CUSTOMER SERVICE: Keys to Success

“Customer no service”. Have you ever said to yourself, “How do they stay in business?” Have you ever been caught in an auto-answer hell desperately pressing “0” to reach a live person? Have you ever lost a client/customer and you couldn’t figure out why? Do you know how your customers perceive your service and more importantly, what they tell others about your service? You could have the best product on the market, but if you don’t make the customer feel special, you will lose them.

There’s a lot of competition out there. Superb customer service is a sure-fire way to distinguish your company/product/brand. Excellent customer service breeds loyalty and word of mouth referrals. Word of mouth advertising is more influential than any other form of advertising.  Opinions and recommendations are shared via social media quickly and to a large audience. And a bad review can stay in cyberspace forever.  Make sure your customers are bragging about you. That kind of advertising is priceless! However, to get your customers to talk about your company, you must go above and beyond their expectations.

Here are some tips for ensuring your company makes customer service a top priority:

  • Your company should have someone who oversees the customer/client experience; a client services/quality assurance manager.
  • Provide customer service training for all employees. Knowing how to treat the customer might be intuitive to a marketer, but it isn’t intuitive to everyone.
  • Develop quality standards for all employees; response times, ordering time frames, phone scripts, etc. Measure and reward performance against those standards.
  • Develop a regular, consistent plan for obtaining customer feedback. This could include surveys, focus groups, or quarterly client meetings. Whatever form this intelligence gathering takes, it should be a regular part of your business operation. The information must be shared and acted upon immediately. Customers can be the best source for improving your product/service.
  • On a regular basis, “see” your company through the eyes of the customer. Hire someone or ask a friend to call your company, send an email, shop your store, go online, place an order. Make sure doing business with your company is easy.
  • Seek out the unhappy customers. Make it as easy as possible for them to complain. Instruct salespeople to ask about problems. Make feedback and comment forms readily available. Listen to your unhappy customers, don’t avoid them. You’re fortunate to have someone who will speak up. Most unhappy customers don’t complain; they just don’t come back. But they do spread negative word of mouth about your company.
  • If your company made a mistake, admit it quickly and apologize. Offer something special to make it up to them. Most people are forgiving if you are honest and make an effort to correct the error.
  • Remember, the customer is always right, even when they are wrong. Whenever possible, satisfy your customers’ demands. When it’s not possible, there is almost always a way to finesse a solution that will satisfy the customer without making them think they are wrong. And when you make the effort, that unhappy customer can become your best advocate. That being said, not every customer is right or profitable for your business. If it is not prudent to retain the customer, let them go gently and politely.
  • Thank your customers for their business whenever possible. Offer incentives/discounts for customer loyalty.If you are a non-profit, remember that your clients and your volunteers are your customers. Happy volunteers make for happy clients. Most non-profits rely heavily on their volunteers. They are essential to the mission. Don’t ever take them for granted. They are your customers, not your employees. All staff should have volunteer management training so they understand the importance of providing excellent customer service to the volunteers.

So, next time you experience “customer no service”, let it be a reminder to do a customer service check-up on your own company, clients, or job function. You must have a quality product/service that people are willing to pay for. But don’t forget the customer experience. It’s crucial to growing and sustaining your business.

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Jennie M. Jordan: Jennie has been a marketing professional for over 20 years. She worked in the Marketing Department of AT&T for 10 years in both consumer and business marketing including the Delta Air Lines national account. Currently, Jennie works for the Girl Scouts building membership and managing volunteers. Jennie has a marketing undergraduate degree and an MBA.

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