As the holiday season swings in to high gear, retail businesses and service organizations are likely to see a rise in the number of customers they serve each day – as well as stress levels associated with challenging customers.
The importance of excellent Customer Service cannot be overstated in today’s competitive markets. The reality is that people have many vendors, providers and merchants to choose from when making purchases, and if you want to keep them coming back to yours, you and your staff need to understand why it’s important and how to achieve it.
Let’s begin with the “Why”. Excellent customer service…
• Builds trust – According to business mogul Warren Buffet, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”
• Is more important than price – 9 out of 10 U.S. consumers say they would pay more to ensure a superior customer experience. (Harris Interactive/RightNow)
• Builds positive brand awareness
• Reduces problems for the company
• Appeals to the customer – 7 in 10 Americans said they were willing to spend more with companies they believe provide excellent customer service. (American Express)
As you train your staff to respond to challenging customers, here are 10 principles they need to put into practice:
1. Remain Calm and Listen – You cannot intelligently or effectively respond to someone’s problem without first hearing and accurately understanding it.
2. Empathize and Sympathize – Empathy is the ability to understand and mentally share the feelings of another. Sympathy is the ability to express compassion and sorrow for someone’s misfortune.
3. Agree when possible – Agreement on an issue, no matter how small, puts you in less of an adversarial role and helps to diffuse negative emotions.
4. Remember that others may be watching – Albert Einstein is famously quoted, “Setting an example is not the main means of influencing another, it is the only means.”
5. Don’t take it personally – Hostility reflects a customer’s unmet needs, and taking it personally reflects yours.
6. Use your customer’s name – When someone hears their name, they believe the comments are tailored to address their specific need, thus resulting in them feeling a greater sense of control.
7. Speak slowly, calmly, and softly – The person who demonstrates self-control holds the power.
8. Apologize – An apology is a good way to have the last word.
9. Ask what you can do – Every customer complaint represents a need you have an opportunity to help meet.
10. Follow-up and follow-through – Leadership expert John Maxwell said, “Diligent follow-up and follow-through will set you apart from the crowd and communicates excellence.”
At this time of year, when people are busy and stressed, apply these principles with even greater effort in order to make your interactions with customers more pleasant for you and your business.
How about you? Have you had any excellent or terrible customer service experiences you would like to share? Leave a comment below!
Live, Work & Relate Well!
Dr. Linaman is a psychologist and executive coach providing counseling and professional development services to individuals, couples, work teams and organizations.