So why is it that so many companies get it wrong? Why do we love to rant about the appalling attitude of some staff, and tut at the ill manners of younger staff? After all, we are always happy and polite and never have a bad day in our own businesses…
Yep, you are beginning to see my point.
That is why Wimbledon Business Group recently held a ‘delivering 5 star customer service’ panel discussion with guests from a range of industries but all with one thing in common. They are all renowned for consistently delivering great customer service, and so below are their top tips on how to make sure all of your customers leave happy, and more importantly, want to return.
1 Define who your customer is
The Lincoln/Lydgate quote: ‘You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”. Has become memorable for its bald truth. Yet so many businesses think that their customer base is everyone.
But, that’s not true. Is the mother of two looking for the same service as the 25 year bachelor and does he have the same needs as a retired couple from Tunbridge Wells? Unlikely, so why are you trying to please all of them.
In short, make customer service easier on yourself by identifying your customer.
2 Understand what your customer wants
Having defined your customer learn what it is they want. The findings might surprise you. Why is that? Well, I bet when you started your business you decided you knew what the customer wanted… so didn’t actually bother asking them.
Yet by asking your customers what they want, you might unearth new potential revenue, and like in point one, make it easier on yourself. For example, you might think a discount voucher or weekly email is exactly what they want. In fact, your customer may prefer knowing that they can call you and a telephone will be answered within three rings.
So, if in doubt, start finding out. Ask them!
3 Communicate openly and actively ask for feedback.
Can I help you? – The cry of shop-floor staff everywhere. This seemingly helpful phrase actually cuts out any sense of helping the customer, as it is a closed question. (i.e. we can answer Yes or No and close the conversation down). Instead, consider asking open questions. This is not as easy as it seems especially in the UK where striking up conversation with a stranger seems impossible. A good tip is to remember questions that ask ‘How, What or Why?’ are usually open-ended. So, ‘How are you finding the traffic/weather/crowds today?’ is usually enough to get a reticent British shopper chatting!
Likewise make it easy for your customers to give feedback at every opportunity and again, don’t just ask closed questions that tell you nothing. Instead, ask: ‘How would you rate the level of service today?’ ‘ What can we do to make it better?’.
In brief: Embrace your ‘Britishness’ to start a conversation! ‘Isn’t this weather hot/cold/windy/rainy/typical/unusual for this time of year?’
4 Create a positive culture
As I stated in the opening paragraph, it is easy to think that good customer is just about smiling and being nice. Nevertheless, we all know when someone is being insincere and we all have our bad days. Such is life. However if you as a boss create a culture of caring, happy, positivity then this is more likely to be passed down to your staff and ultimately on to your customers. Let’s face it, if you have just rounded on a staff member and made them feel bad just because that’s your management style you can hardly expect them to then carry on with their day all smiles feeling positive. Unfortunately if you are the sort of boss that makes people feel worthless then you probably struggle to see this in yourself… but your high staff turnover and struggling bottom line might give you some indication.
Of course the flip-side is, staff can be grumpy, surly, moody and cantankerous even when you are positive, caring and want the best for them. Therefore, always hire based on attitude not aptitude. The latter may just cost a few pounds or few hours extra spent on training them to put things right, whereas the former is never going to really change (unless there is a specific reason e.g. recent bereavement).
In short, The Bible said it best: ‘Do unto others…’
5 When it all goes wrong…
…Put it right. A survey by a consumer group showed that when customers make a complaint they want three things to happen: Apologise, explain what you will do to resolve the situation and by when, and reassure them it won’t happen again.
Similarly, the top gripe that people have about customer service is companies not keeping them informed or doing something within the period they agreed.
Note that at no point has a refund or compensation been mentioned. All are about communication. In fact, getting ones money back is only sixth on list of the same consumer survey quoted.
To reiterate, Apologise, Resolve, Reassure.
Finally, in the spirit of great customer service here is one bonus tip for all those of you who took the time to read this far!
Bonus: What is your guarantee?
Consider from the outset of your business, what are you prepared to do if something goes wrong? Will you deliver something across the country by hand?
Will you refund the cost and let the customer keep the product no questions asked?
Will you pay for items to be returned?
Whatever it is you are prepared to do. That is your guarantee. Now make sure people know that.