Quality customer service is a critical element for success in almost every occupation, industry and business sector. Service must be provided before, during and after a customer’s needs are met. When you provide great customer service, you’re meeting or exceeding the desires and needs of your customer. Whatever your role — a waiter, a doctor, a lawyer or a salesperson, the way you interact with customers can make the difference between a satisfied customer or an unhappy one.
Results from various industry studies suggest the cost of acquiring a new customer can be five times more expensive than keeping an existing customer. In addition, in the world of instant connection through the internet and social media, one dissatisfied customer can quickly spread the word about a negative interaction.
Hiring and promoting customer service superstars can be a game changer for progressive organizations because providing great customer service is critical to their business growth.
Achieving customer service excellence
Delivering a positive customer experience should be the goal of every customer contact. Providing great customer service is an art, particularly if you are working with a demanding, frustrated, angry or even out-of-control customer. A negative reaction, even though it may have nothing to do with you or your service, can be difficult to handle. Your goal is to diffuse the situation and determine a win-win resolution. Learning to turn a negative situation into a positive experience takes knowledge and practice. Once you have mastered the following techniques, it may become second nature.
- Actively listen without interrupting until you have heard the entire situation.
- Repeat important information and have the customer acknowledge that you understand his or her concern. Make sure the customer knows you have listened to him or her and heard what he or she has said.
- Try not to let the customer’s frustration become your frustration or make you angry or upset.
- Continue to listen knowing that once they’ve finished talking, you’ll know how to handle the situation.
One note to remember — Your company should have policies for customers whose words or actions are unacceptable. Follow company guidelines on how to deal with those individuals.
- Empathize and let the customer know you understand how he or she feels.
- Use phrases like, “I’d be frustrated too” or “That would confuse me as well.”
- Make sure the customer realizes you’re ready to help and never hesitate to offer a sincere apology.
- Communicate with customers by thinking, writing and speaking clearly.
- Know what you want to say and consider how to best deliver your message. You may be communicating in person, on the phone or through electronic means.
- Take your time to avoid making mistakes or saying something out of context.
- Resolve issues quickly.
- Don’t hesitate to involve the customer by saying, “What can I do to make this right?”
- Face the conflict head-on in a calm, nondefensive and respectful manner. If the answer is beyond your pay grade, involve the appropriate manager.
- Deliver what you promised.
- If you realize it will take longer than promised to deliver a response, let your customer know.
- Keep in touch by phone or email and let the customer know you haven’t forgotten about him or her.
- Make each contact friendly, informative and professional.
- Follow up with customers when the transaction is complete to make sure they’re satisfied.
- Thank them for their business. The few minutes it takes to follow up may make the difference between your customer enjoying or resenting his or her experience with you and your organization.
If you’re in a position where you handle repeat customers, consider the following ways to create a positive relationship.
- Share holiday wishes and remember birthdays.
- Keep notes in your database and review before you connect, if possible.
- Contact your customer with offers you feel will interest them.
- Be patient if your customer wants to engage in casual conversation.
The extra care you provide to your customer can be the difference between providing ordinary and extraordinary customer service.
If you have questions about developing better customer service skills or any aspect of employment, call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 to speak to a SECO career coach or use the Live Chat feature on MySECO for additional guidance.