Marita Bon Article

Marita Bon Article
Picture of Marita BonMarita Bon, executive editor and co-owner of Bon's Eye Marketing, has more than 23 years of business, news and corporate writing experience. The founding editor of Wilma!, Wilmington, N.C.'s only women's magazine, she has contributed extensively to area newspapers and business journals.

Good Customer Service Takes Common Sense, Clear Action

Good Customer Service Takes Common Sense, Clear Action

Providing good service to clients or customers should be a matter of common sense. But think about it. How many times have you visited a business establishment to be met with rudeness, inattention or incompetence? How often have you telephoned a vendor, only to be placed on hold for what seems like hours, or shuttled around from department to department to department?

Solid customer service is not an accident, but a result of planning and team collaboration. In fact, an effective strategy is so essential to your business growth, that a customer service chapter should comprise a significant portion of your employee handbook.

The guidelines listed here present the nucleus of a solid customer service plan. If you haven’t put your policies into writing, use this information as a starting point.

  • Be approachable – always: Cultivate an open, friendly demeanor and insist that your team to do the same. Greet every person who enters your place of business, and make eye contact during conversations. Use those good manners you learned in elementary school, especially with difficult clients.
  • Know your customers: Use meetings, sales transactions and other opportunities to acquaint yourself with your clients’ likes, dislikes and life stories, if they are open to sharing. Most importantly, don’t let your CRM (customer relationship management) software go to waste. Data such as purchase history, preferences and birthdays makes it easy for you to personalize the client experience with special promotions, gifts and cards.
  • Anticipate questions, problems: When a product or service process is likely to spawn complaints, address the situation before problems arise. A jewelry store owner, for instance, can explain that a special-order watch might take up to two weeks to deliver due to a complex engraving process. If you own a construction company, caution clients that awaiting permits can hold up plumbing installation. This won’t make patience-wearing circumstances go away, but customers will appreciate your honesty.
  • Pay attention: Questions and complaints offer the ideal opportunity to hone your “active listening” skills. Look at a grumbling customer while he speaks, and nod occasionally to show your interest. Maintain a pleasant facial expression and an open, relaxed posture. Let the client do the talking, but make an occasional remark such as, “I hear what you’re saying,” or “What I hear is.” At the discussion’s end, sum up key points to make sure you’re on the right track. Applying this strategy can put a positive spin on nearly any transaction.
  • Respond quickly: When customers file complaints, reply promptly, even if it’s simply to reassure them you’re working on a solution. Do not let email or telephone messages go unanswered for more than a couple hours; and never keep telephoning customers on hold for long stretches. Always let clients know exactly when and how you will rectify problems.
  • Check in: Follow-through is fundamental to excellent service. In the case of complaints, a phone call to see how a solution is working may help cinch that customer’s repeat business. In fact, even happy clients welcome a friendly note or email, perhaps with a discount coupon or special offer to reward patience and loyalty.
  • Invite feedback: A formal assessment of your customer service protocols, especially after a business change, is always a good idea. Consider developing a short email survey requesting feedback on areas such as employee courtesy, satisfaction with complaint procedures, product/service quality, pricing and general in-store/office experience. To show you value their input, include a small gift for completing the survey. Do this about every six months to monitor changes

A final note: Top-notch customer service is an ongoing process. Don’t be afraid to try your own ideas to make loyal customers happy, and to bring new ones into the fold.