A 2010 LCT Operator Of The Year offers a simple guide to top-notch customer service at a time when you can’t afford to get it wrong.
RED BANK, N.J. — A customer is defined as “a person who purchases goods or services from another.” Service is defined as “an act of a helpful activity.”
When you look at the definitions of customer service, you can see that it is simply doing the right thing for the person who is purchasing a product or service from you.
7 Tips for Great Customer Service:
1. Hire the Right People: Making sure the employees you have interacting with your customers (your revenue producers) are “people-people.” In other words, employees who have naturally good people skills. Let’s face it; not everyone is gifted at interacting with the public, and some people do better behind the scenes. Knowing the people-people from the paper-people is critical as you structure your customer service team.
2. Know What the Customer Wants: Having a good understanding of, and caring about, what the customer wants is critical to meeting their needs. What expectations have been set for the customer and what are they asking for? Typically a customer wants what was promised to them when they bought the product or service. If you are in the service industry and are not sure what the customer wants, just ask them. A few random phone calls to key customers can give you lots of valuable information.
3. Train Your Employees: Training is critical to maintaining a good customer service environment. This means setting expectations for your employees and holding them accountable for those expectations. It also means setting the example for the employee. If they don’t see you demonstrating good customer service, they will not view it as important. Giving them specific behavioral guidelines and scripting their answers to questions creates an environment for consistency.
4. Pay Attention to Details: Adding a special touch to interactions or packaging of a product tells the customer that you care about them enough to think of the detail. An example of this is when you go to some retail clothing stores, they wrap the purchased garment in tissue paper.It’s a very small, inexpensive detail, but very powerful in communicating value to the customer.
5. Monitor/Measure Service: Once employees have a good understanding of expectations and have been trained on how to give good service, it is critical that the service is monitored and employees are coached. There are many ways to do this, and depending on the product or industry, there are automated tools to help you. For example, most phone systems now have recorded monitoring so a manager can listen to phone calls and give specific feedback on how a particular phone call was answered. A less technical approach is merely observing your employees interacting with customers. You learn a lot when you watch and listen.
6. Solicit Customer Feedback: One of the most valuable things you can do for your organization is to solicit feedback from your customers. This can be done by asking some simple questions: How are we doing? How can we do better? What needs do you have that are not being met? By asking simple questions like these, you can be proactive in figuring out how to meet and exceed the needs of your customers.
7. Constantly Strive for Improvement: Learning that good is never good enough, and that as an organization you never really arrive at great, is a constant journey that you must stay focused on. Once you stop striving for excellence, you begin a slow decline. An example of this is, have you ever eaten in the new restaurant in town, then over time enjoy great meals there, and one day when you return, the quality and service deteriorates? Before you know it, that restaurant is out of business. That’s because it started with a great product or service and got what I’ll call lazy in the delivery. This is a sad but true phenomenon with not only restaurants but many small businesses.
Finally, remember that customers are revenue producers. Learning to get a good understanding of what they want and delivering it in a professional way can really help your bottom line. Never take your customers for granted because as soon as you do, there will be someone waiting in the wings to snatch them away from you. Attract and keep them so they not only come back, but they also bring their friends.
— Bill Atkins, owner, Red Bank Limo, Red Bank, N.J.