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The ability to provide excellent customer service is essential to the growth of any type of business. Without a team of support personnel who understand how to interact positively with clients, the potential to build a customer base and maintain customer loyalty is greatly diminished. While there are many different programs and strategies to help businesses create an excellent customer service environment, there are a few essentials that are included in just about every approach.
One of the most important keys to providing excellent customer service is to listen to what customers have to say. All too often, customer care personnel are too busy thinking of how they will respond and not focusing on what the client is attempting to convey. By really listening, it is possible to not only hear the words spoken, but also to get a better understanding of the intent behind those words. Often, valuable clues about how to proceed are uncovered by listening first, then thinking in terms of what to say.
Another important basic is to always allow the client to have the floor first. This is especially true when dealing with customer complaints. Stepping back and allowing the customer to vent before attempting to address the issue often creates a situation in which the client feels as if someone really does understand his or her frustration. If some type of response is appropriate, the customer care professional should maintain a steady, calm tone that conveys the idea that there is nothing else in the world right now that is as important as matter on the client’s mind. Depending on the degree of agitation of the client, it may also be appropriate to ask a clarifying question or two; this will also help convey the message that someone does really care and wants to help.
One of the worst mistakes that any customer support professional can make is to assign blame for something that has gone wrong while talking with a client. It doesn’t matter if the shipping department made an error, or an order was damaged in transit, or if a salesperson failed to include something the customer wanted. Instead of participating in pointing fingers at the source, truly excellent customer service calls for acknowledging that the customer is unhappy, assuming ownership of that discomfort, and taking steps to make the customer happy again. If specific internal issues were the root cause of that unhappiness, those can be addressed with the right people after the client is satisfied and the matter has been resolved.
In general, excellent customer service calls for a customer advocate who is dedicated to doing everything possible to keep the client happy and loyal. This includes enhancing customer perceptions of the overall level of support, responding quickly and effectively to customer complaints, and realizing that the voice of the customer is one of the most powerful tools for growth that any company can possess. While not always easy, delivering this level of customer support makes it possible to overcome a broad range of issues and maintain a relationship that serves everyone well for many years.
@Latte31 - I have to say that no hassle returns are at the top of my list. I also think that it is important for the customer service associate to maintain eye contact as well as positive body language when dealing with customers especially if they are unhappy.
I think that too many people that work in customer service departments make the mistake of labeling customers and not offering to help them as best they could.
For example, I was in line at a store and the lady in front of me was buying something that she thought was on sale because it had a sign directly in front of the item that clearly said so. Well the item did not ring up the right price and when the customer service clerk verified the price she told the customer that it was an old sign and that the current price is the only price the she would honor.
This really made the customer mad because the sign did have a sale price on it and it was not the customer’s fault that the old sign was not pulled. Since the customer escalated the complaint to a store manager he honored the price on the sign, but the customer service clerk should have done this for the customer not had the customer do all of this work.
This type of indifference makes customers want to shop elsewhere and I recently read that customers tell eight to twenty people about bad experiences that they have had so this employee could cause the store to lose a lot of money in future sales.
Wow what a great story. If I had to define what is excellent customer service, that certainly sounds like it. I think that excellent customer training involves treating each customer situation as a unique experience that can be personalized.
For example, if a customer is returning an item, it is an inconvience to them to have to take this step so that should be kept in the back of the customer service associate’s mind when they are contemplating accepting the return or not.
When I was in college, I used to work at the customer service counter for a grocery store and always had to handle returns. I usually accepted the returns with no questions and gave the customer cash back for the merchandise.
Even on a few occasions when the merchandise was clearly bought at another grocery store, my store manager tried to accommodate the customer so they would not feel hassled.
He realized that if the return experience was good, chances are the customer would return. He realized that there would be some people that would take advantage but he saw that percentage as small compared to the amount of customers that would actually shop at the store.
@SauteePan - Wow that was nice. I think that a great customer service tip that someone first gave me was to accept responsibility right off the bat. Empathizing with the customer right away can help diffuse some frustration and allow you to find a solution.
I learned firsthand what excellent customer service skills were when I went shopping for my new car. After having very bad experiences at two other dealerships in which they promised something and could not deliver on their promises, I went to a third dealership that more than made up for it.
We explained our frustration and they offered us a lower price with no haggling and gave us exactly what we wanted. When my husband went back there to buy a second car, they did not have the model outfitted the way he wanted but told him that they would in a few days when he returned, if not they would give him an upgraded model that was about $7,000 more for the same price.
Well, when my husband returned they did not have the car that he wanted so they gave him the model that was $7,000 more and honored the price of the lower end model. It was such an amazing experience and because this dealership kept their word and probably lost money because of it I will always buy my car there even though this dealership is about two hours from my home.
This is how I define excellent customer service.
I think that excellent customer service skills really does involve a lot of listening. I think when you take the time to find out what the customer’s needs are as well as their concerns you are better able to help them.
You really can only do this if you are actively listening. For example, a friend of mine worked at a call center in which she took incoming orders for office supplies from customers.
From time to time the retailer would offer aggressive sales that really offered very limited quantities so unless you called within the first hour of the call center being opened you were probably not going to be able to take advantage of the deal.
So my friend listened to the customer vent about the situation and then offered her a discount on her current purchase because she was such a good customer.
This action satisfied the customer because the clerk had no control over the inventory, but did have some authority to offer coupons to select customers.
The customer was not expecting this response from the call center employee and this small example really defines customer service excellence because the employee apologized for the problem and did not assign blame and took responsibility for the situation and tried to make the situation better for the customer.