(By Jensen Warnock)
“You’ve heard it said that you should bend over backward to please the customer. And maybe you should. But you should always have limits on what you and your employees are willing to do. For years the question many of us have asked to determine our limits is “can I afford to do this?” But that question fails to take into account the lifetime value of a customer. Instead of financial considerations, ask yourself: Is it safe? Is it legal? Is it ethical?“
Customer service is essentially the same today as it was three hundred years ago. Sure, the medium has changed—we send out emails and consult databases rather than tying notes to the legs of pigeons and dipping out ink with a quill pen—but the essence is really unchanged. You must do everything you can to solve the customers problem (even if they don’t know it’s the problem), or they’ll shop somewhere else.
Below you’ll find 15 tips you can use whether you’re dealing with customers on a face-to-face basis regularly, or if you simply handle the products that end up in their homes.
1. Know Your Products and Services
You have to know just about everything there is to know about what you’re selling. This is important for two reasons: 1) you have to be able to position your products as the solution to a customer’s problem, and 2) you have to be able to answer questions should they arise. Make the effort to really know your products and services inside out even if you don’t use them yourself.
Whenever you’re interacting with a customer (either directly, on the telephone, or via email) always let them speak first before you say anything but “How can I help?” By actually listening to the words, you have the opportunity to figure out exactly what they’re saying, even if they don’t know themselves.
Take each customer interaction as an opportunity to learn. After it’s over, look at what went right and what went wrong and then apply that knowledge to your next interaction.
4. Communicate Clearly
Use simple language (throw out the jargon) and formulate your thoughts before you ever open your mouth. Doing so will help prevent confusion and will also increase your standing in the customer’s eyes—if you know what you’re talking about, you’re clearly the guy or gal to come to.
5. Focus on the Real Problem
A customer may be complaining about the shoddy craftsmanship of a product they purchased from you, but is that the real problem? Would they have been happier with their purchase if the price was lower or if you offered alternatives? Always get to the root of the problem.
6. Be Positive
It’s hard to stay positive sometimes. But customers don’t want to hear about your bad day. Always stay upbeat and positive whenever you’re dealing with customers before, during, or after a sale.
7. Monitor Social Media
Even if you don’t actively participate on social media sites (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) chances are some of your customers do. You should always search your company name out (maybe even create Google alerts) in order to see what others are saying about you. If it is praise, thank them. If it isn’t, fix the issues as best you can.
8. Never Let It Show
Your personal opinion is just that. It should have no place in a customer interaction. Treat customers the same no matter how uncomfortable you are with dealing with them. Remember Pretty Woman? Don’t turn away Julia Roberts just because you think she can’t afford what you’re selling.
9. Have Plans In Place
No matter how well oiled your machine is, something will eventually go wrong. Whether it’s out of stock at your warehouse, delays in shipping, or a bad batch of widgets, you have to have a plan in place to deal with the problem before it ever arises. By having these sorts of disaster responses ready to go, you can respond in a minute’s notice and hopefully get business back on track without too much hassle.
10. Go Out of Your Way (To An Extent)
You’ve heard it said that you should bend over backward to please the customer. And maybe you should. But you should always have limits on what you and your employees are willing to do. For years the question many of us have asked to determine our limits is “can I afford to do this?” But that question fails to take into account the lifetime value of a customer. Instead of financial considerations, ask yourself: Is it safe? Is it legal? Is it ethical?
Upselling the customer isn’t about soaking them for more money. Instead it should be about offering them products or services complimentary to what they’ve already purchased, or finding a solution to a problem they’ve clued you in to. For example, if a customer comes in looking for memory cards for their digital camera, you could suggest an external hard drive so they could safely back-up their prized photos with the click of a button.
12. Maintain Communication
You don’t want your customer interactions to be one night stands. In order to make the most of your customers, you should communicate with them constantly. That could be through a mailing list, email blasts, or just by saying “hi” when they walk in the door.
13. Learn Names
Names are powerful things. If you and your sales staff can learn a customer’s name (even if you’re reciting it off a cheat sheet), you’ll gain credence in their eyes and they will unconsciously begin to build a personal relationship with your brand.
14. Commiserate (but Don’t Grouse)
It’s one thing to apologize for a bad experience, but it’s another entirely to share one of your own.
15. Say “Thanks”
Always say “thank you,” never “you’re welcome.” “You’re welcome” implies that you’ve done something for the customer (which you should have), but “thank you” lets them know they’ve done something for you. What did they do? They chose your business over the hundreds or even thousands of competitors out there.
Customer Service is the Core Priority
Your business should be built around customer service. The entire thing. After all, you’re in business to serve customers, so why do anything halfway? Customer service should be incorporated into everything, from the ease with which a customer can use your website, to the little thank you notes you print on your invoices and receipts. And it doesn’t stop after the sale either. By supporting customers who have purchased from you in the past with the same fervor you show new customers or prospects, you’re more likely to convert that customer into a lifer.
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