Customer service is one of those phrases that is bandied about and most business owners are convinced that their service is great.
The kinds of experiences your customers have will determine whether they will be back and, even more importantly, whether they will recommend you to their friends and colleagues. It is a brutal fact of life that in business, we are more inclined to tell of a horror story than a feel-good one.
A sad anecdote
Consider this customer services experience: Recently week I stayed at a 5-star, branded hotel and noticed how otherwise small things had become too much trouble for customer service staff. In the Executive Lounge I asked for a Diet Coke at 5.15 pm and was told “we don't start serving guests until 5.30 pm.” When I explained that my mini-bar had not been restocked the person reluctantly got the drink.
The mere fact that I am telling you this is worrying. There seems to be an increasing tendency to short cut on service delivery.
A ‘can do’ attitude will create a positive customer experience; a ‘no can do’ attitude will sullen the experience and result in a totally different word-of moth message. Clearly the above story had nothing to do with resources at hand (the good were there, as were the staff) but all to do with mind-set and training.
Some businesses – especially those that rely on discretionary spending - cut back on staff as a first response to a loss or threatened loss of revenue. For sure a business must “right size” itself but there is more work to be done before customer service levels are compromised.
One specialised Sydney based furniture retailer, rather than cut back staff, took them to a sales seminar which had a strong customer service training element. The proprietor said that she built her business on giving superb customer service knowing that this brought referrals.
In a recession the word of mouth channel becomes the critical revenue generator as new revenue dollars would be hard to justify.
The idea that cutting back staff in order to maintain margins does not cut it in a service oriented industry. As the store proprietor said, “The recession gives me the opportunity to buy stock well (at hefty discounts) and thus maintain my margins. I didn’t need to cut back staff.”
Have you ever wondered why some restaurants have a loyal customer following while others limp along?
The answer is not in the ambiance or even in the quality of food. Today, those are taken for granted -- every "good" restaurant is expected to have these. The difference between restaurants that build a loyal following and those that don't is all in customer service. That special ‘can do’ attitude that permeates all the best establishments. You know it at the very first interaction with the staff.
The successful restaurant will resonate from the moment you walk in the door.
Successful businesses recognise the importance of customer service and spend time training their staff on exactly how to interact with customers.
The TV series Faulty Towers had the bumbling Basil (a “manager”) always speaking before he thought. Is it not basic that Customer Service 101 would be to think before you speak? Consider the impact of your words on the customer or client and how they might be interpreted. If you want your clients or customers to a have a memorable experience or to genuinely experience your service as “above expectations” then you need to be sure to think about the words you use – at all times.
What customers take away when they transact with your business is an overall impression of the quality of the experience. That's why it's important to pay attention to the total customer experience.
Some aspects of effective customer service are:
- knowing your customers' needs;
- identifying your key service activities;
- delivering superior service;