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Ensuring good service

Jeffrey Benjamin

The only difference between you and your competitors is the level of customer service satisfaction you offer. The path to excellent customer service begins with a genuine commitment to create and maintain a service-oriented company culture. Here is a list of customer service practices you might want to implement or strengthen.

Use a friendly greeting. Scary but true, most people skip right over this simple customer service practice. It spells out to your customer that you truly appreciate that they decided to do business with you and your company. One of the best ways to initiate a friendly attitude is to greet every customer who walks through the doors of your business. It’s no secret that people prefer to be associated with, and greeted by, friendly people.

Provide access to information. You ask a person behind the counter and they are not sure; you look for a sign, nothing in sight; you enter every key word you can think of, and still no satisfaction; you are transferred from person to person, but no one seems to know what to do. The key is to make sure you provide customers with access to the information they need to do business with you! It’s imperative that everyone, in any organization, be armed with the information needed to answer the potential questions of customers. And, if they are unable to provide the necessary information, they need to at least know where to find the necessary information.

Listen to your customer. In blunt terms, zip your lip and stretch your ears. Two-thirds or more of communication should be spent on listening, not talking. Most of the blunders that occur during communication are a result of ineffective listening. In the business world, millions, if not billions, of dollars are lost due to poor listening. Listening is the best way to learn what your customer wants and needs.

Remember and use your customer’s name. How does it make you feel when someone forgets your name? Or, when you see someone you met the day before and you can’t remember their name? On the contrary, how does it make you feel when someone remembers your name? Feels good! Write it down, repeat it to yourself, use photos, lists, whatever you need to help you remember and use their name.

Improve your voice inflection. Eighty-six percent of the message over the phone is conveyed through tone of voice. It only takes seconds for callers to know whether they are talking to Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde. How you use your tone of voice reveals what you think and feel. Generally, a flat or monotone voice conveys to the customer: “I am bored and could care less.” A slow speed and low pitch says: “I’m depressed and lethargic.” A high pitch and enthusiastic voice announces: “I’m looking forward to serving you.”

Under-promise and over-deliver. Too often, out of the want to please customers, employees promise more than they can deliver. The way to win with customers is to under promise and over deliver. For example, say it takes five business days to ship a product to a customer. Lately though, it has only been taking two days.

Avoid promising two day shipping. Let them know it can take up to five days. When the package arrives early, you become the hero. You get the idea! Always follow through on what you promise.

Return phone calls promptly. Returning phone calls seems to be a customer service strategy most people overlook. How long should a customer have to wait to get a return call? How long should an outside vendor, or someone who is not a direct customer, wait to get a return phone call? Not returning phone messages is a quick way to convey that you probably deliver poor service.

Share your positive attitude. How is your attitude? Is it positive? Is it negative? Does it lift people up? Does it bring people down? Being positive will not only help you recognize and take advantage of the opportunities in your environment, it will naturally improve your communication skills with others since most people tend to avoid doom-and-gloomers. Your coworkers and customers will notice your great attitude and your company culture will improve dramatically as you and others choose a positive attitude. Remember, a positive attitude is contagious, so create an epidemic!

Take a survey. Most companies are scared out of their boots about conducting a customer service survey.

They are afraid people will confirm what they already suspect that they rate below average on customer service. A survey also conveys to customers that you care enough to ask what their thoughts and opinions are on how you may improve the quality of service you deliver. Mail a survey with your invoice, place it in a designated area at your store, etc.

Take ownership of complaints. “Passing the buck” is a great way to deliver poor service. The core of this strategy is: Any employee who receives a complaint “owns” the complaint. The employee who hears the complaint does everything in his or her power to resolve it. Sometimes resolving the complaint entails contacting and working with a manager to collectively decide what will be done in order to retain the customer.

Offer a recovery token. Sometimes the way to turn around a dissatisfied customer is to offer a recovery token. This can be accomplished by offering to pay for shipping charges, waiving bank fees, or waiving a partial payment on services rendered. It can also be a token such as a free beverage or appetizer, or a small gift that you toss in with a purchase. Keep in mind that a token can also be something that costs less than 50 cents.

It is time to step up from knowing to doing. These service practices are simple yet they are not easy to consistently apply. It they were more companies would be enjoying the benefits that come along with using them.

Best of success to you!

Jeffrey Benjamin is the co-author of Real Life Habits for Success‚ the founder of Breakthrough Training in Reno and the host of Breakthrough Radio every Sunday at 9:30 a.m. on 99.1 FM Talk. Contact him through http://www.breakthroughtraining.com.