Identifying the Keys to Customer Service Success
No one ever said winning a new customer was easy and certainly, keeping a customer is much tougher for many reasons. No truer words have ever been uttered, but it’s not a herculean task to keep clients engaged and happy. I’ve found a few simple ways to keep our customers engaged and through hard work and tenacity, and proud to say, some of our very first clients are still our clients.
Build a Personal Relationship
Have you ever heard the saying, “The moment you win a new customer, you begin to lose them?” One of the biggest engagement factors with clients is how they feel they are perceived and treated by their service provider. So how much do you know about your clients, not only their product issues and concerns, but them personally? Ultimately, people want to deal with people, preferably people they actually like because they have a personal connection. Companies that overly automate their service communications may do this for expedience and in some instances it makes sense, but with this, some of the personalization from a human voice is lost. It doesn’t really give customers a chance to feel appreciated or understood by a fellow human being. Even though we live in a very technology-driven world, most people still prefer to hear the voice of a customer service person on the other end of the phone or to have an attentive live chat on a website.
Additionally, an inviting and friendly voice asking someone about their day shows interest and an effort to connect on the human level, and this is not only always welcome but also helps build a relationship. Also something as small as asking about their day can increase customer satisfaction and all with little effort.
Setting and Managing Expectations
Service reps often fall prey to setting unrealistic expectations because they want to tell customers what they believe they want to hear. But setting unrealistic expectations creates a false stage for what people can expect and if you don’t deliver on what was promised, you can expect to meet with resistance and hostility the next time you speak with your customer. Articulating this in clear terms is a very important responsibility for anyone working in a service capacity. Good communication and timely feedback can give your customers peace of mind, even in the instance when the solution to their problem cannot be fixed in a timely fashion. People prefer to know upfront what can and what cannot be done, but more than that, they want to know they can rely on the expertise, follow-through and sincere interest by the service provider to make inroads on the resolution… this means honest communication about the limitations of what you can do, explaining what resources you will need to bring in to fix the problem, how much time it will take, what might potentially make the resolution stall, and the timing of the subsequent communications they can expect to receive. Also, put yourself in their shoes. Think about the last time you had to call someone to help you with a product or service. Did you get off the phone feeling confident that your problem would be resolved, or that you’re just a voice on the phone with a complaint? Was the explanation of how to solve the problem reasonable or just words to end the call more quickly?
Keep in mind, following up with customers is another essential aspect of setting expectations. No one wants to feel snubbed and that their issue has fallen through a crack. Even under circumstances when the service rep assumes a problem is solved, they need to regroup with the customer to ensure that the problem has, indeed, been solved and the customer is satisfied. This is where good communication skills are called into play. When working with clients, gaining their trust and confidence can work in your favor as you assist them during the service experience. Some problems are a quick fix and others will take time to investigate and resolve. Communicating this to customers helps them to better understand what to expect and doesn’t leave them feeling in the dark.
Own Your Mistakes
One of the worse things any business can do is not accept responsibility for errors, or worse misdirect the error back to the client as something they did wrong. Customers don’t like mistakes… no one does, but when people know there is a human being on the other end who is taking ownership of the problem, it becomes a much more tolerable situation. Taking the time to forge relationships with customers means you are much more likely to be dealing with an understanding customer when inevitable issues arise. Knowing this, companies need to take the necessary steps to ensure their frontline service providers are empowered with the authority to take responsibility. For these employees that are customer-facing, being able to solve problems empathetically, and with swift and confident determination not only assures your customers that they are in competent hands, but also empowers your employees to go the extra mile… and this includes having the confidence to say, “I don’t know, but will find out,” as part of the resolution process. This response, also, requires confidence and faith in your employees to know they can do this if the problem cannot be corrected at the moment they are interacting with the customer.
Bending Over Backwards
Have you ever experienced working with a customer service rep that pulled out all the stops to help you? If you’ve been lucky, you can say, “yes,” to this. Those of us who have, know we’ve been considered a priority and our problem is the only thing that is in the spotlight to receive attention. It’s abundantly obvious when customers are made to feel important and it’s also obvious when customer service representatives are bothered or annoyed by the interruption of a customer’s request for help. Getting the brush-off when the interaction is face-to-face or being rushed off the phone is not an effective way to engender oneself with a customer. In a survey conducted by help desk software developer Help Scout, they found poor service delivery not only affects a company’s ability to satisfy their customers’ needs, but not surprisingly affects a company’s bottom line.
Respect Their Time
Time is a commodity of which we all wish we had more. In today’s world we are all called upon to do more with less and with that want our time observed and respected. In regards to service delivery, this means giving customers your undivided attention and listening to understand and not just to respond in some obligatory way. If your company is organized to deliver service via the phone, you need to be attentive to the customer on the other end of the phone and not scanning emails, or preoccupied with other work sitting on your desk. People can “sense” when their time is being wasted and may either get angry at the lack of concern or worse, the customer ends the call before their issue has been addressed and resolved. With this later action, some form of retribution may be sought out by the customer, so be prepared to deal with backlash.
Loyalty is a Two-way Street
Most consumers will stay with a brand or service provider for the long-term, if they have received the service they expect, and are consistently shown the value of their patronage with honest, personal and timely service and follow-up. (Further, they may in turn express their satisfaction by acting as a referral source for your company.) Keep in mind, it takes more than treating people as you wish to be treated, it means treating them as they wish to be treated. There is no one size fits all when it comes to working with people, but certain skills like listening to understand, remaining focused on the customer in front of you or with you via the phone, and even remaining attentive when your company website provides a chat option for service, will help you to gain the customers’ confidence in helping them resolve a problem.
Put yourself in the shoes of the customer and image your reaction to how you were last treated by a service provider. Providing great customer service is a skill that not everyone has, but is one that a willing and determined person can learn.
Here’s to your next great customer interaction.
Previously posted on TalentCulture.com April 2017
Photo courtesy of Valerie Everett.