Last month we gave you the first seven principles for delivering exceptional customer service. Here are the remaining tips.
Go above and beyond - give your customer something more, something they did not expect. Every time we exceed expectations we win a long-term customer. Many business owners believe providing excellent customer service is enough to separate them from their competitors. Admittedly it helps but actually, customers EXPECT to get the highest standard of service, so providing it is not going above and beyond. Task your team with coming up with ways to wow your customers.
Don't fake customer service - have a solid system behind the smile. The dreaded frozen fake smile and wooden greeting does not equate to good customer service. Excellent customer service has to come from the heart. Employees have to believe in it and mean it. It all starts with hiring the right people (hire for attitude not for skill), building a good team and developing a corporate philosophy that embodies a genuine willingness to help people. Don't just tell your staff to be nice to customers, teach them how to communicate effectively. Empower them to make customers happy and show them this will actually make their job far more pleasant and rewarding.
Make every staff member responsible for customer service. There is a major international wholesale warehouse chain that generally offers excellent customer service. Checkout staff are efficient and cheerful, customer service personnel make returning something simple, painless and quick. However, the people handing out product samples don't seem to be part of the same team. They have little knowledge of where products are located. When customers ask for something, they can't help and are often dismissive. They have not been trained to be part of the team. One sees this often with cleaning staff or other employees who don't interact with customers on a regular basis.
Every member of your staff should be aware of your customer service policy. Every employee should be empowered to exceed expectations. Employees who know and fully understand your customer service policy, and are clear about exactly what they can or can't offer customers, will act in a confident and professional manner. A confident and empowered employee will more quickly and easily put an irate customer at ease. Customers want to be listened to first - and by the first person they talk to. Then they want their situation understood, and finally they want a fair and friendly solution to their problem. This will more likely be achieved, and accepted by the customer, if it's seen to be policy rather than an off-the-cuff solution. Once a fair solution has been reached, you should set about exceeding expectations as mentioned above. Offer the customer something they are not expecting - a certificate for a latte at a local coffee shop, a discount off their next purchase - the value is less important than the gesture.
Get feedback from your customers - only they can tell you what more you should, or could, be doing. At the end of the day, customer service is a matter of perception. Excellent customer service to one person may only be satisfactory to the next. The only way to be sure you are providing excellent customer service is to ask the customer. Short exit or follow-up surveys or contact by telephone are all effective ways of ensuring your customers are extolling your virtues, not complaining about your inadequacies.
Constantly check on how you are doing - evaluate results. It's no good training your staff, empowering them, and instilling them with a highly positive corporate customer service philosophy if you never evaluate the results. Nothing works all the time. Difficult customers put a strain on the system, or take advantage of it. Initiate ways to check on how you are doing. The survey mentioned above is a start, but also have regular staff meetings and listen to what your staff has to say about how your customer service policy is working on the front line. Continually adapt the program to keep it fresh. Customer service needs to be exceptional all the time.
If you are going to provide positively outrageous, or even excellent, customer service it has to be consistent. If a customer gets incredible service one day and lousy or even mediocre service the next, they will notice. Their first thought will be something like, "this place is going downhill" and at that point they will start thinking about alternative places to shop. Customer service is an ongoing priority for any business if you want to do well and increase sales. Exceptional customer service has to get progressively better.
Unfortunately, after a while the level of customer service you provide becomes the norm; it becomes what your customers expect. An effective customer service policy continues to improve.
Listen to your customers. Listen to your employees. The answers are there if you encourage creativity, celebrate innovation and listen carefully.