- Business and Employment
Top Customer Service
What does it mean?
I ran two family businesses simultaneously for a number of years, and later on I managed the Customer Service Department for a huge company. Good Customer Service was my best tool.
To be good at the task one has to be able to interact with customers, and to revel at the challenge of keeping both parties appeased, maybe even happy. Both bosses and clients can at times be quite testy.
Some see it as a 'soft job' and easy to learn as you go. They may well be right too. Many have done it, especially when working their own business. One tends to learn pretty fast, if one is burning with the desire to make that business a success. At times, however, they may have found it quite difficult to appease difficult customers.
As always, training makes learning much easier when done in an organized fashion and delivered by an experienced tutor.
Learning never ends. There is always something else that you can learn that will make your task better and more of a delight.
As a Customer Service Officer, you need to be tough yet sensitive, honest, yet good at acting, and be well versed in many other skills to boot.
"Yes, Sir!", "No, Sir!" and 'Three bags full, Ma'am' is nowhere near enough to cut it, as a good Customer Service Officer in a quality establishment.
A wise employer will give much thought to choosing a Customer Service Officer/Manager. That person is crucial to that business. S/he can drive away business by the barrow-load, or s/he can attract customers like a magnet to iron
Now let us picture a family business that is growing too much for one family. It is going well, so the family decide to expand.
They prepare a list of skills that they know from experience are absolutely essential to the position. You will need to be able to demonstrate your proficiency in each. Maybe you can even add to the list, and that will be super. Good chance of winning a coveted position.
Top of the list would no doubt be - LISTEN CAREFULLY to the customer.
Often a customer complains, only because they don’t know how to handle a frustrating situation.
If you are patient and sensitive to their needs, you will take the time to dig under the surface and discover what the core of the problem really is. You need to really listen and to work out what is not being said. You need to be attentive and patient.
Example: Customer, sounding irritated: ‘I have been over each and every shelf for boys’ shoes over size 13 and cannot find any. Don’t you realise that boys can be very tall even at a young age, and a tall boy usually needs a big shoe?’
You as CSO (Customer Service Officer) ‘Yes, some boys do tower up high, don’t they, even before they have reached their teens.’
Customer nods approval. You are agreeing with her view on that part of the statement, and that is at least one bonus point in your favor.
‘This department has become so packed with stock, that we have not been able to double up when an item can be fitted into two categories Ma’am. So we have put that size with the men’s shoes, which is 4 aisles down.’
‘We have put a notice at the end of that aisle but I guess we did not make it prominent enough. I am sorry for your trouble, Ma’am.’
‘I shall make a note to add another notice to ensure that it is easily noticed.’ Please make a note for yourself to ensure you do make the necessary changes to that notice. ‘Would you like me to lead you to the men’s section Ma’am?’
Now, you tell me. How can a client remain gruff and angry at such a response? Only one that has a different, hidden agenda, and that is not your business. Your business is to satisfy the genuine customer, and you would have given a full and effective response.
It may take some time to do the above, but good customer service beats quick shoddy customer service every time.
That client will leave the shop feeling she has been acknowledged and given assistance. It is what will keep her coming back.
If you want feedback, and incidentally, reinforce the benefits of your good service, you could hand the customer a card with a short survey about the experience. Include an ssae [stamped, self-addressed envelope] or else offer a discount on her next purchase if she brings it filled-in. Chances are she will return it to you filled in.
Why Customer Service - It costs you five times as much to win a new customer than to keep a current one.
Customer Service On The Phone.
It is common for a customer to quickly regress to impatience or even to angry frustration when speaking to a Customer Service Officer on the phone. The reason is simple. That customer has probably been stewing for a while on an annoying glitch - as he or she sees it - in what your company does or does not do.
It may be a small glitch, or maybe even less, but the Customer has had many a frustration that day and that small glitch tipped the balance.
You simply can NOT solve the problem for your caller while she/he is in that state, so the best method is to first calm down your customer, using the J curve method.
Imagine there is a big J curve in the air in front of you, and you are both holding on to the shaft. You slither down some, and your caller will follow, a bit more and more until you are down to the arc at the bottom where you can both sway on a see-saw, matching push for pull etc. . . When you get there, you can exchange information without barriers.
So, you really need to LISTEN very carefully. From time to time you do the vocal equivalent of nodding your head by simply voicing the "Hmm. ." or " Yes, of course". When your caller stops, give it 2-3 seconds before you speak.
If you have questions, you can pose the first one, and wait for the answer before you speak.
As soon as possible you need to say something like "I can understand why you are upset" or "I can see where you are coming from" or "Of course you would be upset" choosing what best fits the context.
Next, you need to reassure your caller that you will do your best to help and that you can help.
It is only when your caller is open to your offer of help that you can start resolving the issue, in the usual manner.
When you feel that you have exhausted the subject, do not taper off the conversation until you have ascertained that the caller is happy with the result, and that there is no other issue you can help with.
Maybe your company has a short survey that comes after the end of the conversation, in which case you could mention this and ask whether your caller can stay on the line for that, if they have a minute to spare; or maybe you can direct your caller to a short survey on the net.
Find whichever way is applicable to establish that the issue has been resolved.
The Value of Customer Service : If I do not take good care of our customers, someone else will.
My Customers are My Business.
When it comes to important points that you need to explain to your customers, ensure it is clear, simple, and leaves nothing to doubt.
When talking to a customer, ensure that you relay the message to the customer very clearly. If you are discussing a service that allows for optional extras, you will need to state what is included in the standard price and what attracts an extra charge.
Example: When I handed some shirts to the hotel laundry service to be washed and ironed I was told that if I wanted a conditioner to be added to the final rinse it would be "included" in the final bill.
I thought that meant that it would be included in the standard charge, yet there was an added charge on my bill. It was not much and I did not protest, but it did leave me feeling disappointed and put upon.
As a CSO, I would not like our customers to leave our establishment with that feeling. I’d want them to feel satisfied and happy with their purchase or service.
Exceed the Customer's expectations.
I took my family to Sunday lunch at a busy family restaurant. The place was full and there was a long queue to order.
Then a waiter came round with a large tray of piping hot pizza slices, offering us a slice and a serviette. Aha. . .the joy of an unexpected freebie. And the pizza was mighty good too.
Nobody complained of the wait after that.
Value All Business
New customers are not likely to trust you with a big order until they have your measure so be aware that even the smallest order is valuable. The service you give to a small order should be the same as that of a large one. That customer will go away impressed and guess what s/he would be telling friends?!
Do – keep in mind the customer’s name if it is given, and use it when addressing that person in the same format it was given to you..
Do – offer any additional service that normally goes with a sale of that item, so long as you specify any qualifications eg: “Once you have tried this washing powder to your satisfaction Ma’am you may want to consider buying in multiples to save yourself some money.”
Good Service is Good Business.
What Resources do You Have?
When a customer wants to discuss how does this item works, can you explain it to their satisfaction?
Not every single team member is going to know all the intricacies of each item you have for sale, and you as a CSO would find it difficult to keep up with each item that is added to stock. Most customers will find that understandable.
You, as CSO, need to know who to refer to for the information the customer needs. You need to ensure that the sales person does have the right information, is available, and able to satisfy the customer’s query. There is not much that is as irritating to a customer, than to be shifted from one person to another repeatedly.
If this is not possible at this time, you need to be able to think on your feet, and find a way of satisfying the customer, not by attempting to do yourself what you are not equipped to do [explain how that item works] but by offering an acceptable alternative. You can ask what time would it be convenient for the sales person to ring back. If that is not acceptable, would your customer like you to send a copy of the brochure, or an email with a link to complete information about the item? Give the customer all the choices you have at hand.
After that issue is settled, do not forget to again apologize that you could not respond with the right information today and ask whether there is something else the customer would like help with.
Research shows that emotion influences purchase decision six times more than rationale.
Sometimes you sell a plant, and sometimes you plant a seed: Connecting to your customers on an emotional level is the key to establishing or breaking a lasting relationship with your business.
Your main task is really to keep all your customers happy, even the ones that you could not provide with what they wanted from your establishment.
How do you do that?
Firstly, by acknowledging their need and the fact that you could not be of service this time around. Are you out of stock? Shame, but . . .
After that comes a happy note. Then you can advise that you will probably have the items by such and such a date. If you are not sure, suggest that the person can inquire say. . . . in a week or two – IF it is convenient, or would they like you to inform them when the stock is in?
- True, but depressing language: "I am sorry we have no stock at present; it is back-ordered and should be in soon."
- True, but upbeat: " Mmm. . . We are just waiting for it now. It will be available next month. I can place the order for you right now and send it to you then, or I can let you know as soon as it hits our shelves."
Your language here, is focusing on the solution, on what can be done rather than what you cannot give the customer.
Even if the customer cannot or will not wait for the stock to arrive, s/he will be very much aware that you have tried your best to help.
Consistency creates Assurance: Every business process, step, or communication must create a positive customer reaction each and every time.
Most customers will take their cue from your attitude and if you show a willingness to help, they will react positively .
But of course, there are a few odd ones here and there who have had a bad day, or are inveterate complainers. There are those who happen to be grumpy that day and others that are the ‘barnacle’ that seem to want nothing more than to pull you down. They too are customers, but it is mighty difficult to make them happy!
If you want to get better at being a Customer Service Officer/Manager, then you will need enough basic acting skills to maintain a cheery and polite persona in spite of dealing with people who may be just plain difficult. Keep cool. Learn to act according to the guidelines you have learnt, and not in a personal, emotional manner.
You will also need to learn that what such a difficult customer [in your heart you will know whether you had really done all you could to satisfy this customer] hurls at you need not hurt you or depress you. It is just something you have to cope with. Do not dwell on it. Accept it, just as you accept the smiles and the thanks of other customers and behave accordingly.
That reaction is the product.
Time Management Skills
Sometimes spending more than the average time with a customer ends up in a sale, yet even when not, you know that the customer will give you a good rap with friends and neighbors. As you become more experienced, you will get a feeling of how long that should be, especially if you have others waiting for your attention.
If you realize that you just cannot help that customer, the best solution to the problem is to get the customer to someone who can.
Any business, no matter what it is, lives or dies by the customer reactions it creates.
© 2015 Marie L Boler