Good customer service is something all businesses strive for.
But what actually is good customer service, how is it achieved and how do we improve on existing customer service levels?
When we start up a business, there are so many factors to consider and usually financing is to the forefront. It’s a known fact that the main reason for start-up failure isn’t due to poor ideas, it’s due to lack of sufficient financing or they’ve basically run out of money. So once a service business is up and running, it feels like you’ve run the race; unfortunately, that isn’t the end of the race, it’s just the beginning of the marathon!
Your stock, your product or service and its quality will set you apart from your competitors, there is no doubt about that but what will really set you apart and ahead of the rest is your customer service. Good customer service will have many key results: it delights customers encouraging repeat business; it encourages word of mouth business; it is good for public relations; it adds a unique selling point to your business. Therefore, excellence in customer service simply cannot be ignored.
How Can You Promote Excellent Customer Service in Your Company?
1. Make it a Company Mission
Company mission statements are a great way to focus the mind of the staff and make it in tune with that of management. If you create an ethos that the customer is of value to the essence of the company, it’s more likely that your staff will buy into this value too. Create a well worded company mission statement and alert staff to it and regularly refer to it; post it to the walls in the staff areas, make it a big deal! We like the advice in this article about getting started with a mission statement.
2. Know your Customers
Excellence in customer service is wonderful when it’s done right but how do you know if you are delivering the type of customer service that your audience actually want? The only way to know this is to research it and so it’s important to try to get this data from your customer. You can do this by simply asking them in person, or on the phone “were you happy with everything today?” and so on. You can then improve on areas that have been highlighted by customers. If you have an email newsletter in place, you could try gaining data that way or simply approach customers to see if they’re willing to answer a few short questions – maybe offer a discount if they help you out!
3. Be accessible
Accessibility covers many different areas such as phone, email, and social media. Simply having these options isn’t enough and you will need to ensure you are easily accessible across all of your channels. There is no value in having many contact points if they are not run efficiently, so if you do set up your social media channels you will need to ensure that someone is monitoring it on a regular basis to ensure messages are responded to in a timely manner. Consider increasing your budget in this area, if needed.
4. Honor your commitments & Do what you say
If you’ve said you will do something, then do it. This can even be little things like responding to an email but it’s the little things that go a long way when providing good customer service. If you said you will respond is within 24 hours or you will get back to the customer on Friday, then always honor your commitment. This will go a long way towards building trust with a customer and will hopefully contribute to developing a long term relationship with them.
In this scenario you should be careful about setting deadlines that are overly ambitious and you should always err on the side of a project taking a bit longer than you envisage. There is no point of telling a customer a project will take three weeks when you know it will take a month.
5. Admit if you’ve made a mistake
It isn’t nice to admit if you’ve made a mistake but with customer service sometimes it’s the only option. No business can get everything right and your customers will appreciate if you are up front about it with them and apologize. Covering any mistake up could well result in a lost customer but apologizing to a customer very rarely does.
6. Train your staff
Giving employees appropriate training ensures they are confident enough to make on-the-spot decisions when interacting with customers. You need to be completely clear on what their authority levels are and there needs to be a clear distinction between what decisions staff can and cannot make with customers.
Training Employees in Good Customer Service
So what is the solution? Customer service training techniques are becoming more modern and customer service role playing is becoming an antiquated notion. A major issue with role playing is how unrealistic it is, and employees generally feel awkward playing someone else. Many feel customer service role playing amplifies the awkwardness of the situation to a level that disrupts the learning process.
Check out this article about the inefficiencies in customer service roleplay and analyze how you’re using it in your company.
Experiential learning is growing in popularity among customer service gurus and research has shown it may improve customer service more than any role play techniques.
• Experience is something all employees can draw on and with the addition of the following three steps learning can take place.
• Reflect on the positive and negative aspects of the experience.
• Decide what will change the next time a similar situation is faced.
• Experiment with the new approach.
Read more about how to implement experiential learning as a part of a customer service strategy and investigate how it might work in your business.
The Layers of Good Customer Service
Digging deeper in to the technologies available to complement the basics of good customer services presents many opportunities for businesses, and understanding how to target customers at each stage of the sales funnel will result in powerful customer service. Customer service extends far beyond being friendly to customers in store and it begins very early in the life of the business.
Optimizing customer service at all stages of the sales funnel is a great place to start. Ensure that you analyze each phase of the funnel carefully.
Phase 1: Qualifying the Lead
Ask yourself “Who is your target market?” This isn’t as easy a question to answer as you may think. A clear understanding is needed of how your ideal customer thinks, acts, and eventually purchases your product.
Phase 2: Discovery
Work closely with the marketing department to help your target customer discover your product. This isn’t about pushing a product down a customer’s throat, but more about making it easy for those that have an interest in your product to find and obtain the information they need.
Targeting customers during the digital age can be difficult and it is critical that you have different campaigns for all the different platforms and viewing behaviours of your customers.
Phase 3: Interest and evaluation
Okay, so you have the customer interested but how do you further that interest? We’ve all been in situations where we see something advertised and think, ‘I might buy that’, but how do we push these ‘might buys’ in to actual purchases? To achieve this, you need to gain the customers trust and help them appreciate the benefits of your product, and anticipate the questions they have about your product before they even ask!
Phase 4: Intent & Solution
Now it’s time to close the deal. At this stage you need to answer any final questions the customer may have and complete the sale. Having good customer service over the phone with a great customer service team and a tailored on hold message or in store message is a powerful tool.
Depending on your business, live chat from your website is very convenient and can drive new sales. I would recommend this great article about the power of live chat.
Phase 5: Closing the Deal
You’re nearly there. When the customer is on the brink of making a purchase, this is when you need to give them one final push. You can do this by bringing up little details about discounts or promotions. Make it a good one and let the customer feel like they are the ones with the power and that they negotiated the final offer.
One key point is that if you have done your research in phase 1, the next phases generally fall in to place.
The fact that a recent Retail Systems Research (RSR) report found that 72 percent of retailers surveyed reported that they have IoT-related projects already, highlights just how far ahead retailers are getting in terms of seeing the benefits of IoT to their business. Smart technology holds great potential for efficiencies across the whole retail operation of course but it will have fantastic positive repercussions for customer service levels in particular.
How the IoT Impacts on Customer Service
1. Item-Level Tracking Using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)
Using RFID technology, retailers can track inventory status, purchase data, item popularity and shopper movement in their stores. They can measure a customer’s dwell time on a product, and the time between the product leaving the shelf and the actual purchase. In terms of customer service, this will allow retailers to quickly understand what products customers have affinity with and as a result they can adjust product levels to ensure issues like out of stock don’t occur. It will also allow them to understand those products that their customers want more of and so they can fill that demand in a quicker turnaround.
2. Electronic product code information service (EPCIS)
Technology like EPCIS is already being used in the healthcare industries and in grocery retail. In grocery retail for example, many customers demand full traceability of the foods they buy and this allows that to happen.
3. Potential for Manual Processes to Be Automated
The fully operational intelligent store is likely going to serve the shopper with a vastly lower element of human intervention; obviously this will have repercussions for customer service as some customers value face-to-face guidance. Therefore, the key is that the automation be easily used and adaptable to specific customer needs. The customer experience in the store is being fully transformed – from mobile payments to smart fitting rooms to intelligent mirrors and self-help applications.
The meaning of good customer service in the modern world is changing
While it’s true that traditional customer service methods are still very important, we must acknowledge that the definition of good customer service is shifting rapidly in the digital world.
While the prospect of a changing customer service landscape may be daunting for some businesses, it is the ones that embrace it who will reap the rewards and see their businesses grow.