The internet is flooded with thousands of articles on the definition of good customer service. A simple search on Google for “good customer service” shows 304 million results! That alone would lead most people to assume two things:
1.) A lot of people or businesses seem to have a good grasp on it (due to the number) and;
2.) It is very easy to learn and apply, given the load of How To’s that are available right at your fingertips.
There is usually a trend or a pattern on the basic definition, the SOPs you need to apply, skills you need to develop, the tricks of the trade, the right attitude towards it, and the bigwigs that you need to follow. Yet why does it still seem difficult for most businesses to figure this out? Where are the raving fans that were promised by some articles? Why is it that your customers prefer your competitor over you? What is the missing ingredient?
Having the right mix of skills, tools, attitudes, and metrics for customer service can be likened to baking a cake. It is a fusion of art and science – you have to be creative, delicate, and precise all at the same time.
It starts with a vision – what kind of cake do you want to bake? What is it that you clearly want to achieve? What does good customer service mean for your business?
Good customer service (when there is a problem) is making a bad situation with or created by your customer dissolve quickly by solving their actual or perceived problem, and making them feel better afterwards. There are two major considerations here: Time and Emotion.
Ideally, you want to solve a problem as quickly as possible, because the longer an issue persists, the more it will be a bother for both the customer and you in terms of time lost for other activities and negative feelings that may develop. Don’t fret though – even if a problem is not solved in the onset, a quick response to the first query or complaint with an assurance of a resolution soon is definitely preferred over the creeping agony of waiting for a company’s reply.
Also, you want to make the experience as smooth as possible for your customers by lessening possible stress points (waiting, miscommunication, missed expectations, etc.) and presenting yourselves in as professional a manner as possible. You want to help your customer with the right skills, tools, and attitudes that will allow you to address the problem accurately, solve the issue quickly, and give your customer the answers and satisfaction they need.
So how do you go about doing this? The right mix for good customer service will depend on your basic ingredients:
the 5 W’s – the WHO, WHERE, WHEN, HOWS and WHYS.
1. The WHYs – developing the right attitude for customer service
“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so. – Mahatma Gandhi”
Everyone in your business – from the Owner/CEO down to your temps, should have a Customer Is Always First attitude. They are the foundation of existence. They should be your priority. Without customers, your business will die. Your business depends on the income they bring in. If your business focuses on other non-income generating “busy-work”, then your business will not fly. And sometimes most businesses ignore this, thinking that it is all about the initial quick sales and forgetting about the long-term value one client brings. If a customer needs something, address that first. Meeting your customer’s needs promptly is more important than the meetings and paperwork.Everyone in your business should have a Customer Is Always First attitude.Click To Tweet
Some businesses have issues when it comes to refunds, free shipping, and the like. As an example, if free shipping costs only a few dollars off your profits, then by all means, give it. Refunds may set you back a few? Give it. There’s no sense in getting attached to the small change when the value of the customer over a period of time will be innumerable. The value of your customer doesn’t end at the initial sale. The potential word of mouth advertising and possible repeat purchases are beneficial to your business in the long run.
2. The WHOs – having the right people to serve your customers needs
“In an era when companies see online support as a way to shield themselves from costly interactions with their customers, it’s time to consider an entirely different approach: building human-centric customer service through great people and clever technology. So, get to know your customers. Humanize them. Humanize yourself. It’s worth it. – Kristin Smaby”
The first step in providing good customer service begins even before a problem arises. It starts with HIRING and TRAINING the right people to do the job. Both activities are imperative – hiring and training are functions that complement each other. Though everyone in your business should be able to provide good customer service, your team that is dedicated to this function alone is critical for your long-term survival.
How do you hire the right people for the job? First, craft the right Job Description. Emphasize your company’s culture of prioritizing your customers first. List down the important traits and skills that you need in a customer service representative. Don’t draft a generic job description – the ones you can easily download or copy from other sites. Your job ad is the first thing that an applicant sees. Those who respond to a job description infused with your company’s customer first culture, along with a detailed narrative of how a good customer representative should serve will initially help weed out the regulars from the “customer champions.”
Second, have a good interview process in place. Use tools that would determine their personality type at the onset – if it is actually in their nature to be helpful and supportive. There are a lot of available personality assessment tools online that you may use. In addition, a good set of questions that draw out their real skills and attitudes is a must. A few questions are:
What for you is the worst kind of customer? Then follow-up with how do you deal with this type of client?
When was the last time you dealt with an irate customer, and how did you deal with the situation?
What type of customer service situations can you NOT handle? Why? How would you go about dealing with this if you come across this situation?
What do you enjoy about customer service?
How would you deal with a partial refund situation?
How do you measure your success as a customer service representative?
What is the last skill you learned, not necessarily related to customer service, and how did you go about using this skill?
With your current knowledge and first impression about our company, how do you think we deal with our clients?
What is your favorite product? Can you teach us how to use it?
Lastly, establish a trial period process that accurately evaluates a potential regular candidate’s performance. Aside from actual metrics, a good character fit is critical for the success of your team. Good customer service is more of a behavior than a function. Past experience is wonderful, yet you have to make sure that the candidate is a good fit for your company’s customer-centric culture. If presented with a situation where you must choose between someone who has a good character fit versus someone who has excellent technical skills, choose the former. Any skill that is functional in nature can be taught. Relational skills are much more difficult to hone. Your representatives should be experts in social interaction and sincere in their desire to help.
Which brings us to our next point – Training. Providing good customer service means equipping and renewing your people’s skills in dealing with your clients. Training is a continuous process that is vital in maximizing your human resources. If the representative already has the right attitude, what one lacks in skills may be fulfilled by the right training. Training is an investment. Do not treat it as merely an expense. The amount invested in the right training is small compared to the potential sales that good customer service brings.
3. WHERE – When being everywhere gives you an edge
“In the world of Customer Service, it’s important to remember your competitor is only one mouse click away. – Doug Warner”
More often than not, most businesses will set-up a multitude of venues for making a sale to their clients – websites, social media accounts, and traditional contact channels such as phone or email, etc.
Unfortunately, when it comes to customer service, some, if not most, would only have a contact form for customers who may have questions or complaints. Most clients treat these contact forms as a hassle, as a way for you to buy time when you are supposedly serving them. Be ready to serve your clients in all channels, and we mean ALL channels, particularly in social media. A lot of companies are so busy creating buzz about their brand, or setting up promotions for quick sales, only to leave questions or queries unanswered in their Facebook page or other channels. As long as you have a channel where customers can reach you, have a customer service representative ready to communicate with them. In an era where social media is reigning supreme in terms of building your reputation on a daily basis, questions or complaints left unaddressed will certainly put a dent in your image. Just one bad review can cost you Thousands of dollars!Be ready to serve your clients in all channels, and we mean ALL channels, particularly in social media.Click To Tweet
4. WHEN – The Need for Speed
“Revolve your world around the customer and more customers will revolve around you. – Heather Williams”
The faster you respond to your customer’s needs, the bigger their satisfaction is with your service. Asides from being everywhere, your customer service representatives should be available to promptly answer your customer’s queries or complaints. Customers should be made to feel that support is always on hand.The faster you respond to your customer’s needs, the bigger their satisfaction is with your service.Click To Tweet
So how do you speed up your service? Here are a few tips:
a. Streamline your processes – Decrease the steps needed when resolving issues. If the issue is of a technical nature, make sure that it is automatically directed to the technical expert immediately. Avoid unnecessary internal communication.
b. Empower your representatives – Enable them to solve issues on their own, and limit the type of issues for escalating to managers. They should feel accountable for their customer’s satisfaction.
c. Remove distractions – No unnecessary texting, browsing, and chatting.
d. Improve the tools – increase your typing speed, increase your website speed, and have appropriate spiels in place for speedy responses, among other things.
5. HOW – Delivering good customer service, your way
“Any customer that walks away, disrespected and defeated, represents tens of thousands of dollars out the door, in addition to the failure of a promise the brand made in the first place. You can’t see it but it’s happening, daily. – Seth Godin
Nowadays, customer service plays a key role in projecting a good image for your brand. For others, customer service is their sole marketing strategy in itself, enough to bring the clients in. But how do you go about providing good customer service that is not like any other out there? What are the important parameters in creating a good customer service system?
a. Empathy – The customer needs to feel that you understand their situation, and that you are sincere in resolving the issue. If apologies are in order, then give one, with the assurance of fixing the problem along the way or right away if possible.
b. Communication – Say what you mean, and mean what you say. You must be able to deliver your message in the simplest way, without alienating your customer, particularly when it comes to technical support. Also, you need to be able to adjust to the type of customer you are dealing with – some would prefer informal chats, while others would like to converse in a more, formal, non-personal way. Adapt to your customer’s persona.
c. Knowledge – Know your stuff, and this is a no brainer. No matter how enthusiastic or amiable you are, if you don’t know how to resolve the issue, your customer will still end up frustrated. The end result, which is solving their problem or answering their questions, is the ultimate goal.
d. Resourcefulness – Have the capacity to fix issues, even if you do not have all the data or tools accessible to you.
e. Creativity – There will be situations wherein your spiels or scripts will not work. A little out-of-the-box thinking is needed, to be able to find solutions for unconventional issues. Also, a little creativity with presenting your customer service message will go a long way. From the way you present your brand’s customer-centric culture to the little things such as your customer support introductions – these things, if presented in a creative manner, will give you an edge over your competitors, and will keep you on top of the minds of your customers. This is Top of the Mind awareness. Always go the extra mile to help your customers!
f. Integrity – Do business the right way, and your customer will treat you right. Help with sincerity. Be honest when you do not know the solution and would need time to figure things out. Absorb small extra costs if necessary, to maintain your brand’s image.
g. Accountability – your customer service representatives should feel, think, and speak not just as ordinary agents, but as partners who are after their client’s success.Walk in their shoes. Anticipate their needs, and act accordingly!Click To Tweet
The way you see your own brand of customer service may not necessarily be the same way your customers perceive your service. Walk in their shoes. Anticipate their needs, and act accordingly!
Here at ICCS, we live and breathe customer service! We have refined our own recipe for good customer service to achieve sterling, white glove results. Ask us how we can help you?!