By Nancy Friedman, Customer Service Keynote Speaker, President Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training.
Customer service is a key function of any business operation. Companies that place a strong emphasis on assisting their customers, whether it be in-person, online or by phone, stand a better chance of winning in the marketplace. Those who do not may not only lose sales to competitors but may also incur a public relations and social media problem.
Here are key tactics to help improve your customer interactions.
* Develop a Customer Service Strategy
Business owners, CEOs and executives should develop a strategy to ensure customer service is maintained at the highest level. This can include calling and asking for yourself or some product information and analyzing the responses of a call center employee or sales staffer. What you hear may surprise you and could be costing you money.
* Hire Appropriately
Creating a customer service centered culture includes hiring the right people for the appropriate position whether it be in the lobby, online or on the phone. Mistakes are often made by just filling seats with warm bodies. Phone employees should have a pleasant voice, speak clearly, and maintain a smooth conversational pace. Matching the person’s personality to the task is necessary to achieve optimal performance and results.
* Commit to Ongoing Training
Customer service training is essential and should be ongoing. Studies have found there appears to be a direct correlation to poor customer service and no training program in place, especially for the employees who handle the customers direct. Front line training, those employees who handle the customers on a day-to-day basis, and the ones that get “rated,” are often left at the starting gate. They are left with an “on the job” training mentality. A program focusing on training from the start will improve employee performance and generate better results.
* Emphasize Product Knowledge
Your customer service team is not only the first cog in the sales process but they are also your brand ambassadors. Therefore they need to understand details of the products and services offered. The team should be involved in product demonstrations with managers and others. The more they know, the better able they are to assist the customer and make the customer interaction more positive and enjoyable.
* Keep the Customer Informed
Good customer service begins with good communication. Your representative should explain what is going to take place during each step of the process. Placing a caller on hold for a long period of time, or disappearing during an email chat, without an explanation, is unacceptable.
Should the call need to be passed on to a supervisor, or other contact, inform the customer of what is occurring. The caller will appreciate the feedback and professionalism.
* Focus on Friendliness
Our ongoing research indicates a lack of friendliness is the number one problem in customer service. Customers should be treated as welcomed guests when they call or visit your company. As most of us have experienced, customers are often treated as an annoyance or an interruption. Improving this aspect alone can help not only improve your sales but also help build your brand.