Customer service is a crucial element of business success. Every contact your customers have with your business is an opportunity for you to improve your reputation with them and increase the likelihood of further sales.
From your telephone manner to the efficiency of your order-fulfillment systems, almost every aspect of your business affects the way your customers view your business. But there are also specific programs you can put in place to increase your levels of customer service.
Customer service involves putting systems in place to maximize your customers’ satisfaction with your business. It should be a prime consideration for every business – your sales and profitability depends on keeping your customers happy. Customer service is more directly important in some roles than others. For receptionists, sales staff and other employees in customer-facing roles, customer care should be a core element of their job description and training, and a core criterion when you’re recruiting. But don’t neglect the importance of customer care in other areas of your business. For instance, your warehousing and shipping departments may have minimal contact with your customers – but their performance when fulfilling orders has a major impact on customers’ satisfaction with your business.
In business-to-business trading, providing a high level of customer care often requires you to find out what your customers want. Once you have identified your most valuable customers or best potential customers, you can target your highest levels of customer care towards them. Another approach, particularly in the consumer market, is the obligation to treat all consumers to the highest standard. There are important areas of customer service which are more difficult to measure. Many of these are human factors such as a receptionist’s telephone manner or a salesperson’s conduct while visiting clients. In these areas it’s crucial that you get feedback from your customers about their perceptions of your customer service.
Customer feedback and contact programs are two ways of increasing communication with your customers. They can represent great opportunities to listen to your customers and to let them know more about what you can offer.
Customer feedback can provide you with detailed information about how your business is perceived. It’s a chance for customers to voice objections, suggest changes or endorse your existing processes, and for you to listen to what they say and act upon it. Feedback is most often gathered using questionnaires, in person, over the telephone or by mail.
Do your best to make sure that your customers feel the extra contact is relevant and beneficial to them – bombarding customers with unwanted calls or marketing material can be counter-productive. Newsletters and email bulletins allow you to keep in touch with useful information.
Your existing customers are among the most important assets of your business – they have already chosen you instead of your competitors. Keeping their custom costs far less than attracting new business, so it’s worth taking steps to make sure that they’re satisfied with the service they receive. To retain your customers’ trust, however, never try to sell them something that clearly doesn’t meet their needs. Remember, your aim is to build a solid long-term relationship with your customers rather than to make quick one-off profits.
Every business has to deal with situations in which things go wrong from a customer’s point of view. However, you respond if this happens, don’t be dismissive of your customer’s problem – even if you’re convinced you’re not at fault. Although it might seem contradictory, a customer with a complaint represents a genuine opportunity for your business. Complaints should be handled courteously, sympathetically and – above all – swiftly. Make sure that your business has an established procedure for dealing with customer complaints and that it is known to all your employees.