Good customer service is the foundation of a business. Enticing customers with discounts and special offers is an excellent strategy for getting them through the door, but you need to keep those customers coming back if you are ever to make your business a success. Leaving your customers feeling satisfied with your customer service will ensure they go and tell their friends, thus generating more business.
A good salesperson can sell anything once. In contrast, an excellent customer service agent can turn an initial sales pitch into an ongoing relationship – a relationship that a customer will be keen to develop. One noteworthy phrase connected to good customer service is that “Customers remember the service a lot longer than they remember the price.” Your actions as a customer service agent or even a business owner can be a great advertising tool. There are some simple rules to ensure your customer service is not just good but the best.
Answer The Phone.
It may seem simple and in your interest to answer your business line. However, many businesses skip this essential step. Ensuring your customers can reach you is key to great customer service. That’s not to say you have to sit next to your phone all day. Set up call forwarding or employ an answering service to handle your calls. Don’t skimp and opt for an automated service; customers want to speak to an actual person and not a computer.
How You Answer the Phone Also Matters.
Just picking up your phone is not enough; how you do, it is also essential. Despite living in a world of email, texting, and instant messaging, your phone will still be a primary means of contact for your customers. You may have heard the term “service with a smile.” You should apply this rule, even when answering the phone. Now obviously, a customer cannot tell by looking if you are smiling, but your voice will be more welcoming if you are talking with a smile. Being welcoming is not enough, though it is vital. You also need to instill confidence in the customer by sounding professional. The terms you use over the phone will leave a lasting impression on potential clients. Answer with the name of your business and asking how you can assist. A dull “hello” can lead to a customer feeling unsure of where they have called. Always remember that you are talking to customers and not your personal friends. In short, answer in a professional, welcoming, and enthusiastic manner. You should also always remember the 3rd ring rule. Customers are often shopping around and don’t have time for you to get your things in order. You usually have up until three rings before the customer hangs up and moves on. They may call back, but is that a chance you can afford to take?
Don’t Promise More Than You Can Deliver.
Despite your best intentions, a broken promise will leave a sour taste in the customer’s mouth. The reliability of your business can say a lot to a customer. Don’t promise your product can do something. Don’t guarantee delivery of a specific date if you can’t meet the time. Don’t schedule appointments if you will need to change the date. In short, don’t make a promise you can’t keep. Customer loyalty starts building up when your business delivers what it promises.
Listen to Your Customers.
Sometimes the best customer service you can offer is by just listening. There is nothing more frustrating to a customer than them explaining their problem, to then realize you have not been listening to their issue. You may have a planned-out script, but each customer has a different way of doing things, and if they want to get straight to the point, you should listen. You will get your chance to talk, and when you do, you need to show you have taken the information in. Relay what you have heard back to the customer to confirm the details. Asking for information that they have already relayed will make you look bad to them. The customer may feel that if you cant handle simple information; their needs may be better served elsewhere.
You Should Know How to Handle Complaints.
When discussing good customer service, the conversation always comes to the handling of complaints. No one wants to deal with angry customers, but it comes with the territory and is much easier to handle if you know how to do it. Take any complaints seriously, no matter the reason. Successfully resolving a claim can lead to a customer returning to your company, even if they have had an initial lousy customer experience. By listening to these complaints, you may also find that problems with your company will get revealed that were not apparent before. You can then address these problems, improving your company, which in turn will generate more business.
Some Tips for Handling Complaints Include:
- Stay calm. The first mistake a customer service agent can make is by taking the complaint personally. The agent on the phone then starts arguing with the customer, and then things get blown out of proportion. Instead of trying to win the argument, keep calm, and listen. You will achieve a lot more than you would with a shouting match.
- Listen. Above is stated that listening is vital, and that goes double when dealing with complaints. Acknowledge to the customer that you are listening to their problems, but don’t interrupt them. If a customer is venting there anger but sees you are listening with interest, they will begin to calm down. A calm conversation, in turn, makes the situation easier to deal with for both parties.
- Acknowledge the problem. Taking the time to listen is critical, but the customer also needs to know that you understand. If it’s a simple mistake, it’s not your fault but confirm with the customer that you have understood why they are frustrated. There is a difference between understanding and agreeing, you do not necessarily need to take responsibility for something that is out of your hands, but you can still be understanding of the situation.
Now It’s Your Time to Talk.
After the situation has calmed down and the customer knows you have listened, it is your turn to speak up. It is best to turn the conflict into a calm conversation. Doing so will allow you to discover all of the facts: what went wrong, when did it go wrong, and why did it go wrong. Knowing these things is the first step to resolving the problem. Once you have sufficient details, you can put forward a solution. Sometimes you don’t need to offer anything except a sincere apology. A customer often needs to know that you have understood their problem to be satisfied.
Go the Extra Mile, without Expecting Profit.
You are in business to make money. However, you do not always need to think about immediate cash in your hand. You often need to consider the long-term relationships you can build. If you have no customer retention, there will be no long-term. Getting something for free is excellent, and a customer will be sure to tell their friends about it if they have a fantastic customer experience. That’s not to say give away products for free, but offer to carry items to the customer’s car or provide a repair for an item free of charge if it has only suffered minor damage. The customer was most likely ready to pay for the extra service, but they will remember that they didn’t have to with you when a competitor is charging for the same. As stated above, excellent customer service can be a great selling point for a company.
Ensure Everyone in Your Company Knows Your Customer Service Expectations.
Good customer service doesn’t start and stop with your customer service representative. If you have staff working for you, make sure they are versed in vital customer service skills. Make sure they understand how to speak to customers and how to listen. You should also make sure that your staff knows to go that bit further. Hold regular team-building events and run through great customer service strategies. Assess how your team has been receiving complaints and queries, and see what you can do to improve that process. At the end of the day, if your business can look after its customers, then the customers will look after your business.
Why Does It Matter?
You may be happy with the odd customer coming into your business now and again while turning the other cheek when things go wrong. This undemanding way of doing things might even last you for a few years. However, word gets around, and one day customers will stop coming to you. Strong customer service values will help build a relationship with the clientèle. A strong relationship with your clientèle ensures they keep coming back. Keeping those return customers happy will ensure that they pass on their customer experience to others; again, good customer service is excellent, free advertising. This customer loyalty will pay off as those return, and new customers will ensure that your business keeps going when others have failed. For businesses started in 2010, nearly 50% closed in the first five years. It is fair to say that some of those closures were down to a lack of customers. However, good customer care is not just about keeping customers. Employees are much more likely to stick around if the business they work for has a great reputation for customer service. Helping people makes them feel more motivated, which then leads to your employees also being an advocate for your business. Loyalty to a brand can significantly increase productivity.
What Makes a Good Customer Service Representative?
Though great customer service should be at the forefront of your business, sometimes a situation needs a professional. The above tips can help you set on the right path, but if you were to hire a dedicated person or persons to handle your customer support, what customer service skills should you look for in customer service reps? Customer service experience is a crucial point of focus, but there are specific things you should pay attention to. Here’s what you should look for to ensure a speedy onboarding process:
Problem Solving Skills.
An essential skill that excellent customer service professionals must have is the ability to solve problems. No matter how big or small the issues are, a fast and efficient response is necessary to minimize the damage. Problem-solving skills will fall into the categories below because they are so crucial to overarching customer service skills.
Problem Solving Skills Include:
- To solve a problem, an individual must have a degree of creativity. The answer to the issues raised by a customer is not always obvious, so the ability to create a solution to complex problems is vital. Sometimes it will just take some common sense, so your potential customer service agents should also possess that.
- To solve problems, the individual must also be a team player. You will need a representative who can work with their colleagues but also work with the customer to resolve the issue. If they can’t play well with others, they should not be working in this field.
- Another skill your customer service representative should possess, to enhance their problem-solving skills, is the ability to make a decision. Letting someone decide on your behalf is not always easy, so you must ensure that you can trust the person to make the right call. Being able to make the right call is a vital component of problem-solving.
- The final item that will help with problem-solving is the ability to assess risk. Solutions are not always black and white, so risk management is essential to ensure that when making a decision, the best one gets made for both the customer and the business.
Clear Communication Skills.
Problem-solving skills are irrelevant if your chosen customer service agent cannot communicate their solution. Communication is not as easy as it sounds. When talking with customers, an agent should be able to do so with clear and concise explanations. They should avoid any business jargon. If a customer is getting confused, that will only add to the problem. Clear communication will also help when working with a team. If you employ multiple customer service representatives, they will all need to communicate the customer’s problems. If each member of your team ends up with a different story due to a failure to communicate, the customer will suffer, and things will only get worse.
A friendly and positive attitude when dealing with customer interactions will help a customer service agent. Customers like to feel that they are essential. If your representative cannot talk to people in a friendly voice, the customer will feel they are not worth the time of the representative of your business. When dealing with customer support, this friendly attitude should come naturally, as a forced friendly manner can still be picked up by a customer, and will influence their decision to either use your business again or not. The customer service representative must understand each phone call is not a competition. Aggression will not get anywhere.
Some tips you can pass on to your customer service agent are:
- They should answer the phone with a friendly greeting and introduction to the business. Doing so is a strong starting point for the conversation that will follow.
- Not to take a customer’s complaint personally. Taking the claims to heart will leave your representative on the defensive. That can lead to a back and forth argument, and nothing gets resolved.
- They should be aware of their facial expressions. Again, customer service is often over the phone. That doesn’t mean that your representative shouldn’t smile. Their tone of voice will change with their facial expressions.
Though a trait that all humans should have, empathy is vital to a customer support role. Being able to put yourself in the shoes of the customer is the first step to reaching the solution. Sometimes, just showing that you care is enough to diffuse a situation. The customer’s needs should come first; they are paying the bills at the end of the day. A representative should be looking for ways to meet the needs of the customer and be genuinely concerned while doing it. It is not a difficult skill to develop; imagine the roles get reversed. Then ask yourself how you would like to get treated. Unfortunately, some people do lack this skill and refuse to have it taught to them. These people will make poor customer service representatives.
Some Statements You Can Use to Show Empathy Include:
- “You are completely right.” Or “ I completely understand your point” – these phrases show you agree with the customer, which will start to calm them down.
- “I appreciate your time.” Or “Your business means a lot to us.” – Such statements show that your customer is essential to you.
- “What can we do to resolve this for you?” Or “How can I best fix this for you?” – These questions give power to the customer, which will show that you appreciate them.
- “So, what you are saying is…” Or “If I have understood correctly…” – Showing that you have understood and listened can be a great way to defuse angry customers.
Though a customer service agent is not usually making sales, they are still a vital part of your business. For that reason, they should understand the needs of the business. A successfully resolved complaint is one that benefits both the customer and the business. Business acumen is made up of three essential understandings:
- Understanding how a business makes money can help a customer service agent reach a conclusion that is suitable for both parties. It doesn’t matter if a profit is generated through the sales of a product or by offering a service. If a customer service agent knows how your business makes money, they know what they can provide to the customer to resolve an issue.
- They should be able to understand the role of each member in the business. Doing so can help them know where the problem has come from, as well as deducing why it happened.
- It is also essential to understand what different elements make a specific action in the business environment, work, or not work. Being able to understand this can help a customer service representative ensure that the problem does not get repeated.
Product or Service Knowledge.
Knowing how to do business and knowing about a business are two different things. As well as business acumen, a customer service agent should know the ins and outs of how the product or service that your business is offering. Their knowledge does not have to be as in-depth as your technical team, but they should know the same amount as a salesperson. A customer will hate ending up on the phone with someone who doesn’t understand the problem they are having. To reach customer satisfaction, make sure that your representative takes the time to know what you are offering. It would be even better if they can be in the customer’s shoes and experience the product as it should be. It is also essential to understand the customer base the service provides to. If your brand caters to a specific demographic, your customer service team needs to know who makes up that demographic.
Time Management Skills
Depending on the size of your business, your customer service team may need to deal with multiple complaints without time to breathe in between. For this reason, they should be able to manage numerous customers at once, without getting overwhelmed. Some critical components of practical time management skills include:
- Organization. Being able to stay organized will allow you to keep a clear mind of what you need to complete, and when. Don’t underestimate the power of making notes.
- Prioritization. Some cases will require more urgency than others. Time management requires the ability to put one case on top of the other. You need to achieve a balance of prioritizing the most time-sensitive matters, and the ones that will take longer to settle.
- Stress Management. Time management is about not getting overwhelmed. You should ensure that your customer service team also looks out for their mental wellbeing, as well as the customer’s needs. That is easier said than done, which is why strong stress management skills will help with time management.
Taking Things to the Next Level.
The above fundamentals will help you with implementing good customer service. You also know what skills to look for when you hire a customer service representative to manage your customer relations. However, what if you have already done the above and are still not quite hitting the mark. The below tips will make your good customer service, excellent.
Respond to All Feedback.
In the above, phone calls have been the focus of customer feedback. However, in the modern age, feedback can come in many forms. Emails, blog posts, and social media are all ways a customer may reach out to you. Twitter is a universal medium for customers to voice their concerns. Along with the delivery, the content of the feedback may differ as well. It’s not always going to be negative feedback, and though a piece of positive feedback will make your day, you should give focus on both types. Letting comments build up on social media is visible to potential customers who then see your business does not care. With all the channels for feedback, it is easy to get overwhelmed. If you find this is the case, a virtual assistant can help you manage your online presence while you and your customer service team focus on the more pressing matters.
Feedback doesn’t have to be words either. You may receive returns or cancellations. If that is the case, find out why and see what you can do to fix it. It may be due to a problem with your product, or a competitor offering a cheaper alternative. The fact that you have taken time out to inquire will mean a lot to a customer.
Make Use of Surveys.
Customers will always have opinions on your services or products. However, they will not always voice these opinions, and you shouldn’t have to wait until they do. Making use of surveys is an excellent way for you to get an idea of how people feel about your business. You may even gain insight into how you can improve your business model. It may be wise to offer an incentive for customers to fill out these surveys, 10% of a product, for example. This way, you are generating more repeat business and gaining feedback at the same time. An excellent platform for doing this is Survey Monkey, which is considered to be the global leader in survey software. An alternative to a detailed survey is making use of a net promoter survey. A single question, “On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend this company’s product or service to a friend or a colleague?” can help reveal how customers feel about your company.
Using Live Chat Options.
Above, we touched on the feedback coming to you in different forms and how you should approach it. Another method for dealing with customers that deserve particular attention is the use of live online chat. If you own physical stores, customers can come right in and chat with you or a representative. With a website, they have to send an email and then wait for a response, or call in and then face being placed on hold while you are talking to someone else. Offering live chat as a way to get in touch with you via your website is an excellent tool for those who don’t have the time to use other means. It is easy to implement as well, with the program running on your customer service employee’s computers while they handle calls. Today, more than 30% of customers expect some form of live chat option on your website.
Go the Extra Mile, Again.
It’s important to stress how much you can achieve by going that bit further with your customer service. Saying sorry to an upset customer is a start, but surprising them with an offering that resolves their complaint, and then some, will keep them coming back to you, all while telling their friends. Make the apology call to them personally; they will appreciate that a business owner with a busy schedule has taken time out to contact them. It might not even be the fault of you or your employees; the customer may feel like the product didn’t meet their customer expectations. It would be easy to brush off such a case, but a voucher for a discount in the future will show that you care.
Good Customer Service Is the Backbone of Your Business.
How you go about handling your customer service is entirely up to you. However, you won’t last long in the competitive world of business if you keep driving your customers away. It will do you well to take on the above advice. Good customer service can do more for your business than just deal with customer complaints. Building a relationship with your customers can help cement your business as one that will last for generations. Loyal customers will keep coming back to you, which will keep the money coming in. Utilize all the tools at your disposal, your phone line will be your primary concern but don’t disregard emails and social media. No matter how hard you try, you will always find a customer that is not happy. Sometimes the reason may not be apparent; some people like to complain. Being the bigger person will reflect well on your business and show potential customers that you care. Doing so will ensure repeat customers for the future. Have you ever had to deal with an absurd customer complaint? What is the best feedback you have ever received from a satisfied customer?