Every engagement, contact, conversation, interaction is a opportunity. An opportunity to give good customer service. Customer service is expected to be and should be a core focus of each of our businesses. Customer preferences and brand loyalty can shift quicker than you can blink an eye, especially if they perceive or receive any form of mistreatment from your business. As much as you can control, don't give them a reason to perceive or receive you and your business in a negative light.
There are a few simple customer service tenets, which are easy to learn and employ. What are the keys to success in customer service nearly every time? You will be surprised to learn that while all of them require investment, they don't have to cost you much "out of pocket."
- A Genuine Greeting - Muster a smile, eye contact, positive body language and a cheerful 'hello,' if you're interacting in person. If you're interacting via digital vehicles, use engaging and affirming words and tone, it goes a long way to starting off a transaction or interaction on the right foot.
- Gratitude - How many years did our parents spend teaching us verbal etiquette and the importance of an attitude of gratitude? Many years and many lessons later, here's your chance to put it into practice. Your customers help keep you in business, let them know that you appreciate that. Something as simple as "thank you" is a good place to start, but it doesn't end there. Handwritten notes, coupons, discounts, contests and giveaways, and more - there are numerous ways you can show your gratitude.
- A Sincere Apology - Every time something goes amiss with one of your processes, services, products or the like, you have an opportunity to make or break the relationship with the affected customer(s). Don't be afraid to apologize. The words "I'm sorry" are extremely powerful and meaningful.
- Responsibility - If something went wrong and it was your business's fault, own up to it. And, share what you steps you're taking to right the problem. If the steps you're taking are a matter of intellectual property, operations security or the like - obviously only share what's not proprietary, but certainly let customers know that you're working on it, and acting as quickly as you can.
- A True Interest - Customer feedback (positive or negative) can be invaluable, especially if you take the time to listen, process and act upon it. That's not to say every last, little modicum shared by customers will be your golden ticket, but there's potential in a lot of what your customers are saying. So listen, and listen carefully. If you're receiving this feedback in person, stop what you're doing and attend to the person with eye contact and full attention. People (no matter how angry, neutral or positive), like to know that their opinion is important.
- Helpfulness - Even if there's not immediate upfront gain for you; it pays to be helpful. You never know when the extra mile you went for someone can pay you back twofold or more. A customer may remember your business and it's kindness extended, and how that fact differentiated you from a competitor, at a time when they're ready to buy. Besides, how many people do you think that customer you went the extra mile for, told about the assistance your business offered?
Your current and potential customers may know more about your business then you realize, as they have a world of information available to them within a few clicks online. We're in an era where consumers can blast their experiences, good, bad, or ugly, via those real-time consumption vehicles - social media. So, be sure you're treating 'em right. Don't give them a reason to share, blog, post, or review your processes, products, and services poorly. Give them the tools to rave about you to their social networks both online and offline!