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Exceptional Customer Service is
No Longer Optional

By Laurie Brown

Where would you least expect to find great customer service? At or near the top of anyone’s list, you’re likely to find government services…long waits, indifferent staff, and lots of confusing and seemingly archaic forms to fill.

Not any more. Recently, Terri Lynn Land based her re-election campaign for the position of Michigan’s Secretary of State on a platform of providing superior customer service. All of her TV commercials focused on her goal of continuing to make it easy to obtain license plates and drivers’ licenses. When government agencies understand that they need to provide exceptional customer service, it’s clear that we all must do the same. So what can you do to provide this kind of focused service to your customers?

Redefine your business: The first thing you should do is redefine your business’ purpose. How you define your business impacts how you develop all your policies and procedures. These policies and procedures create the backbone of your customer service.

Ask yourself this question, “What business am I in?” Hopefully your answer is, “I am in the business of providing exceptional customer service.”  If that was not your answer, you need to re-align your focus to reflect an emphasis on customer service. No matter what business you are in, you need to be in the customer service business.

Zappos, an online shoe store, refers to itself as a service company that happens to sell shoes, bags, etc. Look at your business. What do you need to do to become a customer service business that just happens to (fill in the blank)?

Imagine a local bakery that offers customers the opportunity to buy its cakes “in components” ‑‑ cake layers, frosting, etc, so that their busy customers can create a “hand made” cake for their friends and families. If they were in the bakery business, they would only sell their beautiful, finished cakes. But because they are in the customer service business, a business that just happens to sell baked goods, they can meet the needs of their customers in a unique and surprising way.

Or, consider perhaps, a bank that opens 15 minutes early to help out customers who are in a hurry. If they were in the “banking business,” they would have to adhere to “bankers’ hours.” But because they are in the customer service business, a business that happens to deal in financial services, they can do the right thing and have hours that better serve their customer.

Make it easy for people to do business with you: One of the best ways to become a customer service business is to make life easy for your   customers. Customers value “easy” even more than they value “cheap.”  In our society people are constantly on the move. Multi-tasking is a way of life. To win over customers, we need to take the hassle out of doing business with us.

Think about your own experiences as a customer. Haven’t you been amazed at how hard some companies make it for you to be their customer? How do you feel, as a customer, when you have to deal with a phone system that takes minutes to get you the right person, or when you have had to fight to get a problem resolved fairly?

The easier it is for a customer to give you their money, the happier that customer is bound to be. And they will tell their friends! Whether it is an improved phone system, an easy-to-access website, convenient parking, store hours that match the customers’ schedules, or accepting all forms of payment, we need to simplify, simplify, simplify!

Fix problems: You are bound to have problems now and again. How you handle those problems can make or break your customer service plan. Have a good service recovery process and use it consistently. When there is a problem, take these simple steps to turn those unhappy customers around:

  • Apologize with empathy

  • Take ownership of the problem

  • Fix the problem ASAP

  • Get the customer’s buy-in

  • Offer a small sincere token of apology

  • Follow up

For example you might say: “I am so sorry that we were not able to send those flowers when we promised. I know that we really created a problem for you. (Step 1) I will make sure they go out immediately. (Step 2 and 3) Will that be ok? (Step 4) And because we were at fault, I would like to offer you a 20% discount on your next purchase (Step 5).”

Then in a week or two, follow up with a phone call or note to see if the customer feels satisfied with your solution (Step 6).

Rewrite policies and procedures: Too many policies and procedures are there for the sake of the business instead of the customer. Take a good look at all of yours with the intent of turning them into customer-friendly policies and procedures.

For example, if your current policy states that you only accept cash or checks in payment for a product or service, consider accepting credit cards and/or PayPal to make it easier for your customer to give you their money.

Or if your current procedure has your customer filling out lengthy paperwork when they arrive for an appointment, consider letting them access the paperwork online to fill out in advance, or offer to have a member of your staff fill it out for them.

Train, Train, Train: All of these new customer service oriented suggestions are useless unless your employees are onboard and well trained. Once you have your new customer service business plan created, you need to train ALL your employees so that they can provide the kind of service that makes your customers loyal customers. Empower them to be “customer-focused.” Reward them when they provide “Wow!” service.

Treat your employees with the same care and concern you want them to extend to your customers. It is a fact that if you have happy employees you will have happy customers! And happy customers keep coming back time and time again!

Read other articles and learn more about Laurie Brown.

[This article is available at no-cost, on a non-exclusive basis. Contact PR/PR at 407-299-6128 for details and requirements.]

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