Maintaining a positive relationship with customers and clients is critical in any industry. When the overall economy is in dire straits, however, it's more important than ever to encourage consumer loyalty as well as generate ongoing feedback on how you and your staff can better serve your target market's needs, interests and budgets.
Impress upon your staff the importance of being courteous, efficient and cooperative in all interactions with customers and clients. The reinforcement of company policies regarding excellent service should not only be a topic addressed in staff meetings but should also be included in training manuals for new hires. Encourage employees to bring customer problems to your attention as soon as possible so that appropriate remedies can be found.
Record customer service calls. These are instrumental for training purposes because they allow you to monitor how much time is spent on each call, review the complexity of problems presented and evaluate the knowledge and professionalism of your staff in resolving customers' concerns.
Distribute customer response cards at the point of sale to evaluate satisfaction with the shopping experience. This is often an easier approach than having customers mail back a survey because the passage of time will either cause them to forget what they liked or disliked or to misplace the form altogether.
Send out questionnaires as mailers on a quarterly basis. If you have an email database, use it to generate online surveys. These can be used to assess product and service satisfaction as well as solicit input on what customers would like to see added to your future inventory.
Follow up on the resolution of customer complaints within one week to determine whether the remedies provided met with each client's needs and concerns.
Use mystery shoppers to observe first-hand how service is being provided. These are individuals who are hired by the employer—and who are not personally known by the staff—to drop in and assess performance standards insofar as attentiveness, politeness, problem-solving skills, listening skills and the ability to deal with conflicts.
Always make it as easy as possible for customers to provide feedback on how your business is doing. This means providing self-addressed, stamped envelopes for mail-in surveys and making online questionnaires short and simple enough to be filled out in less than five minutes.
Some people just don't like to have their conversations recorded. If you use recording devices to monitor customer service calls, make sure that your staff always advises customers in advance that the call is being recorded.