In the modern world, success of any company greatly depends on level of customer service it provides. Effective, prompt, and courteous customer service makes clients happy and willing to come back - after all, almost anybody can sell something once; the trick is to make people use your services or products repeatedly. As such, excellent customer service is indispensable in ensuring customer satisfaction and loyalty which, ultimately, lead to success and profitability of any business. What is customer service and what needs to be done to make it work?
Broadly defined, customer service is the service provided to clients before, during, and after an acquisition and usage of services or products. Consequently, quality customer service guarantees that a customer is fully satisfied at every stage of the process.
There are several major components of excellent customer service.
- Main objective is complete satisfaction of a client. Customer service must provide all necessary information, help, and advice in order to meet and exceed customers' expectations at every step of the purchasing process. The old slogan "customer comes first" should become a guiding maxim for every business.
- Well-trained staff. Customer service representatives must be knowledgeable regarding the products a company provides, well-informed about the necessary procedures needed to address the issues customers might have with a product (such as shipping and billing, return or exchange policies, refunds, guarantees, repairs, etc.), and be able to listen to customers and ask relevant questions. Most importantly, they should have authority to take necessary actions regarding most issues in order to prevent a customer from being passed on from one person to another.
- Accessibility. Usually, customer service is provided in three ways: face-to-face interaction, phone calls, and written communication (via email or regular mail). If possible, a company needs to ensure that customers can easily interact with customer service representatives using all three methods. It is important to remember that customers always respond more positively to live representative than a prompt from a pre-recorded message, written communication must be concise and well-written, and face-to-face interaction must be handled in a polite and effective manner.
- Address the complaints promptly. Should a customer have a complaint during a purchasing process, it must be dealt with in an efficient, prompt, and courteous manner. As such, company representatives must be precise regarding available options, time needed to address the issue, and follow-up procedures if required.
- Set high standards. Every business needs to set high and attainable standards in providing quality customer service. All the necessary procedures must be well-delineated and routinely monitored (and if necessary, revised) in order to avoid any mistakes and misinterpretations.
- Regular training sessions for customer service representatives. At its core, customer service is all about human interactions. Therefore, customer service representatives must be able to deal with an occasional rude, unreasonable, or overly emotional customer in a positive, non-discriminatory, and helpful manner. Besides, it can become rather boring and repetitive to address similar issues over and over again; thus, it is highly advisable to regularly train representatives regarding best strategies and mechanisms to cope with such problems.
- Personalized customer service. Everyone appreciates a kind gesture or personal attention. Little things like a warm smile, remembered name or birthday, or small conversation go a long way in turning a customer into a loyal one. On a larger scale, customers would surely recognize the value of freebies, cards, loyal customer discounts, or flowers sent to them by coming back to your business.
- Accurate delivery. There is nothing more frustrating to a customer than a broken deal. If your company promises to deliver some product/service in a specific period of time or some specific way- that promise needs to be respected. Customer service representatives should never promise anything they are not sure can be delivered.
- Value customer feedback. Every company needs to know its customers. Employ different methods such as surveys and suggestion boxes to learn what your clients appreciate about your products or services or want to be improved. By paying close attention to its customers, a company can position itself in a unique way to meet and exceed their expectations.
- Create positive work environment. Everything starts at home front and as such, happy employees mean happy customers. Every company needs to nurture healthy work environment, acknowledge accomplishments, and provide constructive guidance to its employees.
Undeniably, it is a major task to provide excellent customer service. Any company that implements dedicated strategy to properly address customers' needs, desires, and fears will secure a loyal customer who might recommend it to others, which would lead to increased sales and profits.