Whether your business is an online store or a storefront downtown, providing excellent customer service will determine if you succeed in the long run. In today's economy, the businesses that will survive and thrive will be those that give each and every customer a better shopping experience than the competition. Win that battle. Grow your sales and your business by fine-tuning your store's customer service and by following these four key points.
Commit to High Standards and Communicate Them to Employees
- Commit to and communicate company standards to improve employee performance.
Adam Williams *, a longtime human resources consultant, specializes in retraining business staff who have low levels of customer service. "Customer service starts at the very top," Williams says. "Set your standards high, and let your employees know they are non-negotiable." Williams adds that customer service requires a commitment from the employer as well as the employees, and notes it is the employer's responsibility to make everyone aware of these policies.
Cathy Ward, an online retailer, agreements. "Communicating standards is critical," Ward says. "I inform employees upon hiring the conduct that is expected. I monitor employee phone calls and watch them work. If they are not meeting our standards I explain to them why and correct the issue."
Show your company's commitment to customer service with the following tips:
- Post a written copy of your customer service policy where every employee can see it.
- Routinely review your customer service standards.
- Hold monthly quality meetings and training seminars.
- Create an incentive program that rewards great performance.
- Tape notes by the phone with appropriate phrases and service messages.
Making these a part of your operations will help keep everyone on the same page and ensure consistency.
Maintain Proper Employee Attitude
- Train employees to keep their personal and professional lives separate to improve their attitudes and win customers.
Maintaining the right employee attitude is key. Your employees are your frontline to winning customers and their attitude is conveyed in everything they do. It's in their body language when face-to-face with a customer, in their tone of voice when answering the phone, and in their word choices when responding to an email.
This is why Williams describes all workers as actors on a stage, "Your customers are your audience. That means personal problems, gossip, and private matters must be left at home. Williams adds, "If you are miserable for whatever reason, it can not show at work."
Attitude is especially critical when you or an employee has to tell a customer what they do not want to hear. "The ability to be brutally honest and direct without being perceived as cold or uncaring is important," says Bob Bryant, a merchant services provider. "Service reps that can patiently resolve issues with a disgruntled customer, while winning that customer as an ally, are few and far between."
Here's an activity that will get employees thinking about the right attitude:
- Ask them to describe a specific time when they received great customer service and to explain what made the experience special.
- Ask them to describe a time when they received poor customer service and identify what they disliked about the experience.
- Have your employees share their experiences as a group and list key points from each experience.
This exercise is a great reminder that while many of us are not experienced at providing good customer service, we are all experienced customers. Training your employees to see the mindset of their customers will help them improve their level of service.
Keep Your Level of Customer Service Consistent
- Maintain consistent levels of customer service to gain customer trust and repeat business.
A positive attitude will gain your business little if your customer service is inconsistent. "The reason people go back to just about any business is because of the way they were treated when they were there the last time," Williams says. One bad experience is often all it takes to turn a customer away from a business forever.
"You have to make an effort with every customer," Ward says. "You may get three difficult customer calls in a row, but you can never take that out on the fourth person who calls."
A frustrated employee who is curt with a customer may lose that customer in addition to others who will hear about the experience. Being consistent with every customer lets them know what to expect when they interact with your company, gives them reasons to come back, and can bring in new business.
Use Teamwork to Implement Your Customer Service Policy
- Use teamwork to keep customer service levels consistent and to motivate employees.
Teamwork is essential to bring everything together. Cutthroat work environments will hamper productivity, increase turnover, and will sabotage your customer service efforts. Employees need to feel that by working together everyone benefits and that promoting their company is a shared responsibility.
When employers and employees work together, the result is a seamless experience for the customer. There is no conflict between what one employee says and another, policies are upheld, and customers gain trust in your business.
Excellent Customer Service Can Grow Your Business
If you and your employees can commit to work together to consistently create a positive performance that meets and exceeds the expectations of your customers, you will win the battle to grow your business. "Everyone wins," Williams says. "Your employees are happy, your customers are happy, and they will reward you with repeat business and new word-of-mouth customers."
* Name changed due to confidential requirements of employment.