Customer service is important for the overall health of a business, yet some businesses still fail to realise how important good customer service actually is. It reflects heavily on your entire business, is what customers will remember, shows customers you care and can even differentiate your business from that of your competitors.
With this in mind, our Head of Marketing | New Business offers her A-Z guide to providing excellent customer service.
Maintaining the right attitude when dealing with customers is imperative and ensuring it is passed down through the business to your employees is crucial.
It is so easy to annoy, upset and lose customers and unfortunately, it can happen very quickly. Attitude management is therefore vital to customer experience and priority should be given to instilling the right attitudes within your business, based on the understanding that you should look after your existing customers so that they come back. After all, one customer retained is one less customer to find!
If looking to improve service quality and customer service, behaviour is an obvious place to start. Staff attitudes and behaviour can significantly affect a customer’s perception of service quality and customer service. It is therefore important to underpin what is expected from staff and their behaviours when they are dealing with customers.
Effective communication can make the difference between poor, mediocre and great customer service. Strong communication channels with your customers make it easier to understand their expectations, increase customer satisfaction levels and improve customer experience. Communication paves the way for strong relationships.
Good customer service goes beyond having good services/products to offer – granted, it should include delivery of such but should also include ongoing customer care. Many businesses make huge claims and big promises when it comes to customer service then fail to deliver what they say they will.
Deliver your services/products effectively and efficiently, paying attention to the small things like returning phone calls and emails, staying in contact, responding promptly and keeping good records.
Don’t make promises you can’t keep; your word is your bond! Under-promise and over-deliver!
Surprise your customers with the level of service you offer by going beyond what they expect.
Exceeding your customer’s expectations can differentiate your business from that of your competition and if doing so on a regular basis, you are more likely to satisfy them and retain their loyalty.
If your customer service experience exceeds your customers’ expectations, it is a powerful reason for them to tell their friends and family of their experience and consequently your business. People trust personal recommendations and if a new customer is equally impressed with your service, they too are more likely to refer you on to their friends and family as well.
Processes are important in business, however having these in place without room for exception can inhibit the ability to deliver excellent customer service. Whilst procedures are there for a reason, embracing some level of flexibility when it comes to your customers and these processes can benefit both parties.
“Thank you” is made up of two small words that can have a huge impact – after all who doesn’t like to be showed a little gratitude every now and then.
Today’s customers expect loyalty to be reciprocated, saying thank you and showing gratitude to your existing customer base is therefore more important than ever. Creating a sense of loyalty which is authentic and reciprocal, requires focus on a response which drives loyal behaviour.
Instead of showing gratitude during certain times of the year or on special anniversaries, businesses are now incorporating gratitude into their day to day operations – going back to existing customers and thanking them can actually be more beneficial than going after new business. It is also a great way to demonstrate excellent customer service as it shows your existing customers how much you value them, which in turn will encourage them to stay with you.
Go for gratitude and loyalty will follow.
Humanise your business – people buy people and business is built upon relationships. Your customers don’t want to deal with an organisation or a machine they want to deal with a person…you!
Ensure that you maintain a personal yet professional approach when interacting with your customers.
The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles cannot be underestimated when it comes to customer service.
It is very easy when running a business to overlook the quality of integrity, however doing so should be done at your own risk. Integrity is synonymous with trust and customers have to trust the people with whom they do business.
Good judgement plays an important role in many things in life, particularly when there is no obvious right or wrong, yes or no answer.
One of the key drivers in exercising good judgement comes from an individual’s own set of values i.e. what is good, right or appropriate. Empowering employees to use their own good judgement is a scary concept, however placing confidence in your people can actually be very beneficial in providing good customer service.
Many businesses have found that in allowing employees to use their best judgement, their ability to satisfy customers improved considerably. The concept is based on theories that suggests employees who are face to face with customers each day have the best vantage point of the customer experience and thus, are in a better position to determine what action or decision is likely to please the customer the most.
The more you know about your customers, the more equipped you will be to meet their needs and expectations.
Your customers also want to feel assured that you know what you are talking about.
Knowledge is power.
There is a lot to be said for listening.
Not talking and actively listening to your customers can make for truly excellent customer service. Until you listen to your customers and ask them what they want you will never be able to fully meet their expectations.
Manage your mistakes appropriately.
Avoiding responsibility is a good way to develop a negative reputation. Owning up and acting appropriately to rectify your mistakes provides reassurance to your customers that you are honest; and transparency is important.
There is always room for improvement within any business so it is important to seek feedback from your existing customers – you may be making little mistakes that are annoying your customers. Use the information they provide you wisely and act on it accordingly to make improvements.
Nurturing relationships is crucial to growing a successful business, so creating a customer-focused culture is something that should not be overlooked.
It is one thing to acquire new customers but keeping them is a completely different ball game. Nurturing your relationships for greater customer retention should be an essential part of your business strategy. Successful businesses that enjoy long term relationships tend to know a lot about their customers and make efforts to further strengthen such relationships. This type of customer relationship does take time to build but the benefits to your business can be enormous, so it is well worth the time and effort.
To deliver high quality customer service, a business must take ownership of the customer experience.
Taking ownership can have a positive impact on customers, however when it comes to customer service problems, often nobody wants to get involved and instead a language of excuses is heard.
Taking ownership is the process of accepting responsibility for solving a problem – it looks at ways of getting things done by navigating around any obstacles and working with others as required. First you need to acknowledge that there is a problem, then focus on finding a solution whilst following the problem through until it is resolved. Solving problems is a huge part of providing great customer service.
Customers are not generic, so it is critical that as a business you recognise this and respond accordingly to different customer types and behaviours.
Customers know that they are not your one and only customer, however that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t feel that way – maintain a personalised level of service wherever possible.
Quality customer service can help grow a business in a number of ways including; improved customer satisfaction, stronger customer loyalty, competitive advantage and an improved market position.
Clearly not something to be forgotten quickly!
Most consumers will report experiences of customer service which has been rude and unhelpful, and many will not hesitate to tell their friends and associates about it. It is therefore important to respect your customers, their moods and their feelings about your business, particularly when trying to resolve an issue or deal with a complaint.
Be patient and listen to your customer, allow them to air their annoyance and unhappiness before working to make them feel more comfortable. This kind of respect for your customer will gain their respect in return and will also provide for a more positive customer service experience despite it starting out as a negative situation.
Customer satisfaction is the real measurement of good customer service and should not be underrated. When your customers are satisfied, they are more likely to stay loyal and continue using your services.
Trust is fundamental to business and even more so in customer service. Your customers must trust you, your business and your services/products. Keep your promises and develop a reputation for reliability.
Understanding your customers is key to providing them with a good service. You must deliver what you promise but real customer service goes beyond this to really getting to know your customer at a level where you can anticipate their needs and exceed their expectations. Be attentive, put yourself in their shoes and ask for their feedback. All of this information can give you a better understanding of your customer and therefore the ability to provide a better customer service.
It is important to measure and monitor the long-term value of a customer. Gathering usable data about customers i.e. using customer satisfaction surveys, is a great way to acquire key information from your customers which can then be used to make important changes that focus on customer value.
Knowing exactly what your customers want, need, and expect from your business, and more significantly conveying that information to employees is key to retaining valued customers and providing excellent customer service.
Make relationships more valuable than revenue – a customer that feels valued is more likely to stay.
Impressing your customers will work to your advantage, however upsetting or disappointing them can easily damage your reputation and consequently your business.
Word of mouth is hugely indicative of how well your business is delivering to its customers and is a great way to measure customer satisfaction. Whilst customers are more likely to tell others of a negative experience, it is positive word of mouth that can be very beneficial your business. Encouraging customers to talk positively about you is therefore very important.
Going the extra mile is important to the development of any business and in today’s competitive markets in which customer loyalty cannot be taken for granted; it is definitely an investment worth making.
But, going the extra mile is not a one off thing, it is something that should be part of your business’ culture – its showing your customers that you care more about them than your competitors do and about giving them the best customer experience you can.
Customers like to hear the word yes, so it is easy to see why strong customer service begins with this short three letter word.
Many businesses will do whatever it takes (within reason) to keep a good customer from leaving them and whilst a straightforward “yes” is not always possible it certainly sounds better than a resounding “no”.
The word “no” tends to trigger negative emotions which when applied to customer service, is not a great start. However, companies who are successful in customer service are those that are clever to this and in fact say “no” by saying “yes”.
How is this possible? It’s about finding a way to be truthful in a way that doesn’t trigger a negative reaction or outcome. This is done by using positive language to overcome a situation and producing a positive solution, albeit not the exact one the customer may have initially had in mind.
It is not just the word “no” that customers don’t like to hear, it’s also words such as “can’t”, “won’t” and “don’t”. However, you can say “yes” by telling customers what you “can”, “will” and “do”, do.
It is about showing your customer that you are on their side and that you are prepared to do everything you can to make this part of their customer experience as easy and efficient as possible.
Finally, be zealous in your pursuit of customer service excellence.
Never undervalue your customers and continue to invest time in looking at ways in which you can deliver better customer service to them.
Of course, this list is not exhaustive and there are many other things you can do to improve the service you provide to your customers. The main thing to remember is that customer satisfaction plays an important role in your business and consequently good customer service is key to both retaining existing customers and attracting new ones in today’s competitive business environments. Don’t overlook the importance of good customer service!
Lesley-Anne Walker, Head of Marketing & New Business, has over 15 years of marketing experience within the financial services sector, more recently with a heavy focus on the luxury asset markets, including yachting, aviation and real estate.
Lesley has a comprehensive understanding of a range of marketing principles and practices, including brand development, digital and social media marketing, public relations, advertising and event management.
In addition to her full-time role, she is currently a Director of Isle of Man Maritime, Chairman of the Isle of Man SuperYacht Forum and a volunteer in the Isle of Man for Breast Cancer Now.