A few years ago, a survey was conducted that indicated customers leave their service provider for four basic reasons: 14% leave because they’re dissatisfied with the quality of the product or service, 9% leave because of price, 5% leave for other reasons and a whopping 72% leave because of “supplier indifference”.
No matter what you do for a living unless you work with Coke machines all day, you are in the people business and, by definition, the customer service business. None of us “sells” what we sell. We all sell personal attention and quick response. Those two factors, I would suggest, are the difference between being a very effective organization and an organization that struggles.
Over the past 30 years I have worked with scores of businesses and thousands of individuals helping them deal with the various issues surrounding customer service. Here are eleven secrets they have taught me.
1. The customer is NOT always right–they’re just always the customer.
How many times have you heard the phrase:” The customer is always right?” Now you and I both know that’s not true. Guess what? It really doesn’t matter because whether they’re right or wrong they’re always the customer. It is our job to give them the benefit of the doubt as often as possible. If I have a client scheduled for an 8 o’clock appointment and they show up at 8:30 claiming that’s the time we made the appointment, then it’s my mistake. It doesn’t matter if God himself was there when we made the 8 o’clock appointment. They’re the customer, and the customer is right.
2. Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.
People want to do business with people they feel care about them.
Nothing will drive a client or customer away quite like indifference. Customer service involves more than good technical knowledge. Make sure you are teaching your people the importance of providing both accurate information while also communicating interest and concern.
3. No matter how hard you try to please, your best will be good enough for some people and not good enough for others.
There is a sign in our local post office that reads: “ If you are grouchy, irritable, or just plain mean, there will be a $10 charge for putting up with you.” While this is meant in jest, the warning may apply to some of your customers or clients. We all know that despite our best efforts, the customer will not always be happy. Often times the client you charge the least and do the most for will be the most demanding and the least satisfied. This is the phenomenon known as “entitlement” and everyone has a story of his or her “entitled client.” Just remember, if you are honestly doing the best you can, that’s really all you can do. If you lose the client, you lose the client.
4. The customer doesn’t care about your problems; they want you to solve their problem.
You may be tired, you may be overwhelmed and you may really not feel like talking. That’s something you may need to share with someone. That someone, however, is not the customer. Tell a coworker. Tell your spouse. Call your mother. Just don’t bring it up when you’re talking to the customer.
5. The key to great customer service is the willingness to do whatever it takes as long as the solution is not immoral, illegal or unethical.
We know you can’t please everyone but often times doing that little something extra can make a world of difference. Our family has a vacation home in Wilmington, New York- population 1,100. The Big Little Supermarket is the store in town. Next to the supermarket is a little hardware store. Last summer I was in the grocery store looking for an item to fix my sink. The owner came over and asked if he could be of assistance. I explained what I was looking for. He said the hardware store had the item but that store closed at five o’clock. Though it was 8 p.m., I explained that I was really hoping to complete my project that night. He looked at me. “Come with me.” he said. We walked across the parking lot to the hardware store. He took out a key, opened the door, turned on the light and motioned where I could find the part I was seeking. We went back to the grocery store and I paid for the item. Now that’s great customer service!
6. Good manners is good business.
“Please,” “thank you,” “How can I help?” “Will there be anything else?” These are marks of great customer service. Staying thankful, grateful, and humble are the marks of successful people. When was the last time you picked up the phone or wrote a note to a client or customer thanking them for giving you the opportunity to be of service? Here’s the deal on “thank you.” It’s possible to say it too little, but its almost impossible to say it too often.
7. To get your employees to practice good customer service, treat them as if they were your most important customer.
Are you available to clients when they call but consistently unavailable to your workers? Do you show kindness to your customers but impatience with your subordinates? Do your clients feel valued while your employees feel ignored? Your ability to deliver exceptional customer service is as good as your unhappiest employee. Strive to have both happy customers and happy employees.
8. A good rule of thumb:
A satisfied customer will tell two people about their experience; a dissatisfied customer will tell ten people.
This is one of those statistics that has been thrown around for years. Is it exactly true? Who cares? The point is dissatisfied people are more verbal about the service they receive than satisfied people. When someone receives bad service, they sometimes feel they have an inherent responsibility to “warn” others. And in doing so they will often exaggerate how bad the service was. Want to create the PR firm from hell? Give bad service.
9. Be available.
Customers want to talk to real people. Don’t you? In the 1982 runaway best seller Megatrends,, author John Naisbitt discussed the need to offset “high tech” with “high touch.” When customers or clients have a problem, they want to talk to a real person not a voice activated prompter. Though you may be tempted for time and cost reasons to go with a menu-type answering service, it’s important that you also have an option that will return the client to a real person. Superb customer service is about ongoing relationships not computer generated interactions.
( Psst… Wanna see a cool website? Go to http://www.paulenglish.com/ivr/. It lists the ways to get around the interactive voice response and reach a real live person in hundreds of organizations nationwide.)
10. Tell the truth.
Tell the customer what they can have and when they can have it. If you’re not going to be able to meet a deadline on time, tell the customer. If you’re not going to be available for four hours, tell the customer. If you don’t know the answer to a question, tell the customer. If you don’t have the manpower or resources to do a good job, tell the customer. As soon as you know the truth, tell them the truth.
Your job is to know two things about your customers–what their needs are and what their concerns are so you can provide the best possible service. The customer gets to decide if they received good service. Not you. It’s difficult to know what those needs and concerns are without listening. It’s important to inquire from time to time if your customers are happy with the service they are receiving and if there is anything else you can do for them. Solve their problem, meet their need, and save or make them money and most of the time they’ll come back.
There you have it. Nothing particularly earth shattering here. Just some good common sense ideas handed down to me by some very smart clients.