There are three sides to look at when you are thinking about customer service:
- your strategy, the what, why and how of what you are aiming to achieve;
- your people - the people who are going to deliver it,
- your customer – and what they want out of it.
Each of the three is equally important.
Customer service must now be at the absolute heart of what any company does. This is now the keystone to success or failure. Your brand reputation relies on it. It is the key to winning long term, loyal customers.
There is also new phrase to consider: customer success. In case you are unfamiliar with this one, it means ensuring the customer gets the optimum use or experience from what you supply them with. If they buy a new vacuum cleaner, for example, they need to use it in the right way, to get the best results, with the minimum of ease if their satisfaction with your brand is to be optimized. That has be thought about in all sorts of contexts; the explanations of your sales and customer service staff, and the literature you pack with your products are both obvious examples but you can do more than that.
A good FAQ page is increasingly relevant to businesses to enable the customer to get quick and easy answers to their queries. Good news for companies as well. When this is thought through properly, an FAQ page on your web site has to be one of the cheapest ways going of increasing that customer satisfaction aka success. Customers not only get the answers they want but feel good, empowered in the process of doing so.
There is no doubt that technology can help serve customers. It is cheap and time saving for repetitive queries and simple tasks. But sometimes we still want contact with real live humans as part of the customer’ experience.
Your real-life customer service team need to be very special indeed. One thing you can do to help this immediately is treat them like royalty. You need to show them the love! The more they adore working for your company, the better they will do at their jobs, because their pleasure in the association with the company will shine through to the customer.
They have to be informed as well. Your customers are wised up; they know their rights, your competition, your market, and probably a whole lot about your offering already too. So your customer service team really need to know their stuff not to be caught out. On top of that, they need to be enabled to get answers when needed. That means looking at internal communications and checking support for them. They need to be able to speak to the right people within the organization to get solutions and they need to be able to do that straight away, never being fobbed off.
Your whole team needs to buy into co-operating and supporting that department in every way. There is nothing worse than having brilliant customer service people and seeing them blocked in doing the job you and they want to do by the rest of your team not giving two hoots. It stifles them, defeats them and loses them.
Brilliant customer service people have to have patience, empathy, be adaptable and able to think on their feet. They need to be great communicators, able to put exactly what is being said and offered in ways that cannot be misunderstood. They need to be skilled at listening, not just to the words, but to the tone as well, and experts at body language if they are dealing face to face. They need to be moderately thick skinned too. Customers will vent, and your service team needs to be mentally stable enough to be able to depersonalize that and brush it off.
You want people who will care enough to not only see something through but be the ones to follow up afterwards too. They need to have a fantastic work ethic. In this day and age it is absolutely not acceptable to say to any customer, “tough luck. I am off home as it is five o’clock”. They need to care enough to stay and sort it out, however long it takes. If you have a really good team, give them the authority to put their own solutions into place. Everybody wins from that.
Let’s look at service from the customers’ point of view. They want to feel someone human is listening and going to get something done. They want their emotions listened to and understood and hear tangible evidence of that. They want to be understood as individuals, in their own particular question or grievance, but more importantly their own personality.
They want easy, fast solutions to their problems. They want to hear someone saying sorry and taking responsibility for any mistake. They want your company to say yes, that you will deliver whatever they want to make up for things. Most of them will listen, if spoken to reasonably, if there are genuine, cannot-do-the-impossible reasons why you can’t do something. Never work with the ones who will not listen or make any attempt to understand how you do what you do. Bashing your head against a wall would be kinder.
Your customers do not want empty promises either; they want something to happen. Nor do they want to be patronized or argued with. And who can blame them?
We are all loyal to brands where real, live people function and help us and where we are listened to, our opinions sort on what we want and need.
Companies should never forget that we buy when we feel good, when we feel safe and are emotions are respected. It is all about trust – on both sides.
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