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.
Lead by example
It starts at the top. The company owner, managers, and supervisors must exemplify excellent customer service. You need to set the bar. Employees will take their cues from you. Never complain or speak poorly about a customer in front of employees. First, it sets a poor example. Second, you never know if the employee personally knows the customer.
Answer the phone and emails
When the phone rings, answer it. Does this seem elementary? Let’s clarify. ALWAYS answer it.
Whether it is before you open, after you close, on a Sunday, or when you are getting caught up—answer the phone! In some capacity, the call is almost always about doing more business. This does not imply that if a customer calls at 10:00 p.m. asking for a proposal that you need to do it immediately. Simply explain that you are closed for the day and that someone will return the call first thing in the morning. This should prevent them from calling a competitor. Plan to respond to all emails within the same day. If you need more time, you can email information back to the customer including when they can expect an answer.
Don't make promises you can’t keep (or reschedule)
Reliability is important. If you say, “We will email a suggested menu by 4:00 p.m. tomorrow—do it. If you need more time, which does happen, let your customer know, beforehand. 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.
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 big eaters and are less concerned about cost, and more focused on quantity?”
For the most part, people tend to 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.
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 display 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 you know that it usually makes a big impact.
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.
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.
Get Fresh June 2015
eNews June 2015