Dorothy followed the yellow brick road in the Wizard of Oz. She believed initially that happiness existed somewhere over the rainbow. Finally, she learned that home is where the heart is and there is no place like it. (Oddly enough just as I finished this first paragraph Elton John came on the radio singing Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Honest Injun, folks.)
In other words, you don’t have to go traipsing all over the world to find happiness. It is right there inside your head. Now go communicate that to your customers.
It all begins with a simple ancient maxim—the Golden Rule.
Follow the rule—also known as the Law of Reciprocity. It’s an old one, but tried and true and all human relations start with this simple maxim. Treat other people as you would like to be treated.
It is said that in 1912 when L.L. Bean launched his newly formed Maine outfitter company he noted his single
L.L Bean lived to serve his customers. Here are some of his tenets:
- A customer is the most important person ever in this company—in person or by mail.
- A customer is not dependent on us, we are dependent on them.
- A customer is not an interruption of our work, they are the purpose of it.
- We are not doing a favor by serving them, they are doing us a favour giving us the opportunity to do so.
- A customer is not someone to argue or match wits with. Nobody ever won an argument with a customer.
- A customer is a person who brings us their wants. It is our job to handle them profitably to them, and to ourselves.
In an increasingly crowded and confusing world of ever shortening attention spans and endless self-promotion, why not be different? Think about the other fellow. When you Have a problem, what kind of person would you like on the other end of that phone, that email or that chat?
Put yourself in the client’s shoes. They’re probably not calling you because they are lonely and need to hear another voice. No. They have a problem. And that problem is with you.
Be as good as your word. Your client can be as slippery as they like but you have to be samurai when it comes to honouring your word.
Be honest. Don’t say you can do things that you cannot do. People my like your self-promoting puff on Facebook because they feel sorry for you.
Hit your deadlines. Nobody likes waiting around for you to make up your mind to fulfill your promises. Don’t promise what you cannot deliver. Don’t promise what you cannot deliver. Don’t promise something other than what the customer has promised. Be timely, conscientious and dependable.
The goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best but legendary. ~ Sam Walton”
Customer service, based on reliability is the bedrock of successful businesses from huge multinational corporations like Procter & Gamble and McDonalds to your online store or Burger start-up. People want reliable, friendly products and service. Companies sell products, true. But they also sell themselves and their image. That’s how you obtain and keep loyal customers.
Anyone can tap out a complaint or compliment about a business using social media. Both negative and positive comments about customer service can have a dramatic impact on sales.
Dealing with people is probably the biggest problem you face, especially if you are in business. Yes, and that is also true if you are a housewife, architect or engineer. ~ Dale Carnegie
It’s little wonder many companies are focusing on customer services and the evolving market and trying to gain competitive advantage by improving this relationship. Remember: The customer may not always be right, but they are never wrong. Build a customer-committed culture. Treat employees like customers too. Happy and respected employees deliver happy customers.
Let’s look at a Top Ten of winning strategies in customer service.
1. First impressions count
Your customer doesn’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. ~ Damon Richards
People constantly form opinions about the world around them and the people and things in it. Customers demand a neat first impression. You must show potential purchasers that your company is reliable and trustworthy. That starts with personnel. Customer service should be polite and helpful no matter the provocation or problem. Tranquility keeps control of the situation. So, keep calm and carry on. Be obsessed with quality – you don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression.
2. Be timely
Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong. ~ Donald Porter
Do not procrastinate. Customers hate waiting. So, would you. Solve problems. Provide explanations. Respond quickly. This will put a smile on the face of a confused or unhappy customer, lead to return business and boost profits. Your business personality will separate your firm from the goats.
3. Know your stuff
Know what your customers want most and what your company does best. Focus on where those two meet. ~ Kevin Stirtz
It might seem redundant to say it, but you really do need to know what you are selling inside and out. Customers must respect your brand. To do that they must respect the people who represent the brand. Buyers crave knowledgeable advice. Customers get frustrated when company representatives don’t know what they are talking about. Ignorance kills sales.
4. Know your customer
Spend a lot of time talking to customers face to face. You’d be amazed how many companies don’t listen to their customers. ~Ross Perot
Know your goals and your target audience. Such knowledge leads to recognizing potential buyers. Be clear. What are you selling? Approach your market with focus. Empower each employee to make things run smoothly. You can’t predict every situation. You can enable your organization to be responsive to every situation.
5. Learn from mistakes
Every great business is built on friendship. ~ JC Penney
Stuff happens. Customers complain. Product quality can vary. Clients may seek additional support. Customer service is the fire department. It must solve problems as soon as possible. Never neglect the customer. Imagine how a spark can lead to an inferno. Besides, satisfied customers are your best ambassadors. Unhappy clients are your worst enemies. Your customers will tell you what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong. . Customer satisfaction surveys are also an eloquent arrow in your quiver.
6. Cultivate brand advocates
Loyal customers, they don’t just come back, they don’t simply recommend you, they insist that their friends do business with you. ~ Chip Bell
Get personal with repeat customers. Be friendly. Customer service staff are key in this. Remember customers’ names and product preferences. This builds trust and shows you care. And that is your business. When it comes to customer service, one size does not fit all – be flexible, fluid and adaptive.
7. Build key customer profiles
The more you engage with customers the clearer things become and the easier it is to determine what you should be doing. ~ John Russell
Be proactive. Add value to the customer’s journey. Increase sales by following comments on social networks. Offer new products/services based those comments. Customers expect a more personalized/targeted approach these days. Companies that seize the initiative here will benefit immensely from it.
8. Introduce new products or services
Make your product easier to buy than your competition, or you will find your customers buying from them, not you. ~ Mark Cuban
Never be pushy. Be persuasive. There is a big difference. High pressure may work in the short term but is a downer in the long. A polite offering of new products or services, besides the ones asked for, is particularly effective with repeat customers. Upselling pays dividends.
9. Honesty is the best policy
If you’re not serving the customer, your job is to be serving someone who is. ~ Jan Carlzon
Be frank. Be friendly. Live to serve. If your opinion is asked for, you might advise a potential buyer to avoid a specific product—as trustworthy waiters will in your favourite eatery. Suggest alternatives that you truly believe in. This candid behavior will show credibility and sell stuff at the same time.
10. Be thankful
You are serving a customer, not a life sentence. Learn how to enjoy your work. ~ Laurie McIntosh
There is no business without the customer. Think about it. That means that while the customer may not always be right, they are never wrong. However, annoying you may find them, they are the reason for your business. Love them. Serve them. Win them over. That is the basis of the customer relations job. Keep the customer central to every decision the company makes.
Customers remember failures. So, your execution needs to be flawless. Adopt a zero-tolerance policy for failure. Exceptional customer focus stands out and should be a central tenet of any company, young or old.
High quality customer service can drastically increase sales. If you train your staff properly and teach them how to approach potential buyers, you will strengthen the brand image and sell more products. Make sure to follow these 10 guidelines and your customers will come back for more.
Remember that good service is good business.