Loyalty Is Built Through C.A.R.I.N.G. Service

Voicemail, automated phone systems, email and other technology have replaced the personal touch when it comes to customer service. Customer frustrations are on the rise. Their number one complaint is that no one really seems to care anymore.

Your customer can tell the difference between satisfactory service and caring service. Satisfactory service is what most customers expect. This type of service focuses on completing a task rather than building a relationship with the customer.

The market often talks of customer satisfaction, a deceptive phrase because it sounds better than it is. Would you have wanted a grade of satisfactory in school? Probably not. Satisfactory implies adequate, good enough and acceptable. Customers who are merely satisfied with your business can be wooed away by others who offer something better.

Customers are discouraged by poor service and expectations are low. The simple gesture of showing your customers that you care about them will be a welcome surprise compared to the apathy they experience elsewhere. Building customer loyalty boils down to one simple concept—C.A.R.I.N.G.

C = Consistent

Commit to delivering exceptional customer service with every customer interaction.

-Take complete ownership of your actions and your customer's happiness.

-Deliver respect, friendliness and knowledge, whether you communicate face-to-face, by telephone or through email.

-Maintain a positive attitude--all the time!

-Sign your work with excellence. A = Attentive Your customer is not an interruption of your work. He or she is the reason you're at work.

-Focus 100% attention on your customers' needs. Ask yourself, "If this were me, what would I want?"

-Listen carefully—don't rush service. Your customer took the time to do business with you. Honor that decision by taking the time to deliver a quality experience.

A = Attentive

Your customer is not an interruption of your work. He or she is the reason you're at work.

-Focus 100% attention on your customers' needs. Ask yourself, "If this were me, what would I want?"

-Listen carefully—don't rush service. Your customer took the time to do business with you. Honor that decision by taking the time to deliver a quality experience.

R = Reliable

Take proactive ownership of your customers' requests. Follow through until they are successfully resolved.

-Watch your image. Dress professionally. Don't wear clothing that can offend or embarrass your customers. Dress in a manner that enhances your credibility and positively reflects on the organization.

-Maintain order in your workspace.

-Communicate with a warm, friendly tone of voice. Provide clear and accurate information. Avoid the use of jargon or slang. Also, be careful not to talk "down" to your customers or co-workers.

-Follow through by keeping your promises, no matter how small, to your customers and co-workers.

-Focus on timeliness. Respond quickly to your customers' and co-workers' requests. Show up for work and meetings on time. Return phone calls promptly and deliver information on time.

-Promptly reply to email messages.

-Commit to professional development by attending workshops and seminars, and reading materials that will help you to learn and grow in your ability to do your job better.

I = Individualized

-No two customers are alike. Each customer has individual needs and concerns.

-Pay attention to your customer’s tone of voice and actions.

-Learn how to respond to your customer based on his or her particular style. A dominant customer may seem impatient and will want to control the situation to get his or her desired results. A shy customer may need assurance and guarantees. An outgoing customer may require more "chat" time. You can build rapport quickly by learning to respond appropriately with each type of customer.

-Pay attention to your customers' family members. Ask about their children.

-Congratulate your customers when you learn of their celebrations, such as having a new baby or buying a home. Acknowledge their birthdays.

-Pay attention to their accomplishments such as an appointment to a board, getting promoted or landing that important client. -

-Ask your customers for advice on how you or your company could better serve them. Encourage their feedback and ideas, and yes, even criticism. Then listen.

-Sincerely compliment your customers every chance you get. Compliment them on how nicely they're dressed, their pleasant phone voice, or their patience during a long wait. Don't mistake compliments with false flattery. -

-Surprise your customers by delivering unexpected service, such as free shipping or a little something extra to show them they're appreciated.

-Keep your customers informed about the status of their order, any delays or obstacles to meeting their needs and changes in policies that may affect them.

-Customize the way you communicate to honor the style differences of your customers.

N = Notable

Word-of-mouth is the most powerful marketing campaign of all. Give your customers quality service that they can brag about. Is your service worth bragging about?

-When you hear repeated complaints about something, take the initiative to fix the problem! For example, if customers frequently complain that it is too cold in the building, contact the person in charge of climate control and ask him or her to adjust the temperature. If more than one customer complains that the music is too loud when they are on "hold," take the initiative to have the volume turned down.

-Go the extra mile by delivering more than expected. This may mean chatting a little longer with a customer who sounds lonely or just wants to visit. You can waive a shipping charge if an order has been delayed.

-Notice their needs. If a customer sounds rushed or stressed, acknowledge their busy schedule and do everything you can to speed up their service experience.

- Save them time. Look for ways to remove service obstacles that may waste your customers' time. Make sure there is a working pen on the counter if they need to sign a credit card receipt. If you need to transfer a customer call, stay on the line to explain the situation to your co-worker so your customer doesn't need to repeat his or her request. Offer to call them after you have resolved their complaints so they don't need to remain on the line while you track down the cause of the problem.

-Stand by your promises. Return calls at precisely the time you said you would call. Don't put a customer in a position of having to call back to remind you that they are still waiting for information. Never promise service by a co-worker unless you're 100% certain that he or she will be able to deliver on that promise for the customer.

G = Generous

Be generous with your service by looking for ways to go the extra mile for your customers.

-Look for ways to remove service obstacles by bending a rule or making an exception when your customer has a special need.

-Periodically, give away a free item to your customers. Enclose a calendar, tips guide, kitchen magnet or one of your company's products. Be sure to write a note to let your customers know that this is a gift of appreciation just for doing business with you.

-When your customers make appointments to meet with you, take them early.

-Introduce your customers to other members of the team, especially staff who only deal with internal customers.

-Slip your customers a handwritten "thank-you" note when they've been patient, when they've complained, when they've referred a new customer or just to thank them for being a loyal customer.

-Hold monthly contests for your customers where they can win prizes.

-Actively seek out and participate in community outreach and service events or causes that your customers care about.

-Give each of your best customers a standing ovation the next time they walk through the door.

-Create over-satisfied customers by frequently asking your customers, "How can we do an even better job of serving your needs?"

-Put value on what’s important to your customers, not what's important to you. People are loyal to a business when they feel they’ve been treated well and received good value for their money.

Customer service goes a long way toward pleasing customers on both counts. C.A.R.I.N.G. customer service means going out of your way for customers, doing everything possible to meet their needs and sometimes making decisions that benefit customers, even at the expense of the company.

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