Guest Post: Allen Bradford on Improving Customer Service
Customer service is probably the single-most overlooked area for improvement in any company.
While businesses will spend thousands of dollars improving sales processes, they often neglect the customer service department, allowing it to languish.
Then, mysteriously, benchmarks are missed and no one knows why.
Your Employees’ Bad Temper Shows
Everyone has a bad day. That's OK.
What's not OK is taking it out on a customer.
While it's understandable to be frustrated, give your employees a way to vent that doesn't include taking it out on people who pay your bills.
Employees who bring their bad attitude to work on a regular basis, however, are profit killers. Excommunicate them from your life, and your company. Otherwise, you're going to reap the whirlwind.
Your Employees Hang Up On Customers
Your employees should never hang up on customers - ever.
In the customer service department, your motto should not be that customers are always right, but that they are always deserving of attention.
Why? Because sometimes customers aren't right, but their concerns are always important.
Think about it. Even if a customer is wrong, it's still a valuable learning experience for the employee - they learn how to cope with difficult customers.
But, more often than not, the customer service staff should learn how to "own" problems and solve them, focusing on resolution rather than fault-finding.
Your Employees Put Callers On Speakerphone
This one bugs most managers.
Customers should not be put on speakerphone without their explicit permission.
It's rude and it's demoralizing and embarrassing for the customer, especially if the call is of a sensitive nature.
Your Employees Eat While Talking With Customers
Your employees should eat lunch in a break room or outside somewhere, not while they're on the phone or meeting with a customer in person.
Not only is it rude, but it shows a lack of respect for both the job and the customer.
You Blame The Customer First
This is something that most businesses actually do, and it's fairly rare to see businesses take a non-fault-finding approach to customer service inquiries.
When a customer calls in with a problem, the first thing you should do is assess what the problem really is and how it happened.
This isn't the same thing as finding fault. Even if the customer did something to cause the problem, the important thing is to find a solution - that's the entire purpose of service calls.
However, most customer service departments are controlled by the corporate lawyers who are more interested in reducing liability than they are providing service.
When's the last time you got good service from a law office? Usually, you have to fight with them just to get someone to return your phone call. Do this in your customer service department, and you probably won't have customers for very much longer.
You Don't Know Your Customer Very Well
One of the best pieces of technology you can every invest in is a point of sale solution for retail stores.
If you’re a retail store, and even if you're not, these systems tie into several departments within your company and can enhance your company's customer service.
How? When customers call in, a smart POS system can gather information about a customer's previous purchases, throw them up on a computer screen, and then give the employee access to all of the critical customer data within seconds.
This makes solving the problem much easier.
Let's say a customer calls in because he's having a sizing problem with his order.
With a cloud-based POS system, the customer service staff can access the customer's order, know the size and price paid, switch the order around, issue a refund, and even issue the customer with store credit for the hassle - all without switching computers or transferring the customer back to the sales department.
Now that's service.
Your Employees Only Speak Company Jargon
If your employees talk down to customers, you're going to lose business.
Most employees don't intentionally do this, but it's something you must be vigilant in preventing.
This is more of a problem in tech support departments where complex computer jargon is often thrown around.
Unless you know for a fact that your customers understand what "pinging" and "TCP/IP" mean, don't use those terms.
Put things in "plain English." Your customers will thank you, and you'll look way smarter than if you try to talk over their heads, effectively treating them like idiots.
You’re Not Delighting The Customer
Do your customers walk away from your business with their expectations met, or are they delighted?
Those two things are not the same.
A customer can be merely “satisfied” with their purchase, but they may not be “delighted” by it.
Take the sandwich company Jimmy John’s, for example.
That’s a business that knows how to delight customers. If you’ve never been into a store location before, try it.
Service is consistently good, and the staff will go out of their way to make you a good sandwich, which is incredible if you think about.
Even their in-store signs inspire you to come back: “Honesty is not only morally right, it’s also highly efficient.”
The Meat House is another good example. The Meat House is a grocery store chain that focuses on locally sourced meat (of course). But, what sets them apart from other grocery stores is that they are a full-service operation, and the butchers will tell you almost anything you’d ever want to know about meat and food prep.
Try to get that at a big box store staffed with teenagers. Not only do they sell the meat to you, they invite you back to show you how they prep everything they sell you. Yep, they offer classes on how the animals (the meat) they sell you are raised, how they are butchered, and how you can prepare interesting dishes at home.
It’s a little more involved than a customer-loyalty program that you get with most grocery stores, but you always leave the place wanting to return - and that’s the magic of “wow’ing” your customers.
Beyond just having a good product, you have to build in an incentive for people to return. It can be formulaic, but it cannot be a carbon-copy of what everyone else is doing. This is especially true in a crowded market like the grocery store industry.
Allen Bradford is an entrepreneur who prides himself in successful employee management and training. With a passion for effective business practices and a keen understanding of the modern consumer, he enjoys blogging about the ins and outs of crafting successful teams of employees.
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