The short answer to the question in the title is simply this: very important. The longer answer is that customer service may be the thing that has the most impact on the success or failure of your business. You can offer the best products and prices in the world, and that may make some people endure poor treatment, but those people will probably be in the minority. If you want to keep your customers not only happy, but buying from you, you need to provide truly superior customer service. Here are some ways to make that happen.
Provide Options – There will be times when a customer will call looking for a product you don’t have or requesting a service you don’t provide. A company with average customer service will simply say “Sorry, we don’t do that” and move on. A company with superior customer service will go the extra mile and provide the customer with options. Some companies are reluctant to provide this service, because they think they’re simply sending business elsewhere. When it comes to services or products you don’t provide, that business is already destined to go elsewhere. If you provide the information and save that potential customer some time, they will remember you, and most likely will call you back when they need something you can provide.
Take the Extra Time – I’ve learned a lot from watching our customer service representatives. One of the things I’ve learned is that taking a little extra time can pay big dividends. Obviously, like every company, we want to maintain a certain volume of calls handled, and we don’t like to make people wait. At the same time, I’ve noticed that spending a minute or two chatting can bring forth a wealth of information and also makes customers feel more connected to our company. Formulaic customer service won’t get the job done. You have to do more than make the customer think you’re interested, you have to actually be interested. The extra minute or two that takes can really pay off.
“I Don’t Know” Stops the Conversation – We get asked about a lot of products and services. Some of these questions are easy to answer. Other questions are harder, and we may not have a clue what the answer is. Regardless, everyone here knows that you never say “I Don’t Know” unless you’re following it up with “I’ll Find Out”. Adding that second phrase gives us a chance to provide additional service to our customer and an additional chance for customer contact. If you simply answer “I Don’t Know” the conversation is dead. There’s nowhere else to go.
The Bar for “Above and Beyond” is Different for Each Person – It’s a pretty standard customer service phrase, “we go the extra mile for our customers”. The trap that a lot of companies fall into is thinking that “the extra mile” or “above and beyond” is the same for every person. One customer might think a simple phone call is top notch customer service. Another customer might expect you to do everything but sign his credit card receipt for him. Providing truly superior customer service requires that you know your customers, and can tailor the service to meet individual needs.
You’ll Never Please Everyone- This probably sounds a little counter-intuitive when talking about customer service, but it is probably one of the most important tenants of superior customer service. Providing top notch customer service takes time and effort and there are some people who won’t be pleased regardless of what you do. There has to be a point where you cut your losses, and that point may be different for each customer. You have to be ready to make the call as to where that point is when necessary.
Providing truly superior customer service is not for the faint of heart. It takes time and thought and effort. The results, however, can be well worth it.
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