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DELIVERING SUPERIOR CUSTOMER SERVICE: FIRST THINGS FIRST – MASTER THE BASICS

by Editor 14. May 2018 09:45

By: Chrisitne Corelli, Christine Corelli and Associates

It goes without saying that developing a reputation for superior customer service is an imperative for business success. But I’m always saying it!  So should you – to your employees. Customers don’t need much of an excuse to head over to your competitor if your business falls even the slightest bit short in the level of service you provide. And in today’s highly competitive marketplace, you can’t afford to lose even one customer.

The Experience Matters!

We hear so much talk today about providing a consistently great “customer experience,” and the importance of putting the “Wow” factor into that experience. We also hear a great deal about consistently improving processes and procedures to make it easy for the customer to do business with us. Yet, there are far too many organizations that have not even mastered the basics. 

First Things First – Master the Basics

Basic Five Step Process to Serving Customers

  • Answer the phone and greet customers in a friendly and highly professional manner.

“XYZ Cabinetry, this is Susan how may I direct your call?”

“XYZ Woodworking Equipment, this is John, how may I help you?”

If you know the customer be sure to make them feel important. “Oh, hello Mr. Smith, how are you today?”  Remember Norm from the TV Show Cheers and why he was so well loved and remembered till this day?  It’s because he knew everyone’s name!

When a new customer walks in to your place of business, walk toward them and extend your hand as you say, “Hello, I’m John. What brings you in today?” (Not, “Can I help you?” …too boring!)

       2)  Ask how you can help and LISTEN.

Perhaps the biggest difference in the way we did business in the past and how we will need to do    it in the future is that we will have to be better listeners. Demonstrate you are listening by maintaining eye contact, and reconfirming what the customer wants. This is often referred to ask “paraphrasing.” As my colleague Jeffrey Gitomer says,

                              “You will never listen yourself out of a customer.”

       3)  Help customers.

Tell them what you will do and do it. It’s the most important part of your job. If   the customer                has a problem, take ownership to resolve the problem. Refrain from simply handing it off to                   someone else.  Remember to provide the customer with more help than they ever dreamed               would be possible. This includes being far more knowledgeable than any of your competitors.

       4)  Ask what more you can do.

Never hang up or say goodbye without asking “Is there anything more I can do for you today?”

       5.)  Thank customers for their business

Customers want to be appreciated—very appreciated.  Never take them for granted. Thank them often and especially if they give you a referral. If they give you a referral that results in business, by all means send them a gift.

 More Basics but Some of the Best Things to Do

  • Make a positive first impression.

Your appearance is important. There’s nothing worse than walking into a place of business and being ignored by the person behind the counter because they are on a personal call.  Today’s scrutinizing customers may think that if a dealership is lax with professionalism, they may be lax in the level of service it provides or in the quality of their workmanship.  Make it mandatory that techs wear uniforms, and front-line employees dress in a professional manner.

Your equipment, cabinetry, or woodworking products and the way they are displayed should be impressive, but your facility is also a part of your presentation. When a customer walks into your place of business, it should shout cleanliness and orderliness. The outside of your facility should be nicely landscaped and without debris anywhere near the building. Your washrooms should be immaculately clean. If you think these things are not important to customers, you are dead wrong!

  • Respect the customer and be courteous at all times.

Customers are spending their hard-earned money at your place of business. Give them respect and courtesy, even if they are difficult. Never judge or correct them. Refrain from saying, “Why didn’t you tell the installer?!

       Demonstrate an urgency to serve. If you don’t, customers will go elsewhere.

  • Answer every call by the third ring. Sound “ready to serve. ”
  • Return calls promptly and in no longer than 90 mins.
  • Find parts fast. Train others to jump in and help you when needed.
  • Provide the fastest field assistance possible.
  • Handle complaints with professionalism.

When a customer is angry, diffuse the situation by applying "verbal cushions," a communication technique taught by customer service trainers. These words and phrases “cushion” a customer's complaint and will help you to service them more effectively. The verbal cushions below communicate a sense of concern, promote cooperation, and display empathy. Memorize them so that you can apply them in challenging situations.

  • "I apologize this occurred, John."
  • "I can understand why you are upset.”
  • "I'm very sorry this has happened to you."
  • "I apologize if there's been a misunderstanding."
  • "I can understand why you would be unhappy."
  • "I understand your position."
  • "Thank you for bringing this to my attention."
  • "I agree with you completely. This is crucial to the job you're doing."
  • “I recognize the urgency involved. Let me take care of this immediately.”
  • “I want you to walk of here as a happy customer.”
  • Apply the highest levels of communication

            - Use words and phrases that impress customers 

               “How can I help you today?”

               “Is there anything more I can do for you today?”

               “My pleasure.”

                “You’re more than welcome.”

                “I will keep you informed of our progress.”

                “We appreciate your business.” “How was the level of service today?”

            -  Parts and service managers – ask the customer

              “How would you like me to follow up?”

  • Over-communicate with customers and your internal customers. Make sure all departments have all important information they need. Let them know when you can get back to them with an answer.
  • Reach out - Call customers even if it’s only to keep them informed on what you are doing to help them.
  •  Build trust.
  • Do what you say you are going to do.
  • Follow up
  • Fix it on time, fix it right the first time.
  • Deliver it on time
  • Never make a promise you can’t keep.
  • Exceed expectations.

This is an important basic of customer service. Exceeding expectations in every way possible, is by far, the best way to obtain customer loyalty. Strive to exceed expectations at every opportunity and stand on your head for your customers.  When you exceed a customer’s expectations you are delivering what they purchased and more.  Here’s a rule to follow:

Always give customers far more than they ever imagined.

Once you and everyone in your company have mastered the basics of customer service, think of how you can add value, make it easier for customers to do business with you, streamline processes and procedures, and examine “Moments of Truth” – (each time a customer provides you with an opportunity to impress them). Then, add the “Wow” factor.

If you do, you will be in a better position to establish higher levels of customer loyalty and maintain strength in the marketplace.

With unrivaled expertise, strive to deliver intuitive and proactive customer service and a consistently superior customer experience.

Learn more about this topic during Christine's session "Seven Steps to Service Excellence" during the IWF 2018 Education Conference.

© 2018, Christine Corelli & Associates, Inc.  Christine Corelli has had a distinguished 25 year career as an international keynote speaker, workshop facilitator, and business columnist. She has authored business six books, including the best-selling, Wake Up and Smell the Competition. Her clients are characterized by Fortune 500 companies, major trade associations, and an abundance of mid-size and small companies. Attend her sessions at IWF Atlanta! To learn more visit https://www.christinespeaks.com - To contact her for an upcoming meeting, conference or special event, call (847) 477-7376.

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