What is the most important thing you can do to improve relationships with your customers?
The answer is as obvious as it is overlooked, improve customer service. No matter how great your product is or how talented your staff is, one of the things that customers are most likely to remember is the direct interaction they have with your company.
Bottom line, your customer service team is often the face of your company, and customers’ experience will be defined by the skill and quality of the support they receive.
A strong company will already have great customer relationships. But a smart company will always be asking, “What is good customer service?” If you are not constantly on the lookout for opportunities to improve your customer service, then your relationships will stagnate.
Here are a few customer service tips for identifying ways to better serve customers:
• Empathy, patience and consistency. Some customers will be irate. Others will be full of questions. And others will just be chatty. You must know how to handle all of them and provide the same level of service every time.
• Adaptability. Every customer is different, and some may even seem to change week-to-week. You should be able to handle surprises, sense the customer’s mood and adapt accordingly. This also includes a willingness to learn – providing good customer service is a continuous learning process.
• Clear communication. Ensure you convey to customers exactly what you mean. You don’t want your customer to think he’s getting 50% off when he’s actually getting 50% more product. Use authentically positive language, stay cheerful no matter what and never end a conversation without confirming the customer is satisfied.
• Work ethic. Customers appreciate a rep who will see their problem through to its resolution. At the same time, you must have good time management skills and not spend too much time handling one customer while others are waiting. Stay focused on your goals to achieve the right balance.
• Knowledge. Ultimately your customers rely on you for their knowledge of your product. Stay informed enough to respond to most inquiries and know where to turn if the questions become too detailed or technical for you to answer. But don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know” either. Customers will appreciate the honesty and your efforts to find the right answer.
• Thick skin. The customer’s always right… right? The ability to swallow one’s pride and accept blame or negative feedback is crucial. Whether your team works directly with customers or looking for feedback on social media, they’ve got to keep the customer’s happiness in mind.
Sarah Haston is Lebanon’s economic development director.