Customer Service is a Way of Life

Customer Service is a Way of Life

The customer is always right, so the well-worn saying goes. If it were as simple as that, however, the puzzle that is providing great customer service would have been solved eons ago. That being said, in today’s hyper-competitive age of doing business, good customer service is the exception rather than the rule. Ask any business manager and they’ll sing the praises of their strategy. In the same breath most consumers are quick to disparage the way they are so often treated, or mistreated as it were, by those very same representatives of businesses both small and large.

Although it may be difficult to calculate the return on investment or quantify the key elements of great customer service, there are certain points that you need to be aware of and can address that will help you and your business develop an approach to customer service that will keep your consumers coming back again and again.

Pull it Into the Spotlight

Long regarded as a necessary evil, or at best the water boy to the team that is your products or services, customer service is increasingly being recognized as the window into your outfit’s brand, its culture and the manner in which it conducts itself. Consumers are more and more tuned in to the feeling and impression they get having interacted with a company. The sensation, the memories of being fairly or unfairly treated are having greater and greater ramifications for businesses in this day of instant communication. A happy customer is likely to come back again whereas an unhappy customer is almost certain never to return, and furthermore to happily spread the bad word both to their friends and family and even more so on the Internet where it is sure to hang around forever.

Don’t Discount the Human Element

Managers are quick to point out their lists and flow charts of how best to interact with customers and meet their needs. They typically include the basics – being polite and helpful, responding quickly and appropriately, resolving complaints, etc. Where these are all essential points in providing good customer service, one key element is too often left to chance: the effective implementation of these points by people who understand the importance of genuine human communication with customers.

The company handbook on handling customer complaints may recommend offering a discount or a gift card right off the bat to immediately defuse the situation and sweep it under the rug. Most consumers today don’t want to feel as if they’ve been bribed, or stooped to a lower level, however. People who have experienced an issue and the customers you are working with on these issues simply want to know that they’re being listened to and taken seriously. All the prompts and boardroom scenarios can’t replace an employee who demonstrates honest empathy on a customer-by-customer basis. Clearly there will some crackpots out there to contend with that a sympathetic ear may not placate. That only reinforces the need to have competent, genuine and discerning people representing this all-important aspect of your company.

What Should You Be Addressing Now?

At this point there are some simple and relatively straightforward approaches you should be implementing right now when dealing with customers. First and foremost it is imperative to listen. Hear out your customer before jumping in with an ill-thought-out solution. Knowing that they’re being listened to is vital for customers who consider a certain company’s customer service to be effective. Be truthful. Although it may not be what your customer wants to hear or what you necessarily want to tell them, honesty is paramount. Consumers appreciate honesty immeasurably more than a company backtracking after the fact, being caught in a lie, or having concealed or omitted the truth. Lastly, apologize sincerely. More often than not this is what people are waiting to hear. Simply apologizing without going on groveling or showering your customer with gifts can do wonders for resolving an issue like an adult and saving if not strengthening a business relationship.

Give People a Reason to Love You

Look at the companies that enjoy the most rabid and diehard customer following and dedication. No, you shouldn’t be thinking of Apple or Starbucks or Amazon. You should be thinking of your local neighborhood barber or hairdresser who people go to for decades. You should be thinking of your local mechanic who you would trust with your kids, let alone your car. You should be thinking about the small businesses people rely on and have relied on loyally over the years. These organizations consistently focus on their customers as individuals – what they need and most importantly why they keep coming back. Consistently great customer service requires very little in the way of startup costs or expensive hardware and if you give it the attention it deserves and put the effort in where it is required it can add enormous value to your company’s brand for years to come.

About author

Philip Barry
Philip Barry 19 posts

Philip Barry is a featured contributor to AgeOfTheSmallBusiness.com. After graduating from Fairfield University with a B.A. in French and International Studies he lived in Bordeaux, France for four years before serving with the U.S. Peace Corps in Ethiopia.

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