10 customer service tips to improve your bottom line

customerservicetipsWe have all heard the old adage “The customer is always right!” but sometimes the customer is a jerk and needs a swift kick in the butt before being escorted out of your presence.  Before you take any actions that could get you in hot water, try these 10 customer service tips first.

Listen.  When customers start whining, they become annoying.  Try to persevere though and see it from their point of view.  Listen to what they are saying and figure out what is really making them upset.  You can accomplish this with “I” statements.  You can say, “I am hearing that XYZ are not working for you, is this correct?” “I” statements will help you quickly identify the customer’s problem while allowing them to feel like you are listening.  Learn more on customer insight with this course on how to understand your customers or with this course on understanding what matters to customers and what drives their behavior.

Answer promptly. Listening to your phone ring and saying to yourself that you are going to call them back later is a recipe for disaster.  Customers are calling you because they have a problem that they need to have dealt with swiftly.  Calling them back on your schedule is a hassle for them and not a good customer service practice in general.  Also, people call to talk to a real person so do not have a voice recording pick up the call and force them through a phone tree.  Hiring an operator to answer and direct calls will be well worth it.

Be kind.  It should go without saying that being nice to people is the right thing to do.  Being kind to a cranky customer may not be profitable in the moment but your kindness will spread like a ripple effect.  How many people do you think they will tell about the excellent service you gave them?  How many sales will this word of mouth marketing turn into?  You can never know in the moment how much influence someone might have so just take the extra step and be kind to them.

Complaints.  Are you going to please everyone all the time?  Probably not.  While it is easy to give good customer service to friendly customers, a true mark of good customer service comes when you are dealing with the hostile customers.  Remember to keep your cool and be polite at all times.  If a customer is being unbearably rude to you, it is okay to request your supervisor’s presence and/or to tell them that you would be happy to help them when they have calmed down.  You are in the business of providing customer service, not being someone’s doormat.  Sometimes problem customers need to be “let go”.  Learn how to tactfully let go of your problem customers with this class.

Consistency.  Train your staff how to provide customer service so your customers receive the same level of customer service regardless of who they interact with.  This is goes back to consistency.  Staff members should always be courteous, helpful, and knowledgeable but also empower them to be able to make customer-pleasing decisions without always having to get a supervisor involved.

Be present.  If you think a good mark of customer service is a low customer handling time, then you are way off.  After you explain how to do something, offer to wait for the customer to try it in case they have any problems.  This is especially important in the technology industry with the non-digital native customers trying to work their products.  This tip also works well in stores.  Instead of telling a customer something is on aisle 10, take the time to walk them there and show them exactly where the product is.  Customers notice when you make the extra effort and will talk about it.

A bonus. Customers appreciate the extras whether it is in the form of something physical (pen, little calculator, sticker, button, etc) or something that can be redeemed (coupon rebate, etc).  Basically you are giving them more than what they thought they were getting.  They key to the bonus is that it doesn’t have to be big to be effective.  Small gestures are just as valued and easier for a company to maintain.

Positive language.  Using positive phrases will help you get the most out of your conversations with customers and avoid miscommunications.  While you are not changing the meaning of your words, you are delivering them in a more friendly and less hostile manner.  For example, instead of saying “It is out of stock and there is nothing I can do,” try saying, “The product will be available by the end of the week.  I can take your order now to ensure that you get it at the earliest time possible.”  By nature the second phrase is more positive and steering the customer away from the negative aspects.

Look for similarities. Finding common ground is a great way to form an initial bond with a customer.  For closing big business deals, you will want to do your homework.  Luckily, social media should be able to help you with this one.  If you are just simply taking a customer call over the phone, you can ask them where they are calling from or what the weather is like.  While asking about the weather may seem lame, it is a safe topic that everyone can comment on.  It is often easier to interact with people who we perceive to be like ourselves.

Follow-up.  Customer service is a three-fold process: Before the transaction, during the transaction, and after the transaction.  Do not forget to follow-up with your customers to see how they are doing.  You can send them an email or pick up the phone.  This is especially important if you have just dealt with any kind of issue regarding them.  Taking the time to follow-up will lead to goodwill and future transactions.

SUMMARY

Customer service is essential in business because it leads to a loyal customer base.  It can make or break not only your reputation but also your bottom line.  Being polite is a no-brainer with customers but good customer service actually takes a lot more. Continue your education on customer service with this class on practical customer service application.