Four Ways to Improve Customer Service

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4-ways-to-improve-customer-serviceWe’ve all been there…walking out of a store or hanging up the phone, feeling overwhelmed by the service that we received. Sometimes that feeling is positive and sometimes, unfortunately, we have encounters that are less than enjoyable. Think back to a time when you had one of these experiences, whether good or bad, and consider what the person you were interacting with did to make you feel one way or the other. What was your reaction?

Personally, I try to make it a point to acknowledge great service. I will seek out the manager to let them know that their employee is doing a great job.  Some people may leave reviews online about service they receive, while others may tell their friends and family about their experience. Regardless of our reaction, there is one thing that is certain:  when we invest our money and put our confidence in a brand, we have an expectation for the service that we receive.

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According to Forbes.com, 92 percent of 1,000 polled consumers said that “three or fewer poor customer service experiences” would cause them to stop doing business with a company. Furthermore, 26 percent of the same polled group said that just one bad experience would cause them to cut ties.  As a consumer, I can attest to the fact that I value good customer service. Not only do I enjoy receiving great service, I take pride in giving great service to my clients as well.  Most of my clients are very different, which means their expectations are also different.  It is my responsibility to make sure those expectations are met.  Although I may need to alter my approach more so for some than others, there are several things that can be applied to everyone across the board.

Here are four tips for improving your customer service:

  1. Do not make anyone feel like they are just a number. People want to feel like you want to help them. Yes, it is your job to help them, but go above and beyond the minimum required, to show them that you care. (Note: if you don’t actually want to help them, you may want to reconsider your choice to work in customer service.) Connect with them. Remember things about their family or hobbies and ask them about it.  Don’t be intrusive in asking for this information but pick up on tidbits that may be shared in passing.  Your clients will appreciate the personal touch, as well as your interest.
  2. Go above and beyond, but don’t be over-the-top. If there is anything as bad as horrible service, it is great service that feels ingenuine or forced. Clients can feel when we are trying to up-sell or impress them.  Go the extra mile for your clients, but watch your verbiage and tone when writing or speaking. Make sure you do not come off as pushy, stubborn, or artificial.  Be strategic when giving information. Give the pertinent details without inundating your client with information that they do not need or will not remember.  Be honest and real, and stay true to your company’s culture and mission.
  3. If there is an issue, present the solution before you give details of the problem. This might feel counterintuitive, because it can be difficult to explain how you fixed something without first explaining the problem you are solving. Give a general statement of what the issue is, followed by the proposed/executed solution, and then you can provide the details of the problem if necessary. Chances are, once the client knows that you already have a plan in place, they are not going to need the details of what happened anyway.  This is what they hire us to handle!
  4. Style-flex. This is a term I learned while working at Nordstrom and it is one of the many things that I learned there that has stuck with me. To style-flex is to adapt the way in which you communicate based on the person(s) with whom you are communicating. Remember, all clients are different and have different expectations. When you work in customer service, it is your responsibility to gauge your clients’ individual needs.  Some clients want to receive frequent communication, while others may prefer to come to you only when they have a question or concern.  Some clients want all the nitty gritty details, while others just want the basics. It is your responsibility to figure that out as you build your relationship with them.

The bottom line:  be sincere and authentic, put yourself in your customer’s shoes, and make a connection with each person as an individual.  Contact the author directly at ashley.mazins@staffone.com.

Image:  Evgeny Atamanenko