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Poor Customer Services could destroy your business
Why are Good Customer Service Skills important to your business?
The personal touch is slowly fading away from the customer service experience. It is important to “keep up with trends and modern times” but we should not neglect to maintain our human contact with our customers. Ensuring that your Customer Service Standards are maintained to high standards is your best solution to ensure that your business keeps growing and survives these difficult economic times.
The truth of the matter is that your customers are not always going to be right, but you should always treat them as if they are the King and Queens of your business. Customers need and want to feel important and respected, even if they are at fault.
What can you do to change your staff’s attitude towards Customer Service Excellence?
The difference between good customer service and bad customer service is Attitude! A person with a positive attitude will try to go out of their way to assist and help another, even if they don’t have all the answers, they will go out of their way to find someone who can help the customer or will seek out the answer and go back to the customer to give them feedback. People notice people with a good customer service attitude.
Someone with a poor or a negative attitude will see a request for help as a bother or interference with their "real" work. They will treat customers an inconveniences and not display any respect or interest in resolving or assisting the customer with their situation. Employees with bad attitudes tend to be negative, discourage their colleagues and frustrate their customers.
Having employees with a ‘customer focussed’ attitude is vital in business and as a business owner it is important that you carefully select individuals with the same passion and attitude towards customers, as you do. When screening potential staff, ensure that you are properly screening them. Besides asking them role specific questions ensure that you do reference checking and I would also suggest that you perform a personality test. A person’s attitude towards something cannot be easily changed and as an employer it is going to be a huge challenge trying to enforce your attitude on others.
As Customer Service Excellence should be the most important aspect of your business, it should be incorporated into your company’s values; as well as into all staff’s performance contracts. As mentioned, it is very hard to enforce a good customer service attitude on your staff, but you can however make it form part of their job. Holding your staff to high standards of service whereby they will be monitored and rewarded/disciplined is a great alternative to policing staff’s attitude. Company Values should be enforced in all levels of business (from the cleaning staff through to directorship), as staff tend to mimic managements behaviour.
An individual who has an attitude of wanting to help solve a problem is the ideal employee. Customers want to talk to someone who can help me solve whatever issue that may have. They want to be heard, understood, assisted timeously and treated with respect.
What NOT to do when dealing with customers:
Face to Face Interaction:
Ignore a customer. No customer likes to wait in a queue only to get to the front and then watch you while you chat to your colleagues, check your cell phone messages or eat your food. Everyone hates waiting in queues; so as a person who deals with customers – make sure that you are being respectful towards your customer’s time. Remember that if the client has a problem, waiting in a queue or waiting for service, is only going to make the situation worse. Don’t add fuel to the fire!
Give your customers the “blank” look. When a customer is explaining their story to you, show interest and practice active listening. Active listening is when you acknowledge, repeat and ensure understanding of what the customer is saying. This will help you to resolve and/or assist your customers with accuracy and professionally.
Over talk your customers. When a customer is trying to explain their story, listen to what they are saying, don’t butt in; even if the customer is irate/wrong. Interruptions are annoying and rude. Rather wait for the customer to finish talking and then (in a calm voice) confirm understanding and proceed to resolve the matter.
Shout and swear at your customers. There is no reason for you as a service provider to be disrespectful towards your customers; even when your customers are extremely angry and ranting at you. You need to bite your tongue, keep a cool attitude (even if you are steaming inside) and treat the customer with respect. Never raise your voice. The most effective way to calm an irate customer down is to talk in a calm, low volume voice (don’t whisper).
Be dismissive towards your customers. Customers already feel like they are just a number. When a customer comes to you and you are not able to assist them (for whatever reason), don’t just dismiss them and go onto the next customer. Try to assist or give them the right person to contact. Sending customers off without assistance, leaves a bad taste in their mouth.
Treat your customers as fools. You know your business and services better than anyone AND you should because it is your job. When a customer comes in with questions, it is your responsibility to ensure that when they walk away, that they know the answers to their questions. If a customer is still confused after you explain things, well then it is up to you to find a different way to explain it to them. Don’t treat your customers as if they are idiots just because they do not understand your explanations. If your customer requires you to explain the same thing 10 (ten) times, well then that is what you have to do and you need to do it with the utmost respect and patience.
Telephonic and Electronic Interactions:
Avoid answering a ringing phone. There is nothing more annoying that phoning a company only for the phone to ring and ring AND then when you eventually get through, you get disconnected. Never let a phone ring more than 3 times without someone answering the call. If you have an answering service, then ensure that the answering service picks up the calls and that the customers are able to leave a message. All messages need to be attended to and customers contacted as soon as possible. Never ignore a message from a customer in hope that they will go-away. They won’t and the situation will only get more heated.
Answer calls while eating / talking to your colleagues or as if you are sitting in your home. Anyone who answers the phone as “Yes” or only “hello” is not displaying a very customer focussed attitude towards the customer. The phone should always be answered by saying the company name, employee’s name and then “how may I help you?” The tone of your voice needs to be friendly and welcoming – don’t sound like you are half asleep or going into a deep depression. Customers also do not want to hear you chewing away or slurping your coffee. A call without sound-effects is expected. It is very disrespectful for you to hold a conversation with one of your colleagues while you have a customer on the phone. The customer phoned you, the least you could do is give them your undivided attention for those few minutes.
Transfer your customers to as many of your colleagues as possible. Bouncing from consultant to consultant while a customer is trying to get a situation resolved is extremely frustrating as most of the time, the customer is required to repeat their story only to find out that you have once again be transferred to the wrong consultant. Now your business, educate yourself on who deals with what queries – this will assist you in assisting your customers by sending them to the right person, first time.
Don’t bother to phone customers back. If you are not able to assist the customer while they are on the phone, then it is vital that you provide the customer with an explanation as to what you have to do, how long this will take and advise them as to when you will call or email them back. Never tell a customer that you will get back to them and never do! AND NEVER say to the client that you phoned them or left a message for them, when you have not – with technology today, people it is not possible to phone a cellphone without the phone recording the details of your call nor is it possible for voice messages to not come up on the customer’s phone. Don’t be caught out in a lie.
How to display a Positive/Good Customer Service Attitude:
Ability to use Clear & Positive Language
I am sure that you have heard “it is not what you say, but how you say it”; this is by far the most accurate sayings when it comes to excellent Customer Service. Below you will find some great ways to display a Positive/Good Customer Service Attitude:
Body Language – Do not slouch over your counter/desk, it displays disinterest. Use appropriate eye contact when talking with the customer and do not look around at everything else going on around you! Focus on the customer in front of you.
Positive Language – Don’t tell the customer what you can’t do for them, but rather what you CAN do for them and who you are going to help them in getting it. Nobody likes to hear the word “NO” so ensure that this word is not used when trying to assist a customer.
Active Listening – Actually listen with the customer is talking to you. Do not think about what you are going to order for lunch or about your plans for the weekend – when you lose focus on the customer, this is when situations can turn ugly. It is annoying and frustrating for customers to have to ask the service provider if they are actually listening to their story. You can display active listening skills by acknowledging and repeating information back to the customer.
Clear Communication – This is not just about speaking clearly and ensuring that your word pronunciations are correct, but also about being clear about what you are saying to your clients. For example, I recently upgraded my cell phone contract and I asked the consultant “why the phone did not come with a back protective cover?” the consultant responded by saying “don’t worry, I can include this in your contract”. But then when I went to collect my new phone, there was not back protective cover and then the consultant said that I would have to pay for it separately. This of course irritated me, not because I had to purchase the cover, but because of the miscommunications. Needless to say that I went somewhere else to purchase the back cover and I would not go back to that store.
Acting Skills – Sometimes we are exhausted, frustrated, irritated or just having a bad day; but our customers do not need to know that. You need to fake it until you can get out of whatever mood you are in. There are also those tough clients that shout and rant at you and even though it feels personal, you need to disconnect with your emotions; pretend that you are the most helpful, polite customer service consultant in a movie and this is just play the part. Maintain a respectful attitude towards your customers even when they are not being good customers.
If you are busy with a customer and see that there is another customer needing assistance, explain to your current customer that you are just going to advise another customer that you will be with them shortly. Both of the customers will actually respect you for your willingness to assist and for the respect that you have shown your current customer. The customer who needs assistance would feel appreciated and would more than likely be more than happy to wait patiently for their turn.
Telephonic and Electronic Interactions:
- Answer the phone within 3 (three) rings. Speak clearly and state which company the caller has come through too. Ask, "How can I help you?"
- Provide your name to the customer so they know who they are talking to. This assists in providing the customer with a personal touch.
- Ask for the customer’s name and phone number so you can call back, if disconnected or for following-up.
- Treat the customer with respect. Treat them as if they are the most important thing going on in your world at that moment.
- Ask clarifying questions to determine the nature of the issue that is being discussed.
- Take time to understand the customer’s issue before offering suggestions for resolving the issue.
- Be patient and compassionate. Remember that the customer called because they have a problem they need solved. The customer is often stressed and seeking help from an expert. If the problem that the customer has, is out of your expertise DO NOT just pass them over to someone else. Make sure that the person that you are transferring them to is indeed the correct person. Customers hate being transferred from person to person.
- If you are providing the customer with information on how to resolve the problem, double-check to make sure the instructions or next steps are clearly understood by the customer.
- Check your spelling and grammar when you are sending electronic communication to customers. Maintain professional business language.
- Say "thank you" — for calling/ for coming to the store/ for emailing you or for purchasing the product or service.
- Ask if there is anything else you can help them with, while you have them on the phone. If you are corresponding via email, ask the client to provide you with feedback on your service. It is important for you to get feedback no matter how good or how bad it is. This provides you the opportunity to improve on areas that need attention and most importantly the client will feel valued that their opinion matters to you.
Providing Excellent Customer Service to your customers is a WIN-WIN situation! The customers will be happy and will refer your business and keep coming back; and you will keep growing as a business. If you have the right people in the right positions with the right attitudes, then you have all the tools to have a successful business.