The essence of customer service is building a friendly and professional connection with your customers and nurturing these relationships by consistently doing the right thing at the right time.
1) Lead by example
It starts at the top. Owner(s), managers, and supervisors must exemplify exceptional customer service with every single customer, every single day. You need to set the bar. Employees will take their cues from the people they answer to. Never complain or speak negatively about a customer in front of employees. First, it sets a poor example. Second, you never know if someone personally knows the customer. Third, it gives your employees a license to do the same.
2) Answer the phone & emails
When the phone rings, answer it. Does this seem elementary? Let’s clarify. ALWAYS answer it. Before you open, after you close, on a Sunday when you are getting caught up. In some capacity, the call is usually about giving you business. This does not imply that if a customer calls at 6:00 p.m. asking for proposal that you need to do it immediately. Simply explaining that you are closed for the day and that someone will return their call first thing in the morning should prevent them from calling a competitor. Plan to respond to all emails within the same day. If you need more time, email this information back to the customer, including when they can expect an answer.
3) Don't make promises you can’t keep (or reschedule them)
If you say, “I will email you a suggested menu proposal by 4:00 p.m. tomorrow“ —do it. If you need more time (which does happen), let your customer know, before that time. For example, “Hi Mary, we are putting together a very thorough proposal for you and it is taking longer than we anticipated. Would it be OK if you receive it by 10:00 a.m. tomorrow? Then make sure it is delivered accordingly.
4) Active listening
Wait until your customer is finished speaking before you respond. Resist the urge to interrupt, which could make them feel rushed. Active listening is the art of rephrasing the key points of what your customer has said in the form of a question. For example: “So if I am hearing you correctly, you are feeding a group of very big eaters and you are less concerned about price per person, and more focused on quantity and variety?
5) Admit mistakes
People actually respect those who admit mistakes and errors with no excuses attached. When something goes wrong, even if you are not sure where the problem occurred or who was involved, it is a good strategy to acknowledge at least the possibility of a mistake. The key is to do so in a short sentence and move on to how you are going to resolve the issue. An effective line is, “First, let’s get the problem solved as quickly as possible. Later we can discuss why it happened, and steps that can be taken to prevent it from ever recurring.
6) Go the extra mile
Going above and beyond the call of duty means doing something that is not required as part of your professional obligation. It is doing something special or extra. Customers, even difficult ones, often feel extreme gratitude and loyalty when you can demonstrate they are important enough to go beyond what is required. They may not always express it, but know that it usually makes a big impact.
7) Professional staff
If you have a thorough training program that is documented and reinforced regularly, superb customer services skills are very teachable. Your entire staff should be empowered to actively address problems a customer might encounter. It’s all about the culture you create and a commitment to a rigorous training program.
8) Promote familiarity
Have the same representative deliver to the same companies or areas as much as possible. This is a great way to build rapport and business relationships.
See Michael Rosman at #catersource 2018
Michael Rosman will be teaching “The Game-Changing 60-second Sales Script” at Catersource 2018. Click here to view his bio and session description.