A simple fact is that most of us can readily recount our first-hand experiences with lackluster customer customer service without much prodding. Unfortunately, poor customer support is so pervasive that even minimal support shines in comparison.
Granted, there are exceptions to this as many businesses have learned to “put customers first” both in philosophy and practice. However, even for these businesses, excellent customer service is a constant struggle that demands commitment, monitoring and accountability.
That said, excellent Customer Service starts with customer contact employees having the skill to comprehend customer problems and the motivation to resolve such issues. Obviously, this takes some effort and is not as simple as merely having a sympathetic ear.
Of course, when customers have a problem, expressing sympathy may be an appropriate “ice-breaker”; however, this only goes so far as customers are ultimately looking for satisfaction and options for an acceptable solution. For a customer service employee, this means being a good listener and expressing a proactive attitude for the customer and their problem.
Customer Service situations can arise from phone calls, referrals, or written inquiries. But regardless of how they are initiated, the solution should be detailed in writing.
Formal letters and email are the acceptable ways to respond to customer issues in that they provide a paper trail for future reference. Conversely, phone responses should only be used to answer routine inquiries.
Once you have received the inquiry, here are ten basic Customer Service Principles you will want to remember as you prepare your response:
1. Acknowledge the inquiry within a day or two of receiving it. Granted, you may not have a resolution in such a short time, but at the very least the inquiry deserves a quick acknowledgment as an interim reply.
2. Be personable and use a tone that makes the customer feel valued. Remember to be polite and respectful, making sure your words express a helpful attitude.
3. Clearly summarize the problem as expressed by the customer. Restate the situation using the customer’s words. High emotions may be at play, so be careful not to minimize the customer’s take on the situation by substituting your words for theirs.
4. Spell out in detail what your analysis of the problem has discovered. Be as detailed as possible without getting too technical. Customers who don’t comprehend what you are saying will think you are trying to be purposely deceitful.
5. If the customer is in error, fully explain the error. Sometimes the customer isn’t always right. Just the same, it may be a good idea to probe and find out the reason for the misperception.
6. Should the customer have a legitimate problem, admit it and thank them for bringing it to your attention. Be sincere and gracious with these situations. Granted, some customers may delight in playing the “gotcha” game, but a skilled customer service person will always strive for a win-win solution without
resorting to gamesmanship.
7. Offer solutions that are creative, workable and mutually acceptable. Be careful not to hide behind company policy when suggesting solutions. Nothing will undo customer goodwill faster than customer support that is “by the book” and inflexible.
8. Provide contact information in the event of any additional questions or concerns. Make it easy for the customer to reach you. A direct address is a must, but also make sure you provide your direct business phone number and business email address.
9. Thank them for their continued business. This may sound trite, but no customer wants to be taken for granted. Be aware that when customers feel this way, they are more apt to explore and entertain other options.
10. Follow up to ensure the problem has been resolved. Keep in touch with the customer by following up after a week, month, or some other appropriate time frame. This not only demonstrates a proactive attitude, but also a willingness to maintain an on-going relationship with the customer.
It goes without saying that customers are the life blood of any business. And few companies can afford to alienate their customers with poor Account Management. The upshot is that it is critical that customer service staff are both committed to and accountable for providing professional customer support. Anything less is a business liability.