
- Provide a method that invites constructive criticism, comments and suggestions. Have an open-communication policy with contact information for key managers in your organization…
- Treat employees well (imperative). Employees are your internal customers and they need a regular dose of appreciation. Treat your employees with respect and chances are they will have a higher regard for customers. Appreciation stems from the top.
“Studies show that a satisfied customer will tell 2-3 people about his experience with your company. A dissatisfied consumer will share their lament with 8-10 people and some will push that number to twenty. But here’s the opportunity. An unhappy customer will become a loyal consumer if you fix his complaint and do it quickly. Eighty percent (80%) of these folks will come back to you if you’ve treated them fairly. That percentage rises to the upper 90s if you respond immediately.”
In the article “Creative Customer Service – How Far Will You Go to Wow a Customer?” by Mary Sandro writes: A large part of customer service success is creating a seamless experience: Customer needs are anticipated, systems are in place, employees are trained. The company runs like a well-oiled machine. But what happens when the unexpected happens? Customers have an “unusual” request or they simply don’t know the rules of the system? The unexpected, I suggest, provides the opportunity to stretch the system, improve the system, or even forget the system and ‘wow’ a customer.
For companies with excellent systems in place, the next frontier in customer service is ‘wow’, handling the unexpected creatively. I have observed that companies and professionals practicing creative customer service successfully have two things in common: First, they care…management cares…employees care. They like to help people solve problems. Second, employees have authority. Even when people care, if their hands are tied they can’t help. In addition, employees who aren’t especially “caring” might be motivated to be creative for customers simply because it feels good to exercise their authority…
In the article “7 Secrets to Providing Excellent Customer Service” by gabe writes: “Our company always provides excellent customer service and support”: But do you? Here are 7 easy ways you can build customer loyalty and keep smiles on your customers’ faces:
- Use common sense: Providing excellent customer service; be it sales-, technical-, or service-oriented; isn’t rocket science. It simply requires some common sense. Remember the Golden Rule? The whole “do unto others as you’d have them do unto you” thing? Use it…
- Be responsive: I can’t stress this enough: Respond; to emails, voice mails, tweets… It ties into the common sense thing. The most important thing in providing excellent customer service is to respond. And, do it ASAP.
- Make it easy to contact you: In order to be responsive, your customers have to know how to reach you. Give your contact information; email, phone & mobile number, Twitter & Facebook account… Don’t be afraid of your customers.
- Listen: The old adage about ‘the customer always being right’ isn’t really right. But, the important thing is that you listen to the customer; let him vent. Then acknowledge the issue, and try to reach an agreement…
- Adapt: Let customers drive how you interact with them. Though you may not always be able to offer the type of communication channel your customers want, you can still be responsive to their behavior. Remove barriers.
- Embrace social media: Make sure you’re active on Facebook and Twitter. If that’s where your customers are spending their time online, make sure you’re there to engage directly with them.
- Honor your word: If you tell someone you’ll follow-up with them by end of day then, do it. Stand-by your word.
Companies renowned for their customer service — treat employees as they would have their employees treat their customers. “Employees take on more responsibility because they know they are appreciated and an important part of the team,”
‘Excellent’ customer service is essential in today’s competitive economy. Businesses that want to compete, grow, and prosper must return to the priority of excellent customer service. It starts with creating a customer-focused culture and practicing excellent service every day, relentlessly. Often we think of customer service as something that occurs when there’s a problem that needs to be solved.
However, if we apply the term more broadly, we open up to the possibility of not just proactively solving problems, but more important, soliciting user feedback before problems arise. Your customers hold a valuable trove of information: Use it, and that will improve your product/service as a whole… Offering to help customers before they have issues not only makes their experience better, but it helps to anticipate better ways of serving and supporting your customers…
“The Five A’s: Richard Proffer says it’s helpful to think of resolving a customer issue as a five-step process called the Five A’s: ‘Acknowledge’ the problem. ‘Apologize’ even if you think you’re right. ‘Accept’ responsibility. ‘Adjust’ the situation with a negotiation to fix the problem. ‘Assure’ the customer that you will follow through.”