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Photo Credit: Josh Davies

Winning at Customer Service – Entrepreneurs Give Tips on Serving Customers the Right Way

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Customer service is the key to success in most businesses. As an entrepreneur and business owner, you have a product which you want to sell to the public. Of course, there is always a similar product out there competing for attention. So what exactly can set your business apart? If the price is similar, product, and ways of getting said product are the same there is one thing which can give your business the advantage – customer service. If you treat your customers with more care and attention they are more likely to buy your product. If something were to go wrong, they would rely on you to make things right. It sounds simple, but customer service can be a tricky slope to climb sometimes.

Rescue a CEO and CEO Blog Nation asked entrepreneurs for some of their best tips on having better customer service.

Photo Credit: Josh Davies

Photo Credit: Josh Davies

It begins and ends with gratitude

Customer service begins and ends with gratitude and means that employees give authentic service to the people paying their wages. It means saying “I’m glad you’re here, and I want to do whatever I can to help you solve your problem.” But we often see managers and leaders who aren’t expressing that gratitude in front of employees or for employees. So it takes modeling, which includes not complaining with or in front of your team. It also means looking for opportunities to tell them that they matter, and that you appreciate their work. When employees see that you notice, they’ll notice. When they see that you care about them, they’ll care about others.

Thanks to Josh Davies, The Center for Work Ethic Development

Related Post: What Entrepreneurs Need to Know About Customer Service

Photo Credit: Barry Maher

Photo Credit: Barry Maher

Make the customer feel important

When it comes to customer service, I always suggest a wild and crazy experiment. Institute a policy of spending as much time and effort actually providing customer service as advertising and talking about it. Begin by eliminated or at least reducing those ridiculous phone trees. Then set up an incentive program for the phone reps based on actually solving problems and satisfying customers (whenever reasonable) rather than just getting them off the phone as quickly as possible so they can frustrate the next customer. And the greatest secret to improving customer service couldn’t be more obvious or more often ignored. It’s simply this: “Make people feel important.” Every company in the world knows customers are important, yet, as customers, how important do we feel when dealing with these companies? Often isn’t it more like that infamous phone message, “Because we value your business, please continue to hold.” With all the talk about customer service, with all the blather about customer centric companies, making people feel important is still the easiest and the cheapest way to differentiate your business from the competition.

Thanks to Barry Maher, Barry Maher & Associates

 

Photo Credit: Master Joseph Ash

Photo Credit: Master Joseph Ash

Act as if you’re taking care of your own mother

I heard once at a seminar that customer service should be viewed as if you were taking care of your own mother. A great analogy and wonderfully useful piece of advice. The real trick to customer service is to anticipate and service your clients wants and needs. Real customer service masters anticipate and carryout needed tasks before their clients come to them. This creates a “WOW” factor which in turn makes them feel you genuinely care. To be capable of such tasks though, would require you actually know simple things about them like; their names, birthdays, specialties, hobbies, types of food they like and their family members names. So many corporations get caught up in “The Machine” or day to day tasks that they forget to stay in touch with what really matters, the people. I take great pride in knowing each and every one of my clients names and related information. Furthermore, I go to great lengths so that my staff does as well. The way I see it, in business, knowing is caring and if people know you care they will frequent your place of business over and over again.

Thanks to Master Joseph Ash, Baeplex Family Martial Arts Center, Inc.

 

Photo Credit: Jennifer Stagner

Photo Credit: Jennifer Stagner

It extends beyond just listening

Great customer service extends beyond just listening. Sure, your customers want you to listen when they have a problem or complaint, but the reality is they would much rather you spend your time proactively preventing their problems. A great example is a customer with a rush shipment. Taking the initiative and keying that order immediately, working with traffic ahead of time to ensure a truck is available, tracking the progress of the order, and communicating a successful on-time delivery without being asked is a great way to win repeat business. The greatest part about acting proactively in Customer Service is that it alters the dynamic of your customer relationships by turning negative experiences into positive ones. Calling with good news is a much better way to win business than being the recipient of a complaint call. Your customers will appreciate the extra initiative and you will appreciate how much more you enjoy their calls.

Thanks to Jennifer Stagner, Tops

Related Post: Strong Corporate Culture is the Key to Sustainability

 

Photo Credit: Hwee-Boon Yar

Photo Credit: Hwee-Boon Yar

Empathize, be honest and prompt with responses

Empathize, be honest and be prompt with your responses. A customer is having a problem — feeling frustrated, stuck, helpless — and not being able to finish their task. Maybe their food is bad, or your software keeps crashing. Imagine yourself in their shoes, and genuinely help them. Sometimes, it’s just a misunderstanding, or sometimes you just screwed up. Always apologize, sincerely and offer a remedy. When the chance presents itself, admit your mistake before the customer figures it out. Sometimes you’ll get blown off. That’s alright. Don’t take it personally. But you’d be surprised by how nice customers can react when they realize there’s a human behind your business. Be human. None of that bullshit playing back “Your call is important to us, please hold and our customer service officer will attend to you” while putting the customer on hold for 30 minutes. If you offer phone support, either pick up the phone quickly or let the customer leave a voicemail or provide directions for alternative means to contact you. Either way, respond quickly. If you offer email support, respond within the day and preferably within 2 hours — and keep your customers updated if it takes more than a few days to fix or provide an conclusive answer. Enterprises always talks about customer service and call centers as a cost center, and not a profit center. Don’t be them.

Thanks to Hwee-Boon Yar, MotionObj

 

Photo Credit: Erica Tevis

Photo Credit: Erica Tevis

Treat every customer with a smile

When I was 15, I held my first job – a drive-thru cashier at McDonald’s. It was there that I learned everything I needed to learn about customer service. They drilled into every employee’s head, “The customer is always right” and “Treat every customer with a smile”. Since then, I have believed in this motto and have carried it through to my own customer service team. Sure, there will be days with difficult customers, but if a customer service rep steps back, reviews the situation and understands it from the customer’s perspective, the best solution to an issue can be found. Additionally, I tell my CSRs that sometimes polices can be bent – if we can accommodate a customer’s request, then we should do so. Policies are merely guidelines to guide us – they aren’t necessarily set in stone. In this technology driven day, it is important for all companies to maintain the best customer service possible as clients aren’t afraid to use social media and review websites to post feedback about their experience.

Thanks to Erica Tevis, Little Things Favors

 

Photo Credit: Jennifer Leake

Photo Credit: Jennifer Leake

Hiring those who naturally ‘fit’ the customer service role

Customer service can mean different things to different people. In over 20 years of working in the Customer Service area, I have noticed two areas businesses can address to insure the service they seek is delivered by their employees. Aligning employees with organization customer service standards and hiring those who naturally “fit” the role of customer service. The use of available tools to help set these standards, see how well employees align and identify what (and if) training will help can increase and improve customer service in any organization.

Thanks to Jennifer Leake, Assessment Pros LLC

 

Photo Credit: Frank Bravata

Photo Credit: Frank Bravata

Everyone must be on board

If you are going to build a truly “customer service focused organization”, that goal has to pervade throughout the entire structure of your company. Everyone from the executives to the sales staff to the support department has to be given the power and directive to ensure that the customer experience is a remarkable one. Technical systems such as your website, your phone system, and even your social media outlets need to be regularly checked to ensure that they are giving the customers the best experience possible. For example, it doesn’t matter how great your people are if your phone system disconnects people at random. Speaking of social media, nowadays customers expect to engage on a variety of platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and your website. You have to make sure that you have the resources and policies to address their concerns on all of them. Woe to the company that has an unanswered complaint on their Facebook page for too long!

Thanks to Frank Bravata, New Millennium Technology Services

 

Photo Credit: Shane Gamble

Photo Credit: Shane Gamble

Keep your promise to customers

First and foremost, you have to make sure that you are keeping your promise to your customers. The old business adage “under promise, over deliver” surely applies here. If you keep your promise and manage the expectations of your customers, they will have confidence in you and your business and will be more likely to evangelize you. Keep things humanized. If your customers feel like they are talking to robots, there is no way they could relate to your employees. Talk to your customers as if they were your friends, and show genuine concern for them at all times.

Thanks to Shane Gamble, Sweet Tooth

Related Post: Tips for Dealing with Bad Customer Feedback

 

Photo Credit: David Grossman

Photo Credit: David Grossman

Being honest with customers about service

Renue Systems services large companies (Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, Sheraton and other large hotel brands), so providing superb customer service is key. One thing we do from the onset is set their expectations properly. We tell them that while we try to be perfect 100% of the time, there will be a few incidents where we fall short – sometimes for reasons beyond our control. Since our customers are also in the service industry they understand our challenges. However, we do guarantee that 100% of the time when there is an incident we will address it immediately. More times than not we make lemonade out of lemons, and these occurrences endear us to our customers. Also, we tell our customers that we are available on a 24/7 basis, even if they only have a small job for us, since these interactions go a long way of forming strong relationships with our customers. The last thing we want to do is give our customer an excuse to search out a competitor. Thus, even if they have a need that is not one of our core offerings we will do our best to find them a solution, even if it means finding a different vendor for them. In general, we try to create the image in the minds of our customers that we are their trusted, expert partner (in our case for comprehensive cleaning services), so they will look up to us for any cleaning need they have. To reinforce this image, very little of our marketing initiatives are promotional, but rather they are educational.

Thanks to David Grossman, Renue Systems, Inc.

 

Photo Credit: Adam Bates

Photo Credit: Adam Bates

Customer service should be personal

I believe customer service begins when prospecting a potential client. I want to be a company / brand that is recognized as providing unmatched customer service which begins with prompt correspondence i.e. telephone calls are answered and calls are directed to the requested person. A live operator speaks volumes for a company (no pun intended). Make the purchase process quick and simple and courteous, live assistance available by telephone, email and social media. I believe customer service should be personal and delivered by a person who actually is concerned about the customer. Once the sale has been made, it is very important for client engagement to ensure the customer is valued by an actual person which can be called for assistance. I make certain each customer is contacted by email or telephone (or both) to answer any questions and offer overlooked claim instructions to ensure our customers’ expectations of their international health or travel insurance policies are met. The purpose of insurance is to provide “peace of mind;” however, it is the assurance of knowing a person in my office will personally help you that ensures the freedom of worry. Excellent customer service equates to loyal customers who also recommend my company to others.

Thanks to Adam Bates, Insurance Services of America

Related Post: Spend Time with Your Customers to Stand Out

 

Photo Credit: Wei-Ken Seto

Photo Credit: Wei-Ken Seto

The customer is king

he adage may be as old as they come but it always holds true – “The Customer Is King”. A working experience in the successful start-up Zappos helped strengthen that philosophy and it is with that I formed Artxit with the sole purpose of making sure the customer’s needs are always met. Better customer service covers all aspects of a business’ interaction with their customers; including fair pricing, a responsive call center, risk-free shopping and quality service/products. At Zappos, we placed a strong emphasis on understanding our consumer – every employee had to undergo a month’s worth call center training so that we could experience understanding their needs and concerns firsthand. There were never any time limits placed on how long calls took and we were one of the pioneers of free return shipping with no questions asked. At Artxit, we adopt the same philosophies that made Zappos successful by ensuring all customers are entitled to a Free Preview of their artwork with the possibility of revisions as we understand the inherent challenge in ordering customized artwork. And if a customer is still unsatisfied after delivery, we will spare no expense in revising their artwork for free as well. Ultimately, better customer service translates to foregoing the short-term accumulation of profits for the larger goal of establishing your brand and reputation first as being consumer-centric which will then bring its rewards.

Thanks to Wei-Ken Seto, Artxit

About Gresham Harkless Jr.

Gresham Harkless is a Media Consultant for Blue 16 Media and the Blogger-in-Chief for CEO Blog Nation. CEO Blog Nation is a community of blogs for entrepreneurs and business owners. Started in much the same way as most small businesses, CEO Blog Nation captures the essence of entrepreneurship by allowing entrepreneurs and business owners to have a voice. CEO Blog Nation provides news, information, events and even startup business tips for entrepreneurs, startups and business owners to succeed.
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