Providing exceptional customer service can increase business, reduce turnover, create loyal customers, improve staff morale and have a positive effect on your bottom line.
Develop a customer service excellence plan. Much like a business might draft a business or marketing plan, customer service initiatives and goals should be clearly defined within an organization. Involve employees in the process to get firsthand feedback about what your customers do and don’t like about your business and write your plan accordingly. For example, you might strive to reduce wait times in line and on the phone, guarantee on-time delivery orders or match any competitor’s price on products or services.
Hire people with good communication and people skills. During interviews, ask prospects to describe how they would handle various customer service issues, such as an unhappy customer, a lost order or a defective product. Hire people who are compassionate, calm and understanding, and are able to solve problems on the spot. Once in the job, give these staffers enough autonomy to take care of customer concerns without going through numerous chains of command.
Train your employees through ongoing professional development programs on best practices in the customer service arena. Role-play scenarios that come up in your business and have employees act out the role of customer and staffer. Solicit feedback from others about what went well and what needed improvement. Use the training session as a chance to re-emphasize your company policy on how you want customers treated.
Mystery shop your own business and look for ways to make things easier for your customers. Employ a friend or colleague to stop by your place of business in the middle of the day and gauge how long it takes for someone to speak to her or take her order. Have her time how long she stood in line and gauge how friendly the salesperson was. Have your mystery shopper use a coupon or promotional code or attempt to return an item to see how easy the process is. Seeing things through a customer’s eyes can give you new ways to improve service.
Make it easy to be your customer. Don’t make customers jump through hoops, such as being stuck on endless loops on automated phone systems or mired in countless page clicks on your website. In person, don’t send them scurrying through your store looking for an item when an employee could easily identify and retrieve it. Get rid of hidden fees, limited return policies, self-checkout kiosks or policies that make it hard to do business with you. Customers should feel like you have thought of and attended to their every need.
Encourage customers to let you know about their experiences with your business. Use surveys, feedback cards and online portals to collect data. Use the information to improve service levels and to recognize employees who continually provide superior service.
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.