Dealing with Customers
“The best customer service is if the customer doesn’t need to call you, doesn’t need to talk to you. It just works.” – Jeff Bezos
Getting customers and keeping them is what it’s all about. It has to be one of the key messages your brand conveys and a critical area of focus to ensure your business can be successful.
Gaining and dealing with customers is always a challenge, particularly for new businesses. To give yourself the best chance to do this successfully is to delight them!
If you are willing to go the extra mile, and ‘over deliver’ against expectation, that’s even better. A good experience for a customer will bring repeat sales, loyalty and you can build a long term relationship that will help you grow the business with a solid customer base.
Word of mouth is a powerful thing and it’s a well known fact that poor customer service is ten times more likely to be shared with others and can have disastrous consequences for your fledgling enterprise.
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An exercise, similar to the brand development, where you compare and contrast good and bad customer service in the commercial environment is always useful. You can learn a considerable amount and, importantly, avoid making the same mistakes where you identify short comings.
Someone once said “its not necessity that is the mother of invention, it’s inconvenience”. Whilst its not expected that you invent something, the message is about ease and convenience being a big driver for customers when they make buying decisions … having ways to do that makes your success much more achievable.
How to take your customer experience to a new level
When looking at dealing with customers and ‘customer service’, always consider how you would like to be served and exceeding against expectations is always a good thing.
Key points to establish and maintain good customer service would be –
- Honesty – a must when dealing with customers, even if the conversation is difficult or the news isn’t good.
- Deliver – if you say you will do it, do it! As stated, if you can over deliver, even better. An old selling technique is called ‘selling the out’ where you deliberately build in a lower level of expectation in the customers mind.
- Expectation – you need to build trust and managing customer’s expectations is key to developing that trust.
- Delight – make it easy for them to deal with you and give them a good customer experience by removing barriers and resolving issues.
- Appreciate – like anyone else, customers like to be appreciated and it helps to build strong commercial relationships. When dealing with customers, it’s work formalising a ‘thank you’ but don’t allow it to become stale – it needs sincerity.
- Communication – make sure your customers are kept informed but always be willing to listen to them in regard to ways you could improve your product or service. More often than not, your customers will let you know if it’s not going well – but they’re less likely to tell you when it was all ‘fine and acceptable’ … in this case, you need to ask and seek their opinions.
Good customer service will lead to long term loyalty and underpin any commercial relationship. Ensure you talk to customers regularly and ask them about their needs or requirements. Failure to do could potentially see your customer go somewhere else as a result of lacking loyalty.
Dealing with customer complaints
On a slightly more negative note (and we won’t dwell on it but needs mentioning) you will invariably receive customer complaints at some point. If you do, the objective should always be to turn a negative into a positive.
The one upside is the complaint allows you to address the customer head on – many don’t complain and just go off and find another supplier – and you’ve just lost an opportunity to put things right.
Even if the customer does eventually decide to take their business elsewhere, you can learn from the experience to improve your overall customer service.
The key thing is to listen to, or look at, the complaint carefully and then address the issue professionally. Respond promptly, politely and amicably to any complaint received to ensure you don’t make a bad situation worse. Try to reach a solution quickly, which suits both parties and, if necessary, be willing to accept liability if the facts show it to be so. In which case you need to repair the damage quickly and to a level that satisfies the customer.
In the modern world, a lot of people will use social media to complain now. Many businesses think that ‘deleting’ these complaints is the best way to handle them but the reality is that this generally makes things worse. Publicly dealing with customers on social media is part of the ‘deal’ if you are using social media for your marketing and the best examples are when issues are addresses openly, with appropriate levels of apology and recompense being publicly issued. This then portrays a professional, caring business and instils trust in prospective customers.
Customer service is about managing expectations but also meeting their needs. Treat your customers how you would like to be treated by a business. Seek professional help – there are customer service consultancies who specialise in this area but also seek opinions from your advisers and support network.