We’ve all experienced bad customer service at some point. Sometimes this is because the person who is supposed to be assisting us with an issue is improperly trained, or the company doesn’t have clearly defined processes for dealing with the issue, or even because the person who is supposed to be assisting us is a real… well, a real “something” that we won’t publish here. Most managers would be aghast to know of some of the customer service horror stories that might well be a common occurrence in their businesses, but of course, prevention is easier than a cure. Management can’t dictate the way that their employees will behave at all times, but they can (and should) certainly set the tone for what’s appropriate. So what are some of the fundamentals when it comes to providing exceptional customer service?
Communication is Key
Smaller businesses need to ensure that there’s always someone available to answer the phone promptly when it rings, and that voicemails are checked and responded to in a timely manner. This might seem like common sense, but many smaller businesses neglect to do this. Depending on the size of your company, customers might need to be afforded some extra sympathy by the time they get through- they might have been bounced around a variety of departments before getting through, which can be highly frustrating. In the age of social media, many consumers are using Facebook and Twitter as a means of communication, and companies need to be vigilant at responding via these mediums too. If someone posts a query on your Facebook wall, you need to respond to it as though it were an emailed query.
Employees need to know what kind of conduct and language is appropriate when it comes to interacting with customers, although the hiring process is helpful here, since you’re likely to have only hired staff who would naturally liaise with customers in the most appropriate manner anyway. For growing companies, it can be helpful to produce a guidebook detailing the processes for customer issue resolution within your organization, meaning that staff are never unsure about what they can guarantee a customer; and are always confident about the appropriateness of their behaviour.
Making your employees jobs as easy as possible goes a long way to making a happier workforce, and more satisfied customers. Ensure that your employees have all the necessary tools for success, and this means that they should be adequately trained for the role in question, but they should also have support from management and a good working relationship with management that allows them to feel comfortable coming forward with any issues. Investing in business intelligence software, such as some of the packages on offer from Domo also allows many back office activities to be streamlined and even automated, giving your staff one less thing to worry about.
Face the Customers
You might have seen the television show Undercover Boss, in which CEO’s go undercover in an entry-level position in their own company to observe employee and customer relations at the ground level. The show has been produced in many different countries, although it’s odd that employees don’t seem to be particularly suspicious at the arrival of a new co-worker who wears a bad wig and is being followed by a camera crew. The concept itself is rather solid, and it can be hugely informative for a manager to get back to basics and work alongside staff who are essentially the face of the organization. Perhaps you have a number of stores but rarely have anything to do with customers anymore… To actually work one day a month in a customer facing role will give you a huge insight to the issues that your staff face on a daily basis, allowing you to improve operations for both customers and staff.
Be Unique, Be Excellent
Excellent customer service brings a customer back again and again, and also creates great word of mouth, which is worth its weight in gold. Remember that any issues in customer service need to be indentified and rectified immediately. Allowing customer service problems, whether individual issues or an overall process problem to stagnate can be toxic for a smaller business. Never forget that there are many other businesses in the local area or online that offer a comparable service to yours, and so value your customers accordingly. The fundamentals of customer service aren’t so difficult- it’s just a matter of actually following them. Start with a smile, and go from there.