Over the past few blogs we have discussed customer service, but now it is time discuss how to go from providing customer service to good or exceptional customer service. As we mentioned the best simple explanation of customer service came from Wikipedia “Customer service is the provision of service to customers before, during and after a purchase…”, but now we have to explain what is bad customer service and good or exceptional customer service.
When we say bad customer service, we are not looking at examples of companies not caring about their clients, but more so how companies with good intentions provide bad customer service and do not even realize it. When a company representative mistakenly offers promises a client service that the company is unable to fulfill, this can be the begging of a bad customer service relationship between the company and client. Ensuring that your staff knows what they can and cannot promise to customers is key to good customer relations, because it is better to under promise and over fulfill than to over promise and not be able to fulfill on those promises. Another example of un-intended bad customer service is when a sales representative tries to up sell a customer to a product that they know the customer does not need. They are not fulfilling the customer wants or needs but trying to maximize their commission at the expense of potentially losing a future return customer. But the most frequent way that some organizations provide bad customer service is by overburdening their front line or customer service staff with high volumes of work and expectations that they can solve every question or customer service problem in a limited amount of time, thus causing customers to feel they are being rushed and not feeling they were listened to or got the attention they deserved.
So what exactly is good customer service?
There is no one magic solution for providing good customer service but there are some things you can do to that will better your customers experience.
Give your customer only what they want: While it tempting to sell your current customers some new product idea that you came up with, you may want to wait until that new product is proven before you try to persuade your existing loyal clients to stop using the product they have trusted you for delivering. Don’t forget that your customers may not want what you are trying to sell and pushing them into is will only cause problems for your customer relations. If you try to sell something to someone who doesn’t want it, it will ultimately just make them not want to deal with you. Before you try to sell something new to your existing customers, ask yourself What value does this add to my customer’s life? Will this new product sale add a significant amount of value to my customer’s life? and How do you know that this new product is something my customers want? Have you asked them?
Make communication easier for your customer: If you want to keep customers happy and coming back for more, you’re going to need to make it easy for them to communicate with you throughout the lifespan of your relationship Simply having telephones and online applications won’t keep customers happy, you have to put more effort in to make it easier for your customers to connect with you.
Here are a few considerations in customer communication:
- Keep Response and Resolution Time Down – While it is important to make sure you address any issue or questions the customer has either before or after the purchase, you goal should to respond and resolve issues and respond to pre-sales questions as quickly as possible, your customers time is just as important to them as efficiency is to your organization.
- What are Your Customers Preferred Communication Channels? – Polling large numbers of your customers to find out their preferred communication channels, will not only help you to make the right investment choices in expanding your communication channels that are most wanted, but will also show your customers that you are looking for better ways to serve them and that you are listing to how they want to be served.
- Learn From Your Top Performing Sales and Customer Service Representatives. – The are not your top performers because they do not provide the customer with the best service, they are your best because they listen and work with your customers. Don’t just ask them to tell you how they out perform other representatives, ask them to show you the data that backs up their claims and techniques.
Deal with complaints: No company wants to hear complaints, and too many small businesses have developed thick skin and developed a reflex of saying, “You can’t please all the people all the time”. This may have been easy years ago, but with the internet age and sites like Yelp and Complaintboards, you are not the only one that your customer may be airing their complaint to. By giving the complaint your attention, you may be able to please this one person and the others who may have seen their complaint. It is important to respond privately to private complaints and publicly to public complaints. As we mentioned early on in this public service blog series, Telsec had a complaint from a Toronto virtual office clients posted on its Google reviews that it dealt with privately and did not realize that the posting was still influencing others by Telsec not addressing the issue publicly. They finally addressed this publicly and other office space for rent Toronto clients have come forward to say they are glad Telsec had, because they have enjoyed the customer service they have been provided.
Try harder to be helpful to clients and customers – even if there’s no immediate financial benefit in it.
When was the last time you stopped at a service station and had to pay to put air in your bicycle tire, only to find that the air pump charged you 50 cents or a dollar. Well, how would you feel about a service garage that offered to fill up your bicycle tires free and even checked to make sure the pressure was correct? You would probably want to take your car there the next time you needed it serviced. Or consider when you go to the local grocery store to pick up a few items, only to have a helpful clerk point out that the same product in a bigger size is on sale for less then the size you originally picked up, you are going to become a repeat shopper based on how you were treated.
What makes for exceptional customer service?
Exceptional customer service is not just finding out a problem or issue before a customer has to mention or complain about it, but being pro-active in seeking out better ways to service your customer without having to tell them you are trying to serve them better.
The example of the grocery store employee who points out to customers some sales on items they have in their shopping cart and points them to how they can save money is not only good customer service but also exceptional customer service. When a customer is being interacted with by a store employee that is not trying to up sell them or push a new product on them, but actually trying to save them money, gets noticed by a customer and chances are that customer is going to tell their friends.
Another great example of exceptional customer service was witnessed by this writer as he watched one of Telsec’s staff dealing with a potential new office space tenant. The customer wanted a minimal office space that came with the benefits of access to the 7 boardrooms and meeting rooms, as well as having a receptionist. But the client also wanted to be able to work from their home office and still have the benefits of having access to a physical office space downtown to meet clients. Instead of suggesting the client rent a private office, the staff member suggested that they would be better served with a semi-private office or a shared office space combined with a new phone service that we are going to be introducing in the next few weeks.
As you strive to provide exceptional customer to your clients, one thing you should do is to talk to the customers of your competitors and find out how they meet or could exceed customers expectations of quality customer service.