Speak customer, not industry jargon. Make things easy: don’t make your customer have to understand your business. Industry jargon and double talk don’t get or keep customers. While some disclaimers may be legal requirements, ensure your staff does not go too far. There’s a nice, achievable balance between industry jargon and talking down to a customer.
Shake up employee incentives. For companies with mystery shopping programs, this could mean an employee drawing for a gift card or other prize based on meeting new mystery shop criteria, or added recognition with certificates for those who score perfectly. If you’ve used the same type of incentive over and over, it may be time to liven things up with some new incentive ideas.
Adapt customer service delivery to your customers' different styles. Companies want to treat all customers well, but some customers need more of your time than others. Think about a bank. A young adult who has never had a checking account takes time to discuss the account in more detail; however someone familiar with checking accounts may want to open an account quickly without much discussion. The best customer service professionals adjust their delivery to the customer’s unique situation. This approach takes into account the amount of small talk. Some customers want to chat, while others prefer to keep small talk to a minimum. Employees need to be in tune about how hurried the customer appears and adapt the conversation to what they sense the customer wants.
Hire employees with top-notch customer service skills.
Keep employees motivated with recognition. Many companies have trimmed back, placing added responsibilities on staff members. Now is an even more critical time to recognize employees for extra efforts and contributions. Even if bonuses or incentives are not possible, it costs nothing to say “thank you.”
Communicate customer feedback internally. Customer feedback surveys are valuable, but only when management communicates positive feedback to employees who receive compliments, and delivers needs improvement items to training for enhancement of future classes.
Monitor social media. Customers talk online, and the most successful companies listen for this feedback and have a process in place to respond.
Approach customers. If your employees work in a retail store environment or bank branch, you know how important it is for employees to proactively greet and approach customers. How many times have you been a store and looked for an employee who was nowhere to be found? Have you ever been in a bank branch when an employee motions to you to come forward? An employee who walks over to greet a customer or stands up from behind a desk to say hello is much more welcoming.
Use the customer’s name. Customers like it when employees use their name; it creates a more personal buying experience. We’re operating in a time where customers text restaurant orders and deposit a check through a mobile device, so a little personalized service goes a long way when a face-to-face interaction occurs. How many of your employees repeat the customer’s name when working with a customer?
Smile. Smiling is a basic rule of customer service. And smiles to customers tend to get smiles back from them. Are your employees smiling?
Make eye contact. Making and maintaining eye contact goes a long way toward showing customers that you are focused on them.
Go the extra mile. Every industry from banking to automotive faces tough competitive pressures, so it’s not enough to just deliver good customer service. To keep loyal customers, companies need to go the extra mile. A good example of this is the banker who delivers papers to an elderly person’s home when the person is unable to visit the branch. Going the extra mile means more long-term customers, and ones that will be more likely to refer friends and family to you.
Resolve problems quickly. With the increasing speed of social media and mobile communications, consumers expect faster service. As Shep Hyken points out in his article, “Speed – Make Great Customer Service Even Greater,” speedy service can be a differentiator making your service stand out from the competition. In terms of problem resolution, ensure that you communicate your company’s promise to resolve problems within a certain time frame, and encourage employees to strive to resolve them faster.
Apologize sincerely. Many companies require that employees follow specific steps for problem resolution. Usually, one of the steps includes an apology, and while this is an important element, if the apology is delivered in a robotic way or insincerely, it is just as bad as no apology at all.
Listen. No matter how much information customers access about your services in cyber world, at some point, some customers want companies to listen to them. Regardless of whether communication is through an online feedback form, in person or a phone call to headquarters, companies need to listen closely and respond with an answer that directly answers the customer’s concern.
Thank customers. Thanking a customer is simple. If you don’t have a process in place to thank customers, you can develop one this year. Email, letters and phone calls all work.
Stay in touch with customers. Follow up after the sale. Make recommendations on how they may use and benefit from your products or services.
Acknowledge customer milestones or anniversaries. If your customer has an important anniversary with your service, recognize the milestone with a note, card or call. Our president, Elaine Buxton, received a call from her bank last July, thanking her for the five years of business she had done with the bank. Months later, she still remembers this delightful-surprise conversation when her banker called. Calls, emails, letters and post cards all work.
Eliminate negative connotation words from your organization’s vocabulary. Popular phrases such as “no problem” in response to a customer’s “thank you” or “you’ll have to…” in response to a customer’s inquiry tend to imply the customer somehow imposed upon your organization. Positive phrases such as “You’re welcome”, “My pleasure” and “Let me take you to that aisle” are much better received by customers.
Ask for referrals. Ask satisfied customers for referrals.
Ask for testimonials. Testimonials are by far one of the most effective ways to communicate your company’s abilities to prospects.
Refer customers elsewhere if needed. If your services don’t fit a customer’s needs, recommend them to a competitor. Customers appreciate this gesture and doing so builds trust. They will most likely contact you again at a time when they need your services.
After the customer decides, affirm your customer’s choice. A positive comment about your customer’s selection bolsters customer confidence in the buying decision. A compliment such as “This is a lovely sweater. I know you will enjoy wearing it” or “This checking account is a good choice for your current situation” reaffirms to the customer that the choice was theirs and that it was a good one.
If the customer must wait, tell the customer how long. Informing customers about expected wait times is a courtesy. Courtesy is part of respect, which is a highly-valued feeling among customers. Respect customers by honoring the value of their time. An acknowledged wait with the simple words “I will be right with you” shows a concern for customer time which is to say respect for the customer.
Communicate back in the customer’s chosen style. Unless your customer requests otherwise, it is always a good choice to communicate back to the customer in the manner the customer chose to communicate with you. If you receive a customer complaint via email, respond via email and ask for permission to call. If the contact comes through your Facebook page, respond and ask for permission for alternate contact. Think of it this way: the customer has chosen his/her preferred method to reach out to you. Respect that by following up on the customer’s chosen communication channel.
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