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.