It is the very best single thing you can do to stand out from your peers, and it’s also the single best thing you can do if you’re looking for job security. For employers, it’s the single thing they get most exasperated with and the source of almost all complaints by their customers. What is it? Customer service.
Think about it. What company doesn’t place a high value on satisfying their customers? When customers are treated properly, the experience they have is so positive it is only natural that they would like to repeat that sensation. If that same positive experience is repeated time after time, not only do they become loyal customers, they also tell their family and friends because they want the people they care for to share a similarly positive experience.
Customer service excellence shifts priorities from your needs to the needs of others.
It’s so obvious, it’s amazing to see so many people who don’t get it or understand it but choose not to act on it. Employers can give their employees product knowledge, design spaces that people enjoy being in, provide support and training, impart customer service expectations, but it often doesn’t result in sustained customer service excellence by the employees themselves.
Some people think customer service is exclusively reserved for the Retail sector. Not so. You expect great customer service when you go to the Dentist, meet with a Funeral Director, approach a Crossing Guard or visit a Police station to obtain a criminal reference check. We expect timely, courteous service.
Customers in fact aren’t exclusively the people who purchase or consume our products and services; they aren’t even always on the other side of the counter. If you are a Manager, consider your staff as customers. You have opportunities with each working day to show them respect, learn their likes and dislikes, listen to them express their needs and wants, and you have numerous opportunities to be helpful. Doesn’t that sound like the customer service experience?
Let’s break down the interaction with customers into these segments:
A customer should never feel they are disturbing you or holding you up. Yet how often do you see staff in a store chatting and entirely ignore the person who just walked in and is browsing merchandise? A common defence these employee use is that it’s not really all that busy so they were chatting. Why aren’t they busy? Customers are shopping elsewhere where the customer is valued and service is better! Acknowledge their presence, greet them with sincerity, extend an appreciation for their visit.
They may be on an exploratory trip, learning with no immediate plans to use your services or purchase your products. It may also be someone on your team speaking with you who is trying to determine how much they can trust you with something sensitive. It may a customer checking out the store for the first time.
Focus your attention on that one person at that moment for how you act imprints the first impression. Extend an offer of assistance to determine your next steps. When they feel engaged, customers share more. If their instincts suggest you are not genuinely interested in helping them, they will go elsewhere or conceal what they really want to share.
Having heard what they want or need, assess your own capacity to fulfill that need. If you can, do so and if not, state you’ll either locate that information for them or direct them where they can get what they want. While they may not remember the exact content of your words, they will remember the overall response they received and how your words and actions made them feel. They will seek you out again if your response creates a favourable impression and ignore or shun you if your response is indifferent or dismissive.
A relationship is built on a series of interactions. It is imperative to conclude each conversation or interaction taking care to ensure that the customer has received the best service you are capable of providing. A series of positive experiences builds your brand. Often the best way of checking this is just to ask, “Is there anything else I can do?” We all want to feel appreciated and so it’s no surprise those who excel in customer service smile, make direct eye contact and thank customers for visiting, trusting them with their business, or in the case of a co-worker, thanking others for their help at the end of the day.
5) Reference The Future
“Thank you come again.” “We have a sale starting next Thursday.” “Thanks for opening up, we made progress today. Let’s pick up here next week.” Whether you’re a Receptionist, Doctor, a Palliative Care professional or a Sales Clerk, leaving the customer with some anticipation of their future contact bridges this one experience with the next encounter.
Customer service excellence when done well can truly make you indispensable and a valued commodity not only in your current position, but also in positions of greater influence in the organizations you work with. Show some enthusiasm in your work, appreciate the ‘customers’ you interact with everyday, and never overlook your co-workers, boss, peers, and visitors as your customers.
Ask yourself, “What more can I offer?”, “How could I make their experience a better one?” You’ve experienced mandatory service and exemplary service and know the difference; choose to excel!