In today’s crowded marketplace, a business’s customer service can make or break them. Big brands like Zappos, Nordstrom, and St. Regis understand the value in a never-ending supply of happy (and loyal) customers. These brands’ attention to detail and commitment to excellent service has been the key to their ascensions while many of their competitors have fallen by the wayside.
But you don’t have to be a big name to provide this excellence to your customers. Any business that recognizes the futility of upselling or task order based work, and the merit of delivering exceptional value will be able to differentiate their brand and generate positive word-of-mouth marketing.
Meeting Customer Expectations
No matter the market, customers tend to have the same, common expectations:
Help On Their Terms
Customers want help on their terms – namely, as soon as a problem arises – and they want that help to come through multi-channel self-service options.
An Efficient Process
Customers want to resolve their problem in an efficient manner and with a minimum of hassle. They desire assistance from a knowledgeable member of your staff who is polite and courteous. Research has shown better overall customer satisfaction comes when representatives are rewarded for problems solved rather than the number of calls handled.
An Overall Positive Service Experience
Even on those occasions when a problem cannot be immediately resolved over the phone, customers typically forgive a business so long as the representative was respectful, helpful, and sympathetic. In this way, even when an immediate resolution is impossible, the customer can still have an overall positive experience of your company.
5 Ways to Provide Excellent Customer Service
- Educate Your Employees
Excellent customer service is a group effort. One misstep by an ill-informed staff member can lead to a negative customer experience that affects your brand’s reputation and bottom line. Educate your employees on your guidelines for customer engagement. This means that from day one you must inject the goal of excellent customer service into your organization’s culture, focusing on delivery and not revenue; going above and beyond for the customer.
How can businesses do this?
1) Define the attributes you want to target for excellence based on the needs of your customers.
2) Ensure top management recruits, trains, and designs their performance management processes based on these service attributes.
3) Get the customers involved in your service processes by continually asking for their valuable input.
And remember, the best way to teach is by example. If you treat your employees with kindness and respect, they’ll be more likely to treat your customers well, in turn.
- Invite Customer Feedback
In addition to yourself and your employees, your customers know a great deal about your business and can be your biggest fans or harshest critics. Invite their feedback so you know how you’re doing. Fishing for compliments won’t help you improve, so be sure to open the discussion to all customers, not just brand advocates. While hard to hear at first, negative feedback can make your good customer service great.
- Go Above and Beyond for Loyal Customers
While all of your customers merit top-notch service and care, your long-term and loyal customers deserve service that goes above and beyond. Consider installing loyalty programs and appreciation events. These offers will demonstrate to new customers that loyalty literally has its rewards.
- Admit Your Mistakes – Then Correct Them
Mistakes happen, no matter how diligent your service efforts. If your brand makes a mistake, acknowledge it, apologize, and then quickly correct it. Leverage the mistake and use it as an opportunity to improve your internal processes – then let customers know exactly what actions you took to prevent the mistake from happening again. Customers aren’t concerned with perfection so much as they are with honesty and transparency.
- Say “Thank You”
At the heart of excellent customer service are two simple words: “Thank you.” Gratitude sets the tone for your relationship with your customers and shows them you don’t take their business for granted.
Offering your thanks is powerful no matter whether you deliver it in person or on the printed page. Take every opportunity and use every channel available (invoices, emails and ads) to let your customers know how important they are to you.
Customer Service Excellence is Integral to Any Successful Business
Customer service is the new marketing. Instead of spending all of their resources on display or print advertising, companies should focus on excellence in every customer interaction. When brands make service a top priority and take care of their customers, it encourages those customers to continue buying and share their great experience with friends, family, and their network. But, in order for a culture of customer excellence to thrive within your organization, the initiative must begin internally.