Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What is customer service?

Customer service starts with management and the values they instill in their employees. Unfortunately, customer service has moved away from the concept of “The customer is always right.” This is in part due to the litigious world we live in. We are afraid to admit that a customer might have a valid point when they make a complaint.

Whether you run or work for a large organization or a small outfit, the principles of customer service are the same. Here are some of them.

  1. Keep the customer happy. This doesn’t mean that you have to put everything on sale or that you need to go to extraordinary lengths to make the customer happy. Most people would be satisfied with a little honest attention when they are shopping or looking for someone to provide service in the home. 
  2.  Listen to the complaints without becoming defensive. Too often when you ask a sales clerk or service person a question, they tell you why your question is out of line instead of answering the question. If I ask how long something will last, I don’t want to hear, “Forever.” I know that’s not true. Tell me the truth and I’ll be grateful and more likely to buy from you in the future. 
  3.  Show that you value the customer’s time. So often brick and mortar stores and phone and online service businesses don’t hire enough people to give good customer service. When I go out for lunch, I don’t want to hear how many tables the waitress has, or I don’t want to stand in line forever to find a clerk. In too many cases, stores and restaurants are maintaining minimum staffing levels. This is especially true of phone services for all businesses. How many times have you heard a recording say, “Your call is important to us. The next available person will be right with you.”? It is not customer service to make a customer wait on the phone for half an hour for a “real” person to come on the line. 
  4.  Stand behind the value of your product.  Assist a customer rather than trying to sell him something more expensive than he needs. Too often when we ask for a particular product, the sales clerk will offer a suggestion of a more expensive product. Now, I would appreciate this if what I am proposing to buy is not worth the price. However, I don’t want to have to fight with a sales clerk to obtain information about a product I want, just because he/she wants to make a bigger commission. 
  5.  Meet the customer’s needs, rather than your own. The customer is always right. Businesses would find their businesses booming if some of them returned to this old tenet and to the one about having pride in their product.

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