Competitors don't stand a chance when the goal is to put the word "service" back into customer service. Here's a guide on how to get there:
HIRE SMILING FACES
Good help may be hard to find but it shouldn't be at the expense of projecting a positive business image. Anyone that represents a company should communicate an upbeat attitude. The tone of the initial customer contact, either in person or by telephone, can make or break an impression. Psychologists agree that a smile can be "heard", even over the telephone. When a customer experiences a sour face or a curt tone, they may be reluctant to do business with a company.
Excellent customer service providers know how to turn regular customers into loyal ones. It starts simply with extending basic courtesies to everyone. Unsolicited personal woes or long-winded anecdotes are off limits. Maintaining a pleasant business demeanor without appearing aloof is a sign of professionalism. Should a customer initiate a casual conversation, remember the rules of etiquette.
One of the best relationship-building practices that can make a lasting impression is to remember a customer's name and then address them personally when they return. Remember their favorite product and find a way to make that information useful. Offering expert tips or sharing product knowledge will make you a valuable resource. These practices are the foundation of long-term business relationships.
Returning customers will know how much they are valued when incentives are offered. Implement a rewards program based on perks to keep a customer happy and coming back. There are many ways to thank loyal customers and make them feel special. Offering exclusive product samples or invitations to private sales are ways to express appreciation. The ideas are only limited by a budget and the ability to be creative.
Strive to exceed customer expectations whenever possible. Everyone expects to get what they pay for in a business transaction of any kind. But when a business provides "over the top" service, customers will return the favor with repeat business and positive word-of-mouth advertising. That extra service can be as simple as carrying packages to a car or the occasional gift of free shipping. The surprise of "a little something extra"- like the 13th item in a dozen- is always well received, especially when it is unexpected.
Giving customers the opportunity to voice concerns or make suggestions is one of the cornerstones of exceptional customer service. Many companies now employ marketing research firms in an attempt to track the quality of their goods and services. When customers take the time to provide feedback, it should be met with an open mind and viewed as an opportunity to improve.
Follow up on customer complaints. Resolving problems quickly and efficiently can turn an unhappy complainer into a satisfied customer. Finding a satisfactory resolution or honoring a promise to call back are often overlooked practices. The result is not only a dissatisfied customer but a frustrated one as well.
BREAK THE RULES
Very few words are more annoying to customer than hearing the infamous, "It's not our policy" speech. Those words will almost guarantee a lost customer. Policies and procedures are necessary to running a successful business; however, there are exceptions to every rule. Smart business owners know when to make those exceptions. Carefully weigh the cost of deviating from policy with the future spending power of a customer, and the answer is usually apparent.
THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT
A customer is always right even when they are wrong. Somewhere along the way this message seems to have been lost in the handbook of best practices. No customer was ever won over by being corrected, disrespected, argued with or taken for granted. If a customer decides not to do business with a company, it should never be for any of the above reasons.