Most businesses claim that they have great customer service. However, when I ask business owners what makes their business better than the competition, I usually hear, “We’ve got great customer service.” Then, I usually respond, “Really? Does the customer know that?”
The business owner rarely supports this claim with a definition of what constitutes great customer service. I prefer to call it, the customer experience. How does your business determine that your service, or the customer experience, is worth what you charge for your products and services? If your prices do not reflect great customer service and a pleasing experience for the customer, then you have a problem.
I’ve always tried to teach clients that a great customer experience occurs when the customer perceives it as great. So, put yourself in your customer’s shoes. What follows are some of the defining points to consider.
1. Make customer service a priority.
Unless you’re working with another customer, always take a call from a customer. If you already know you have a dissatisfied customer, don’t avoid that person by screening the call. Never make your customers feel rushed, taken for granted, or patronized. When you return calls, give the customer your undivided attention.
2. Respond promptly.
When you’re contacted by phone, ensure your customers receive a return call from you, at a minimum, on the same day. If possible, return calls within a few minutes. Reply to email messages within 24 hours.
3. Honor deadlines.
Deliver data, reports, information, and anything else requested by a customer at least on deadline as promised. In the best case, deliver considerably before the promised deadline. This includes last-minute requests. If you have agreed to a deadline, then do it as promised so your customer never has to follow-up with you. Customers hate it when you say you will call back at a specific time, and you don’t. Call at the appointed time, even if you have nothing to report.
4. Maintain qualified and professional support.
Nothing beats having the phone answered by a live person—nothing! However, make sure you have knowledgeable reps answering the phone who will treat your customers with courtesy and respect. Furthermore, ensure your reps have clear diction and are easily understood.
5. Create trust and transparency.
Don’t add to your customers’ problems. Instead, truthfully inform them in advance when something has gone wrong. Don’t allow turf battles within your organization to affect your customer.
6. Provide value.
Through your website, social media, newsletters, mailers, etc., offer informative articles, tips, ideas, references, and other resources that are non-promotional and clearly helpful.
7. Exceed Expectations.
Provide more than your customers anticipate, before and after the sale. Your intent is to ensure that a competitor cannot match your customer experience.
A great customer experience makes a wonderful differentiator. Therefore, manifest it from the first customer contact point. It is imperative to define, articulate, train and enforce this culture in your organization…and then deliver it to every customer.
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