Exceptional Customer Service
One important thing to remember from a Customer Service point of view, is that the last person you speak to (or chat with or email) is also the most likely to buy your service or product in the future. This is obviously not a hard and fast rule, but more an estimation of the impact word of mouth plays with any business!
A repeat customer does not happen by accident. It is something that is only developed (& nurtured) through hard graft and constant work. You need to build relationships and this is where Exceptional Customer Service comes into play.
Communication is Key
You have to remember that when a customer first signs up to your service – you should THANK THEM. They didn’t need to bring their service to you as I am sure that regardless of your industry you have competition. A simple Thank You email will most times suffice. When the scope of the contract is sufficient, ramp it up to a personalized letter or perhaps even a bottle of wine at Christmas time! Now speaking to them when they first sign up is important – granted and mentioned ... how about when they are having a problem???
SPEAK EVEN MORE!!!
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Can you "Handle the Truth?"
If you customer is unable to reach you, then you are never going to know the true state of affairs. Give your customer as many ways as possible to get in touch with you. Obviously resource constraints come into play also as you don’t want to offer 24/7 telephone support if you have a staff of 1. But perhaps in addition to email, offer chat as an option. When you get to the size where you can offer telephone support – do it, even if its only on an outbound basis.
The one thing that you must always remember and keep uppermost in your mind whenever you are dealing with a Customer from a Service/Support standpoint, is that the issue they are experiencing which has caused them to contact you – is affecting them and THEIR BUSINESS. The only reason they are doing business with you is so that you can provide a specific service to them. Once you fail in that regards you have not fulfilled your side of the bargain and there are many surveys that point to the fact that when someone has a bad Customer Service experience, they are likely to tell at least 10 other people about it. Think about it this way ... not only could you potentially lose the business and money this one customer is paying you ... you have now lost 10 others also! Word of mouth unfortunately is a lot more prevalent when spreading the bad news than it is about the good service you provide.
Saving a Customer
The only communication a customer has is with you and the only insight they have into the status of their issue is what you are telling them. There have been many instances where I have been able to “Save” a customer simply by giving them updates.
Please note – I have not solved the problem, that still existed, all I have done is told them what we were doing to get their issue resolved, gave them a timeframe to when I expected (hoped and prayed in some cases!) their issues would be resolved, and when I would next communicate with them.
Notice again that all this is, is COMMUNICATION. In an outage situation it is perhaps a bit more time dependent than other times, but as long as you meet (& hopefully exceed) your commitments you are going to go far. One key thing to remember here is if you give a customer a commitment – make sure that you stick to it... Think about it from your point of view and if you were the one experiencing this issue – wouldn’t you like to know what was going on? You probably have customers of your own that you need to inform also! This is something that always seems to be lacking at the lower levels of a CSR team, but should be enforced and driven down. Remember, your staff don’t need to give out sensitive information to satisfy your customers. Most customers know that the people they are speaking to are not the ones who have caused the problem and they are just there to help solve it – for those one’s that don’t, I will discuss handling IRATE customers in depth in later posts.
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Its all about the Green
Now what do you do if you had an issue (I’m assuming you’ve kept the customer informed throughout the process so that they are not too annoyed with you!) and have only just restored the customers service?
Well the first time it happens, you probably don’t need to do anything, aside from a brief apology! Hopefully you’ve got an SLA in place and you’ve not exceeded the terms set out inside them. However in some cases, you might want to consider upgrading a customer to a better package or service – even if only for a limited time – you’d be surprised how often that works with customers and although the cost to you is not incidental ... think about what the cost could potentially be if you had to find another customer!
Exceptional Customer Service matters because retaining existing customers is significantly easier than finding new ones. Customer Churn and Retention are two phrases you might hear bandied about quite a bit depending on the industry you are in and in some – Telecoms for example – there are huge teams and departments created to address just these issues. Their main and only goals are to keep the existing customers that they have with them instead of losing them to other competitors.
In a very simple example think about it like this. If you are the industry leader and have 1 million customers and your nearest competitor has only ½ a million, you might think you were doing great. However if you are only growing at the rate of 10% per year (due to the negative press you’ve been receiving) and are churning at 25% per year to that competitor (who in the same timeframe is growing at 50% per year) ... how long do you think you have at the top? Trust me it’s a lot shorter than you think!!
Live the Dream
You want your customers to experience Exceptional Customer Service and instead of that 50% growth going to your competition you want it to flow towards your company. This mantra must be believed, understood and LIVED by your Customer Service Representatives and Support Teams. They need to understand that the reason they are getting a paycheque is because those customers are paying for it!
It might be trite and tired and a little bit old but the one phrase that is absolutely true is –
The CUSTOMER is ALWAYS RIGHT!!!!
Love it, believe it and spread it on!