How important is customer service? It has always been important, but today it is more important than ever. It used to be said that a happy customer would tell one or two people, and an unhappy customer would tell ten to twelve. With the ease of communication provided through the Internet with social media and review sites such as Yelp, customers can easily share their experiences and opinions with thousands of people. And the unhappy ones may be more likely to do so.
Providing service that keeps customers happy creates strong customer relationships, and builds your company’s reputation. Here are some tips for providing great customer service.
Smile: Whenever you deal with customers in-person or on the telephone, smile. Smiling makes you more likable, and smiles are infectious. Even when you are on the phone and the customer can’t see you, they will “hear the smile” in your tone of voice. Keep your voice upbeat and positive. Make eye contact. Smile. All of those things will make your customer feel welcome and valued.
Listen: Customers do not always know what they want or need. They may ask for one thing, but really need something else. When you really listen to what they are telling you about their problems, you will discover how you can help them most effectively.
Do not be so focused on delivering a pre-rehearsed sales pitch that you forget to ask questions and listen—really listen—to customers’ answers.
The same goes for service after the sale. Don’t you hate it when you call tech support and you get “the script”? You know what I mean: You describe the problem you are having and what you have done to try to remedy it. They start by telling you to do exactly what you just told them you have already done. AARRRGGGGH! As a customer, I want you to listen to me and give me a real answer, not a canned response that sounds like it is coming from one of those voice-response menus.
Be polite: Offer a friendly greeting. Don’t rush the customer, don’t interrupt and don’t argue. Be nice. Don’t talk over a customer’s head by using jargon they don’t understand. Say please and thank you. Be respectful.
Offer alternatives: A customer may ask for something you can not help them with. If you know of a possible solution, suggest it. Perhaps you know of another business that offers the product or service they need. Let them know. By being a resource and helping them find a solution, even if it is not from you, they are likely to remember you the next time they need something you do offer and to recommend you to others.
Say thank you: This is so important and so simple, too. Saying thank you to a customer for making a purchase or even making an inquiry lets them know you appreciate them.
Aweber, an email marketing service, sends a letter to each new customer, thanking them for their business. Many people are shocked to receive an actual postal letter, especially from a company that does all of their business over the Internet. It not only leaves a good impression, it gets new customers talking to others about Aweber.
Say thank you like you mean it. Not a rushed “thanks” as you are hanging up the phone or looking to the next customer, but a heartfelt, “Thank you!”
Go the extra mile: You might be able to survive by just doing the bare minimum, but you won’t thrive. And it won’t take much for a competitor to steal your customers away by doing just a little more.
Stay in contact with customers by sharing news and information that is useful to them. Check in to see how they are doing and if they need help. Not only will those contacts let customers know you are thinking of them, they may directly result in more business for you.
When something goes wrong, fix it. If a product is defective, replace it. When a customer is dissatisfied, do what you can to fix it. That doesn’t mean you have to accede to unreasonable demands. (The customer is NOT always right.) It does mean that you should ask the customer what would make it right and try to satisfy them. Most customers are reasonable and just want to get what they paid for. When you run in to an unreasonable customer, apologize and do what you can. But it is wise to recognize that they are not your ideal customer and it is okay to let them go after making reasonable attempts to make things right.
Providing good customer service does not have to be hard, but it takes attention to detail. Take care of your customers and they will take care of you by remaining customers for a long time, and recommending your business to others.