How do you define good customer service?
Anyone who’s been in business awhile knows their business must define good customer service order to build your customer base and, ultimately, your profits.
What does customer service mean to you? Better yet, what does it mean to your customers? When they define good customer service, does your business immediately come to their minds?
Sadly, many small businesses will pour considerable time, effort, and money into operations, marketing, and product development, but put very little focus on trying to define good customer service. If only they realized that having great customer service is the most important factor in how profitable they will eventually become! How do they plan on attracting new clients and retaining old ones if they don’t treat them properly?
And even when your business does define good customer service it doesn’t mean you’re always going to keep your reputation intact.
One of the most notorious breakdowns of customer service occurred in February, 2007, to passengers aboard the Jet Blue flight who were stuck on the JFK tarmac for nearly 11 hours before Jet Blue finally decided to cancel flights due to weather. Horror stories still circulate two years later of conditions aboard that flight. And in one fell swoop, the gold standard of airlines got a great big black eye from which they’ve had a difficult time recovering.
Creating a business that will define good customer service takes constant vigilance and commitment.
Take American Express, for instance. Year after year, Amex consistently tops the “10 Best” companies for customer service. Amex customers even overlook the fact that they have high rates because they provide great customer service…usually with a real person on the other end of the phone.
On the other end of the spectrum stands AOL. In the number one spot on MSN Money’s 2008 “Hall of Shame,” a remarkable 47 percent of people who had an opinion of AOL’s customer service rated it “poor.” That’s a hard number to argue with.
So what separates the excellent from the not-so-great when it comes time to define good customer service? Well, here are some things you can do to develop extreme customer loyalty based on great customer service.
Get to know your customer.
Building a relationship with our customer is an important part of customer service. Ask them what they need from you and from your business, and then deliver it. Do a customer survey and find out their hot buttons. Let them know you value their opinions and value them as a person.
Courtesy is key.
No matter what, you and your employees must always be courteous, polite, and friendly to your customers and clients. When anyone in your business is rude or discourteous, it reflects on your entire company. Then your customer tells all their friends about the rude behavior and you lose a lot of potential business.
Develop a customer retention program.
It’s tough to find new customers and clients. So once you do, give them consistent TLC. Maybe it’s giving them a few minutes of your time gratis, or a gift certificate to a restaurant for making a referral. Or a free product or service after a certain number of purchases. Even something as simple as a thank you note does wonders for customer retention. Put some thought into how you can reward your customers for loyalty.
Don’t make mistakes.
Mistakes degrade a company’s integrity. Whether it’s a simple invoicing mistake, or a service failure, it’s better to just not make them if at all possible. That’s one of the reasons so many companies put so much emphasis on TQM (Total Quality Management) and TQC (Total Quality Control). If you don’t have a quality control plan in place, you might want to give that some thought. If you do make a mistake or a problem arises, admit it immediately and make restitution.
Keep your promises.
Remember when a person’s word was his bond? For whatever reasons, that just doesn’t seem as big a deal as it did 30 or 40 years ago. But it should be. Customers expect you to do what you say you’re going to do. Become someone known for keeping her word, and for running a business that does so as well.
Emphasize value, not price.
Unless you’re Walmart, chances are good you’re not going to be able to consistently compete on price. But you can compete on value. Value is as much about quality of products for a fair price, as it is about customer service before, during and after a sale.
Respond to requests in a timely manner. Clients need to know that you value them and their business. If you keep them waiting or forget about something you were supposed to do for them, you won’t keep your clients for very long.
Follow up with your customers.
Contact your customers after the job is finished, or after the purchase is complete and ask them what their experience was like, and if they were satisfied. If they were happy with everything, great…ask for a referral. If not, try to make things right.
When you build a business that will define good customer service, you are laying the foundation of a company that will also define success.
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