Customer Service - What is It?

By: Bob Pearce

I.Customer Service starts with your staff

Happy employees are happy to serve customers. Happy employees love their job, and it shows when they provide a service or product to your customers. Make sure that you provide a work environment that is positive and motivating, where employees' needs are met and there is recognition for good work and demonstrating creativity, passion and commitment. Are you providing them with opportunities for self improvement or advancement? Do they enjoy working for you? How do they feel about their role within the business? What do they say and do on the job? The key is your sincerity.

II.Customer Service is getting to know them

Talk to your customers regularly. Have a set plan or diary system to contact them even if you have nothing to sell. Keep them informed verbally or by newsletters what is happening in the business, and about new products or improvements in existing products and about changes in your own staff. Tell them what is happening in the future. Treat them like dear friends, discuss and remember the things that are important to them, their family, hobbies etc. Remember important events of your key contacts, and congratulate them when you see something they may have done outside the work environment. Trust takes a long time to build and it is very easy to destroy. Make sure that each part of the relationship is conducted to the highest standard of integrity. Do you know that when you talk to them you are talking to the decision maker?

III.Customer Service is getting Feedback - and acting on it

In your regular calls to your customers ask them questions about your business, what they like or dislike. It can be done also by mail out, surveys or email. This information is vital if you are to build a reputation for being customer focused. Gather all this information together and create an action plan to do something about it. Discuss the results with your staff, and get their input to the process. Contact the customers who came up with the ideas so they can see that their constructive comments are taken seriously. Make sure the change or outcome is highlighted in your next customer newsletter. Make your company easy to do business with. Are you using the feedback to hone responses to any rejection or objection received by your sales staff?

IV.Customer Service is going the extra mile

Individual customers sometimes have special needs, and they like nothing better than a business which can deliver even the most difficult requests. Be a business where these are approached with a real "can do" attitude and potential problems are looked on as challenges which will be solved. From feedback see if you need to alter hours to meet a greater share of your customers needs. Are you able to "wow" your customers by under promising and over delivering? Can you recognize your customers easily? Do you call a few days later and ask him if everything is satisfactory? Do you have new customers who say they have been referred by someone else? Have you defined all the benefits of your product or service to the customer's satisfaction?

V.Customer Service is having the best processes

Today's customers are very sophisticated in how they want to do business. Shops used to be open 5 days a week with maybe one late night. Now customers expect to receive service 24/7. If your product or service lends itself to a greater range of purchasing options, go for it. See if it means telephone, text, email or Internet systems or processes to supply their needs. Does it mean extending hours of operation? This availability of service will make customers more likely to stay with you. Ask yourself whether there is some way you can make it even easier for your customers to do business with you. Be bold, innovative and challenging. But make sure you know if there is any extra cost involved, and whether you can recover that cost in part or full.

VICustomer Service is about keeping customers

Before you put in any sort of retention programme you must be fully aware of what each customer means to you. Do you know the value in $ each customer spends, and does your customer base follow the 80/20 rule. If 80% of your sales come from 20% of your customers, why not try a little more effort with the 80%? Do you know how many customers you have lost in the last 12 months? If so do you know why they stopped dealing with you? What have you done about it? What has been the effect on your bottom line? To answer each of these questions you need to have a very good tracking system, and it may be possible to tempt them back. Have you rectified the process, material, delivery, people or other issue that caused the loss of their business? Do you get your staff together on a regular basis to discuss these issues and seek suggestions for improvement? Do you implement those ideas? A good retention plan can be very effective if you search out the information and act on it.

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