Courteous treatment will make a customer a walking advertisement – James Cash Penny
Several entrepreneurs and marketing experts echo the sentiment above. The customer service organisation of a company has the power to attract new customers, retain existing ones and to ensure that those customers function as a walking, talking advertisement for the company. Customer service is a dynamic, ongoing process. Each interaction that your customer service department has with your customers will decide whether or not the customer will continue to give you their custom.
While happy, satisfied customers are what every company desires, even an unhappy customer is an opportunity for learning. A happy customer will not tell you what you’re doing wrong; it is the unhappy customer who will help you indentify precisely where a customer service organisation lags behind. Happy and unhappy customers together represent the achievements and success levels of a company as well as the company’s opportunities for growth and improvement. Good quality customer service is what will set your company apart from others that offer a similar product with comparable quality and price point. It is good quality customer service that tips the scale in your favour when all other aspects are equal.
Every company knows the importance of customer service. What every company needs to know however is, that customer service is not just one department; it is the whole company. This is central to creating a world class customer service organisation: everyone in the company contributes to the success of the entire experience. From the design team who envisages a product or service ideally suited to a target audience, to the manufacturing process where the accent is on creating a good quality, value for money product to the sales and marketing team that efficiently conveys the company’s message to its customers, every member of the company can and should contribute to customer service. This holistic endeavor is the first aspect to keep in mind if you want to deliver effective and successful customer service.
Secondly, it is important to remember that customer service is about the long haul. It is not something that aims at immediate benefit to the company. In other words, companies should concentrate on making a customer; not just a sale. A persuasive sales rep and effective sales patter will probably convince a person to make a purchase at the time; however this offers no assurance that the customer will return and make another purchase in the future. This is where the company’s customer service organisation comes into the picture.
If something went wrong, was your representative able to resolve the issue adequately? Did they have the knowhow, product information and wherewithal to solve the issue to the customer’s satisfaction? Was your representative polite, helpful and patient the entire time that they were dealing with the customer? It is a good idea to find out the answers to these questions about your
customer service organisation by having your customer respond to a few questions via a medium of their choice. After an interaction with your employee, request your customer to answer a few queries via text message or email. Positive feedback from a customer of course is great; it helps create templates for standard operating procedures that your customer services representatives can emulate. On the other hand negative feedback will help identify areas that need work.
Creating a world class customer service organisation starts at the point that you hire people. Look for qualities such as patience, good communication and language skills, ability to think on one’s feet, capacity to stay positive and to offer creative or innovative solutions to new problems. This is not without its challenges, however. Candidates tend to put their best foot forward and showcase their best qualities during a conventional interview; which hampers the interview panel’s ability to accurately assess that candidate. It is difficult to gauge a person’s abilities and intrinsic nature in the short span of time and the artificial setting of a typical interview. For this reason, companies sometimes use unique ways to determine the real nature of candidates. A popular gift items design company used the “van drive test” for prospective candidates. A company van would pick up the candidate from the airport. The way that the candidate interacted with the van driver – polite, rude, indifferent, approachable or affable – would influence whether or not the candidate got the job.
If you successfully picked individuals who are friendly, patient and willing to help, this is eases the training process, which is the next step towards creating a top notch customer service organisation. Remember training isn’t a luxury; it is a necessity. Investments that a company makes in training customer service professionals will pay rich dividends over time. Ideally, the training process should familiarise employees with the ethos and traditions of the company and expected standards of customer service. Training should include thorough familiarisation with a product, its features and troubleshooting tips so that reps can effectively deal with any question a customer may pose to them.
In addition, think of training as an ongoing process rather than a onetime requirement. Organise training refresher courses and teach representatives new skills to keep up with competitors. Take advantage of technological advancements and incorporate these into the customer service experience by ensuring that your customer service organisation is fully familiar with these new developments.
A customer service organisation that is happy and motivated is one that will deliver good quality service. To this end, a company has to ensure that members of the team are motivated and enthusiastic about their jobs. Incentivise performance: a customer service rep who receives a five star rating from a customer receives a bonus of some sort. Similarly reward a customer service rep who comes up with a creative solution to a problem; or one who had a great idea for an out of the box solution to a recurrent problem. Encourage contributions from individual members of the team and foster a team spirit.
Create standard operating procedures and guidelines to help your customer service organisation function in a uniform and predictable manner. Your customers should know what to expect when they call in or visit your premises with a complaint. Consistent responses offer your customer comfort and the promise of a resolution. This fosters trust, which is a very valuable quality in a customer whose custom and loyalty a company counts on. Another way to foster trust and retain customer loyalty is to be transparent in all of your dealings. Be honest in all your dealings with your customer, do not make false promises and never give an assurance you are not sure of being able to fulfil. A customer may not be happy to hear that it will take several days for the resolution of their problem. However, that customer will be a lot more upset to be told that the problem will be resolved in a day and still be stuck with the same problem three days later.
Companies must also concentrate on creating effective managers and supervisors. There will be times when a customer representative will not be able to handle a query or deal with a particularly irate and impossible-to-placate customer. A person in a supervisory position, with the requisite skills to deal with such an unsatisfied customer is vital for a successful customer service organisation. Remember, every great business is built on a friendship. A customer service organisation that aims to be the best, tries to be that friend to their customers!