Last week, we walked over the idea of giving good customer service even during a bad economy as it makes good business sense. But as a business how do you actually achieve it? How do you give your customer a superior customer experience?
Here are eight simple tips that you can follow that are based on the best known principles:
1. Try to put yourself in your customer’s shoe. Understand how your customers’ expectations are rising over time. Accept the fact that, what was probably ‘good enough’ last year may not be any good now. Use different form of customer surveys, interviews and focus groups to understand what your customers really want from you, what they value and what they believe they are getting (or not getting) from your business.
2. Always use your strengths to differentiate your business from your competition. Usually your quality of service is an area whether you can really strengthen your business over time. Your price and products may be reasonable and up-to-date - but don’t forget that your competitors’ are pretty darn good too. So in order to differentiate your business from your competitors, you will need to provide your customers an exceptional service that makes your customer loyal to your brand and not others. So even when your competitor offers some seasonal discounts or price cuts, your customers are likely to stick with you as they value the ‘exceptional service’ that you provide. You can also make a more lasting difference by providing personalized, responsive and extra-mile service that stands out in a unique way your customers will appreciate - and remember.
3. Learn to manage your customers’ expectations. It is impossible to make every customer happy as you can’t always give them everything their hearts desire. However you can always help them by bringing their expectations into line with what you know you can deliver. The best way to do this is by first building a reputation for making and keeping clear promises. Once you have established a solid base of trust and good reputation within the community and among your customers, you only need to ask your customers for their patience in your difficult times when you cannot meet their first requests. Nine out of ten times they will extend the understanding and cut you some slack.
Another tricky way to manage customers’ expectations is to ‘under promise, then over deliver’. Here’s an example: you know your customer wants something done really fast. You know it will take an hour to complete. Don’t tell your customer that it will take an hour. Instead, let them know you will try to do it as fast as you can, but promise a 90-minute timeframe. Then, when you actually finish in just one hour (as you knew you would all along), your customer will be delighted to find that you finished the job ‘so quickly’. That’s ‘under promise, then over deliver’.
4. Try to bounce back with effective service recovery during the time of a media/public disaster. Sometimes things can go wrong. It’s very natural especially in a retail industry where your staffs interact with the masses. When your customer is unhappy for whatever reasons, try to do everything in your power to make things right again. Fix the problem and always show sincere concern for any discomfort, frustration or inconvenience that your business may have caused. Then do a little bit more by giving your customer something positive to remember - a token of goodwill, a gift of appreciation, a discount on future orders, an upgrade to a higher class of product and so on. Certainly this is not the time to play the ‘blame game’ to find the actual faulty person or to calculate the costs of repair. Your business goodwill and positive word-of-mouth is worth lot more than that.
5. Always try to set and achieve high service standards. You can go beyond basic and expected levels of service to provide your customers with desired and even surprising service interactions. Try to make your business the determinant of the standard for service in your industry, and then make a way to always go beyond it. Give more choice than ‘the usual’ that your competitors, be more flexible than ‘normal’, be faster than ‘the average’, and extend a better warranty than all the others. Your customers will notice your higher standards. But eventually those standards will be copied by your competitors, too. So don’t slow down. Keep stepping up!
6. Sometimes you need to appreciate the negative comments that you receive from your customers. Customers with complaints can be your best allies in building and improving your business. Constrictive comments are the key to improve your service, thus your business will get the best feedback If you work with a experienced Mystery Shopping provider that understands your requirements and trains their shoppers to mystery shop your business to point out what problems they are facing and what and where you are doing thing wrong. Mystery Shoppers can show where your products or services are below expectations and point out areas where your competitors are getting ahead or where your staff is falling behind.
7. Take personal responsibility for everything that happens in your business. In many organizations, people are quick to blame others for problems or difficulties at work: managers blame staff, staff blame managers, Engineering blames Sales, Sales blames marketing and everyone blames Finance. This does not really help anybody and certainly not your business! Blaming yourself doesn’t work, either. No matter how many mistakes you may have made, tomorrow is another chance to do better. You need high self-esteem to give good service. Feeling ashamed doesn’t help. It doesn’t make sense to make excuses and blame the computers, the system or the budget, either. This kind of justification only prolongs the pain before the necessary changes can take place.
The most reliable way to bring about constructive change in your organization is to take personal responsibility and help make good things happen. When you see something that needs to be done, do it. If you see something that needs to be done in another department, recommend it. Be the person who makes suggestions, proposes new ideas and volunteers to help on problem solving teams, projects and solutions.
8. Try to see the world from each customer’s point of view. We often get so caught up in our own world that we lose sight of what our customers actually experience. Make time to stand on the other side of the counter or listen on the other end of the phone. You can even trying becoming a ‘mystery shopper’ at your own place of business. Or become a customer of your best competition. What you notice when you look from the ‘other side’ is what your customers experience every day.
Finally, always remember that service is the currency that keeps our economy moving. I serve you in one business, you serve me in another and the cycle goes on. When either of us improves, the economy gets a little better. When both of us improve, people are sure to take notice. When everyone improves, the whole world grows stronger and closer together.
So now is the time to make it happen! We live by that motto, do you?