Most businesses know that providing great customer service has always been the foundation for success. You can pour every resource into product development and marketing, but if customers are dissatisfied with the service they receive in-person, you run the risk of losing them to your competitors forever.
No matter how your staff engages with customers — be it face-to-face, over the phone, or via email or social media — the principles of customer service remain the same: greeting your guests with a smile, showing interest, and making them feel valued. However, patience, great communication skills, and a persuasive attitude are just the tip of the iceberg.
The early bird gets the worm, as the old adage goes, and businesses that meet the needs of their customers before they’re expressed will stand out in the crowd. This can be accomplished by teaching your staff to maintain a dialogue with customers. This way, staff can identify the unspoken needs buried within the stated ones. For example, communication coach Carmine Gallo wrote in Forbes of the exceptional customer service he received while on vacation with his family at San Diego resort The Grand Del Mar: “The valet brought up our car and asked where we were heading. ‘Legoland!’ the kids shouted. By the time I had finished loading the trunk, the valet had placed four water bottles in the car. ‘It’s hot today. You’ll need these,’ he said.”
Another way to get to know your customers is to gather data from surveys, contests, and transactions. You’ll learn about the demographics that frequent your business, the products or services they are most likely to buy, and how often they interact with your brand. With this information in hand, your front-line staff are better equipped to suggest additional services that might be of interest the customer.
Be prompt and attentive
Customers expect to receive service fast, and the fact of the matter is that their expectations are similar whether they’re communicating with you in person or online. Guests don’t like to stand around waiting at the reception desk, and they don’t like to be kept on hold for half an hour. The same goes for social media. Businesses that provide swift service have much to gain.
According to a 2013 study on social media trends by Accenture, a whopping 66% of global consumers left one brand for another due to poor customer service. Among the many reasons listed, “being on-hold for a long time when contacting the company” came in second, with 90% of respondents citing it as a major source of frustration. On the other hand, a 2015 McKinsey report suggested that “best-in-class social care companies improved customer service by 19 percent” and “82 percent of customers who have a good customer experience on Twitter are likely to recommend the brand based on their interaction.”
When a problem arises, let them vent
Most of the time, a guest just wants to feel like they’re being heard and understood. Attempting to argue with them will not help; in most cases, it will only make the situation worse. As Gene Marks writes in Entrepreneur magazine, “You always listen. You don’t argue. It’s not that the customer’s always right. It’s just that it doesn’t matter. You’re not going to win the argument.” The reason you’re not going to win is because a customer who feels attacked, undervalued, and undermined is unlikely to bring you repeat business. Swallowing the instinct to get defensive is half the battle.
Ask questions and clarify
Complicated problems often require complicated solutions. Teach your staff to get all the information they need from the guest before they try to resolve the situation. As a bonus, it also shows the guest that your business is interested and invested in their needs.
Then go above and beyond to fix it
An upset guest doesn’t necessarily mean all is lost. An upset customer is more likely to be dazzled by great service than one who has no issues at all. Why? Because most people appreciate when others go out of their way to help them and make things right.
Ask for feedback
Feedback is valuable for two reasons: first, it gives you honest insight into the customer’s feelings about your business, and second, it’s a great opportunity for positive word-of-mouth promotion. Be bold and ask your customers to share their thoughts with you. Better yet, when they’ve had a good experience, ask them to share it with others. An article in the Harvard Business Review states: “47% of customers who had negative experiences told 10 or more others”, whereas only “23% of customers who had a positive service interaction told 10 or more people about it.” If customers are more likely to tell others about a bad experience, you have nothing to lose by encouraging them to share a good one.
Do you have any customer service tips you’d like to share? Leave them in the comments below, or send them to us on Twitter @Benbria. We’d love to hear from you!