Let’s face it. You can offer all the sales on your product that you want, but if your employees don’t have good customer service skills, you might as well be the most expensive company in town. Sure, a lot of people will be lured in by a low price, but how you treat them will keep them from leaving. Your bottom line is dependent on positive customer interactions. If your customers have a good experience with your service people, they will continue to buy your product or use your services, but if they have a bad experience, everyone within shouting distance will know about it. And because of the Internet, shouting distance is extremely far.
Nothing can ruin a business faster than negative publicity. Just ask Circuit City. Right, you can’t. They aren’t in business anymore and part of the reason why is because they didn’t take care of their customers. Word got out and people stopped shopping there. Other factors helped speed up their demise, but customer service was at the heart of most consumer complaints.
What Do Customers Want? Good Customer Service Skills!
Good customer service skills are not hard to acquire and they’re not hard to maintain. However, many companies don’t seem to get it. Still. Even after consumers have been very explicit about what they want in terms of customer service. It doesn’t take much to make a customer happy, but you can’t become complacent about providing superior service or you’ll eventually drop the ball. Once you squeeze the toothpaste out of the tube, you’ll never get it back in.
Understanding your customers is the key to offering superior customer service. Fortunately, you don’t have to figure that out all by yourself. Business experts have spent countless hours studying consumer habits and tendencies to make your job easier. Simply be consistent with the following good customer service skills and your customers will take notice.
- Answer your phone. This should be a no-brainer, but it seems like it’s next to impossible to get a live person on the telephone anymore. If people wanted to talk to a robot, they’d go ask their teenagers yes/no questions. Phone trees where you have push a million buttons before the system finally gets tired of repeating its questions and transfers you to the operator is a huge turn-off. You’ll lose a customer faster than your robot can say “Press 2 for English.” Hire someone to take your calls. It’s less expensive than trying to win your customers back.
- Return your messages. Nothing says “I don’t want your business” more than an unreturned phone message. If you hire someone to answer your calls, then don’t ignore the messages she gives you. If you can’t afford a secretary and someone leaves a message on your answering machine, refer back to #1. Customers will not chase you down. If they can’t get you on the phone, they automatically make assumptions about your customer service and those assumptions are rarely positive.
- Keep your promises. Remember when your dad told you he’d take you to the park after school and he didn’t? Of course you do. Your customers will remember your broken promises too. And, they’ll remember them for far longer than they’ll remember your kept ones. Their neighbors will remember too. And the woman in the grocery store line. Everyone your customer tells about their bad experience will hear about it and before you know it, you’re “the company that makes promises it can’t keep.” Yikes. Meet your deadlines and over-deliver on your customers’ expectations. These are the good customer service skills that will keep them coming back.
- Respond to any complaints quickly and positively. It’s easy to get defensive when a customer has a complaint, but your attitude will affect their attitude. If you do everything possible to make things right, the situation will be a lot more pleasant. Certainly, you might not be able to fix everything, but your effort will reflect positively on your company. That’s the kind of word-of-mount experience you want.
- Listen to your customers’ needs. You might know all there is to know about your industry, but your customers don’t care. They want to know if you can solve their problem with your product or service. Let them do the talking. Listen carefully and respond with suggestions that are helpful and to the point. Don’t go into long technical responses because soon your customers’ eyes will glaze over and they’ll start thinking about where else they can go to get what they need. Listen to your customers, identify the problem and provide the solution. Done.
Good customer service skills are a business necessity, just like inventory, training and manpower. You cannot succeed in business without them. Never, ever forget who really pays your bills. Without customers, you wouldn’t be where you are today. Focus on providing excellent customer service and your bottom line will reap the benefits.
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