We've all had our share of experiences with customer service … from the salesclerk at our favorite clothing store, the waitress at our favorite restaurant, to the customer service rep on the other end of the phone listening to our problem. How did we feel about our experience? Was it terrible, exceptional, or mediocre? Based on our customer service experience, do we continue to patronize that business, or did we move our patronage elsewhere?
Think about how you handle your customers, whether providing a new service or product, or trying to resolve a problem. Studies have shown it can cost up to 5 times as much to bring in a new customer than keep an existing one. So why do our customers leave? It could be because of small oversights or lack of attention from us, the provider of the service or product.
What can you do to ensure that your customer service is up to snuff? Read on and follow these simple steps.
When a customer calls on the phone, give them your full attention. Whatever the customer's need is, it's the most important item on their agenda at that particular time. They took the time to pick up the phone and call you, so stop multi-tasking and listen.
Smile (yes, even over the phone), be pleasant, and be genuine.
If they're calling about a new need, take notes. Ask questions. Listen. Sometimes our customers know they need something, but not necessarily what it is. If it's something you can not provide, do not be negative and just say, "Oh, I can not do that." Try saying something like, "While that's not a service (or product) I provide, I would be glad to help you find the right person (or company) who can." And follow up with that. Do not just say it, but do it. Take that a step further by following up to see how that relationship is going. After all, you would not want to refer someone to a business that is not very good at their customer service.
Now, the calm customer can be easy to talk to. But what about an irate customer who has a problem? How do we handle that? I mean, if you're a solopreneur, that customer is attacking the service or product that YOU provide; right? No. Distance yourself and do not take the criticism, rants and raves personal. This will make you go on the defensive, and that is not what you want to do. While trying to resolve the issue, put yourself in your customer's shoes. How would you want to be treated and what kind of resolve would you reasonably expect?
First off, allow the irate customer to vent. Think of shaking a can of cola and popping the top. Just let it spew … Do not interrupt until they have finished speaking, or until the can is done spewing soda. Before I started my business in 1997, I worked for a bank. I was the administrative assistant / executive secretary, but I also answered phones. Boy, can you get some cranky people in that job !! People would call and just be hysterical because their account was overdrawn and the fees that were being charged and this could not have happened. I let them spew, and when they were done, we would calmly go through what I was seeing happening on the computer. If I had tried to interrupt them before they had a chance to get what they wanted to say off their chest, we would not have gotten anywhere.
Also say things like, "I'm sorry" or "I apologize". To the irate customer whose account is overdrawn I might say, "I can see how that would upset you.
Use your customer's name through the call and have an interaction with them as you negotiate an acceptable solution to the problem. Conclude the call with a "thank you" or other verbal message of appreciation for their business, perhaps asking if there's anything else you can help them with.
As with the customer who needed a new service or product, follow up! Call to make sure the resolution was satisfactory and they are happy with the end result. Again, ask if there's anything you can do for them. Attention to customer service will go a long way in helping you satisfy your customers and keep them coming back.