Thursday, September 2, 2010

How to Deliver Great Customer Service

Great article on how to deliver great customer service. 
Customer Service Video

How to Deliver Great Customer Service

Follow these 10 tips, and your customers will be very, very happy.

By Inc. Staff |  Sep 1, 2010

A widely quoted statistic gets to the heart of the value proposition behind customer service: The cost of acquiring a new customer is five times that of retaining an existing one. For businesses that succeed by forming a bond with the customer, the disparity is surely even greater.

Good customer service is essentially a variation on the golden rule: You want to meet the same expectations you would have if you were the customer. "The basic things will never change," says Tony Maggiotto, an adviser at the Buffalo State College Small Business Development Center in New York. "If people believe that they're being remembered and are known to the business, that will have a positive impact on their disposition toward your business."

Providing good customer service is often a matter of common sense, but that doesn't mean it comes naturally to all business owners. For some, in fact, it means behaving differently than they do in other business situations, says Richard Proffer, a counselor at a University of Missouri Small Business & Technology Development Center. If you are used to fighting about every detail of a business deal, say, you may have to adjust your attitude. Ditto if you feel that selling is a zero-sum game; to win customers, you will sometimes have to make them feel they have won, too. The pages that follow are a guide to providing excellent customer service.

Caring for Customers

1. Great Customer Service Begins With You
Simply put, the most inspiring leadership is by example. If you show indifference to your customers, your employees will mimic it. If you are enthusiastic and courteous, your troops are more likely to be so as well.

2. A Culture of Customer Service Must Be Codified
Start by hanging on the wall a set of core values, 10 or fewer principles that include customer service ideals, suggests Susan McCartney, Maggiotto's colleague at the Buffalo SBDC. "Share them during the training, have employees sign them, and evaluate employees based on the values," she says. "But don't call them rules."

Employee training on customer service precepts should be intensive: written materials, verbal instruction, mentors, and on-the-job demonstrations all ought to be part of the coursework, says McCartney.

3. Employees Are Customers, Too
Companies renowned for their customer service -- the online shoe retailer Zappos, for example -- treat employees as they would have their employees treat their customers. "Employees take on more responsibility because they know they are appreciated and an important part of the team," says the University of Missouri's Proffer. "People who don't feel like they're part of the bigger picture, who feel like a small cog in a big machine, are not willing to go the extra mile."

Not every business can afford to shower staff with generous pay and benefits, but not every business has to. Small companies, says McCartney, can show "intense interest" in employees, in their welfare, their families, and their future -- what McCartney calls the family model. It's also important to recognize an employee -- publicly -- for a job well done. Some companies also offer incentives for exceptional customer service, but if you can't spare the cash, you might throw an office party or offer another token of appreciation. When he was a manager at cable provider Tele-Communications Inc., for instance, Proffer personally washed the cars of notable employees.

4. Emphasize the Long Term
Short-term sales incentives can sometimes undermine long-term customer satisfaction. Prevent that by building short-term programs atop an ongoing program that rewards broader improvements, says Paula Godar, brands strategy director for Maritz, a sales and marketing consulting firm based in St. Louis. Moreover, winner-take-all incentives "can drive a lot of unhealthy competition and disengage the rest of the sales force," says Godar. "We've improved sales performance by much greater percentages when we've improved the performance of the large group in the middle of the bell curve."

5. Build Trust
Use your customer's name whenever you can. And sometimes you have to give to get. In his book The Knack, Inc. columnist Norm Brodsky relates how he won a sale against long odds by venturing his time and expertise to help a prospect cut costs. "I was showing him not only that we could help him save money but that we cared about saving him money," writes Brodsky.

6. Listen
"The best salespeople spend 80 percent of their time listening, not talking," says Marc Willson, a retail and restaurant consultant for the Virginia SBDC network. Ask open-ended questions to elicit a customer's needs and wants. "Once they've identified what they're looking for, use their words throughout the process," suggests Proffer. "That way, they've sold it for you."

If the prospect is "just looking," don't press further. But be discreetly nearby. "Straighten the racks, or dust something," says Willson. "You need to be within earshot or eyeshot, because every retail sale involves a re-approach."


No comments:

Post a Comment