- Excellent customer service can help you outrun your competitors.
- Winning at customer service starts at the top.
- Superior customer service takes training and practice.
Want a sure-fire way to rise way above your competitors? Pay close attention to your customer service. Killer customer service creates happy customers. Happy customers tend to buy more and are more apt to pay their bills on time.
“In today’s competitive business environment, customer experience is everything. It will literally make or break you,” says Clate Mask, CEO of Infusionsoft, which makes sales and marketing software.
“Customers expect quick, friendly service, and won’t hesitate to take their business elsewhere if you’re not meeting their needs,” says Mask, co-author of Conquer the Chaos: How to Grow a Successful Small Business Without Going Crazy.
“They’ll also share their experience with friends, family, and social networks,” says Mask. “Excellent customer service is your most powerful tool in boosting organic, word-of-mouth marketing.”
So how do you ensure that your company provides stellar customer service? Try these tips.
1. Serve by example
If you want your employees to take customer service seriously, start at the top. Good customer service is contagious. When you demonstrate how vital customer satisfaction is, your employees will notice and are likely to follow suit.
2. Provide comprehensive customer service training
Excellent customer service doesn’t come naturally to everyone, says David Glover, president of GLO Electric. “We’ve worked hard to create a customer service culture. That’s accomplished by holding regular customer service training.”
Develop protocols and policies for employees so that they know how to deal with various customer service scenarios.
Have employees read and sign a written customer service plan. It should include “the needs, wants and expectations of your target market,” adds Joanne Hernon, founder and CEO of the Growth Ledge Agency, a digital marketing agency. “An understanding of the market helps employees provide the best service possible.”
During training, it’s also effective to share real life customer service stories from your years working with clients. Discuss various options for effectively dealing with the difficult situations mentioned.
3. Listen to customer concerns and desires
The number one rule of good customer service is truly listening to customer complaints and concerns. This means teaching your employees and yourself to stop forming a response while the client speaks, but instead to absorb what is being said.
Once the customer is done unloading, repeat what you heard and ask for confirmation that you understood the complaint correctly. This is the only way to effectively address their concerns.
4. Use empathy
At one point, we’ve all been frustrated with service we’ve received. Remind yourself that the person complaining is a human being, and try to put yourself in their shoes. Would you also be upset if something similar happened to you? This will give you more patience as you try to solve their problem. What’s more, such an empathetic attitude is likely to calm the customer down.
5. Be responsive
“Don’t ignore the customer’s issue or problem. This will only make matters worse,” warns Glover. “Ensure that customers can easily get ahold of you. Make the company number clearly visible on your website.”
Glover also suggests taking care of problems yourself if you’re the one the customer approaches.
“Don’t pass a complaint off to someone else to solve,” he advises. “Your customers want to feel like they matter to you. I try to understand the needs of each client and make sure they feel appreciated and heard.”
6. Empower employees
You wouldn’t send an employee onto the job site without a go-ahead to use the necessary equipment to get the job done. The same goes for customer service. Employees need permission to provide top-notch customer service without having to stop and ask for permission.
“We’ve empowered our team to find a quick resolution to all customer issues,” says Glover. “That way they have the ability to expediently resolve issues before they snowball and become big problems.”
7. Reward employees for top-notch customer service
If you praise and reward employees who make customer service top priority, they’re likely to continue that behavior. Moreover, acknowledging such behavior as vital to the company’s success makes it apparent that leadership is paying attention.