Customer service has long been a requirement for success. The best companies have customer-centric cultures that are synonymous with the brand, driving growth and loyalty.
Among the larger companies, you know the names well appearing in American Customer Service Satisfaction Index results: Chick-fil-a, Costco, Trader Joes, Amazon, Lexus. Within your community, small businesses that thrive typically have engaging relationships with customers and consistent product and service that keeps them coming back for more.
But, the majority of small businesses and companies could hang on in a growing economy without making customer service a number one priority. With plenty of business to go around, mediocre could get the job done. The COVID-19 pandemic and associated economic crisis has changed all that, however.
Many closed businesses will never reopen. Those that do will have to be better than ever before. That’s why we recommend to clients that now is a good time for every business and company to double down efforts on its customer service culture. Make exemplary service a number one priority during recession and it will pay dividends. As the economy begins to grow again, your company and business will grow along with it — and customers will notice the difference.
Here are 8 of the most important customer service tips required for success:
Remember Names and Say Them Back to the Customer
We are reminded in quarantine about the value of personal touch and human connection. Also, with higher anxiety in times of crisis, personal connections mean more. That’s why learning the customer’s name when possible and referring back to the customer by name creates a winning relationship likely sustainable with repeat business. Plus, it’s respectful to recognize each individual customer for who they are.
Speak Positively and Show Gratitude
It is easy to complain in a difficult situation. Consumer sentiment is shaken, jobs have been lost. Yet when customers engage with a small business or company, they long for a positive result. Your interaction with that customer will set the tone for their day, if not their entire week. Resist negative dialogue. If the customer goes there, shift it back to positivity. For example, if a customer suggests the country is falling apart, respond by saying how impressed you are that so many are working together. And, keep the focus on why they came to your business or company in the first place, offering positive reinforcement. “Our chef is doing his best work with this takeout menu. People keep coming back for the grilled fish.” And, finally, be gracious to every single customer. “We appreciate your business so much.”
When a Customer has a Complaint Become an Active Listener
With anxiety high amid health and economic fears and concerns, some customers may try to take it out on the first person they encounter. Debating someone lodging a complaint is a losing battle. People are most agitated, after all, until they are heard. Clearly apologize when appropriate. Don’t overpromise, admit what you don’t know, but promise to address the issue and follow back up. In the end, be truthful at all times. Don’t try to hide the bad news, it will not go away. By listening and responding, your odds of gaining a loyal customer elevate.
Be Humble and Avoid Humor
Now isn’t the time to try out your best one-liners. Save those for close friends or family. Humor doesn’t always translate as we hope and customers did not approach the business or company for a laugh. They came for another reason. Deliver that, with humility. Don’t criticize your company, boss or product. Don’t act like you would rather be somewhere else. Approach the customer with a servant’s heart and you will win them for life.
The smile is among the simplest yet most important acts in the customer service relationship. If you do nothing else, smile — an honest smile goes a long way. Even when talking on the phone, customers can hear a smile in your voice when its earnest. But especially when face-to-face, look the customer eye-to-eye and smile and trust that it’s the best investment of time and effort you could possibly make for the business or company.
Share Personal Experiences about the Company or Products
The more you can see, understand, and experience the same things as your customer, the better equipped you’ll be to fix what needs fixing or adjust what is working well. If it’s a restaurant, share briefly about some items you like and why. If it’s a retailer, share some aspects you like about the companies purchasing or customer service practices.
Never Blame Others
Blame is often our greatest crutch. It’s easier to say it’s someone else fault. But others don’t respond to our casting a blame in the way we hope. That’s why it is best to take personal responsibility, even if you are not directly responsible. For example, if you serve a cup of coffee the barista forgot to add sugar per the customer’s order, don’t blame the barista. Tell the customer you are sorry, and move quickly to get the customer what they ordered: coffee with sugar.
Remember What Customers are Buying
Customers do not buy products or services. They buy good feelings and solutions to problems. Some customer needs are emotional rather than logical. The more you know your customers, the better you become at anticipating their needs. Communicate regularly so that you are aware of problems or upcoming needs. Treat them with kindness and courtesy, remembering that they want that above all. Then, they will keep coming back for more.
Anthony Michelic is President for The PACE Group, the executive search firm based in Dallas, Texas that creates a dynamic match between the need and the talent. Follow The PACE Group on LinkedIn and Twitter, and learn more at www.thepacegroup.com.