New PictureWhen was the last time you were on the receiving end of a lousy customer service encounter? Did you get the voice recording that asks for your name and account number only to have a service rep request it a second time? When the service rep couldn’t answer your question, did he or she put you back into a queue, and, after a long wait, you had to go over all your information again with someone else? Of course, the most frustrating scenario is when one of the customer service reps in the series hangs up on you so they can keep their call statistics low!

In today’s economy, no business can afford to alienate customers. Let’s look at a couple of economic facts.

* GDP growth (the measure of the market value of all final goods and services produced in the USA) is low. Customer demand has diminished, and new customers are hard to attract. Businesses must do everything in their power to retain the customers they have.

* Consumer spending is weak. Our current customers are holding onto their money. We cannot afford to give them any reasons not to buy our goods or services.

I love Sam Walton’s quote about customers: “There is only one boss: the customer. And he can fire everyone in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” Continuous close attention to customers and customer service is an integral part of everyone’s job. Without that, a business will not thrive, and quite possibly will cease to exist.

In this month’s Talent Journey newsletter, we want to remind you of some QUICK TIPS for executing customer service (internally and externally) within your business:

1. Identify and anticipate needs. As business leaders, we must anticipate how customer needs will change and emerge in new ways over the coming years. Successful leaders perceive shifts in technology, markets, demographics, etc. that will impact the customer’s expectations in the future.

2. Establish a customer-centric company culture. Ensure that all employees understand the immense value and are trained in customer service skills. Build metrics and reward systems around customer focused behavior that penetrates all functions and departments.

3. Organize and manage your organization around customer’s needs. Often, this means breaking down boundaries between departmental silos to ensure customer communication is seamless and effective.

4. Know and truly care about your customers as individuals. Customers want you to treat them and their needs as important. Calling customers by name, knowing their buying habits, and focusing of their satisfaction go a long way in retaining loyalty.

5. Know your products and services. Customers want to know that you’re experts and they can rely on you for answers. Anyone in your organization who is talking to a client is the face of your organization. When employees portray competence, the company earns respect from the customer. Customers will pay more for competence.

6. Appreciate the power of “yes.” Even when you cannot give customers exactly what they want, find the “yes” in your responses to them. Customers want to like the people they do business with and answering “yes” helps to establish good rapport.

7. Understand the demographics and personality style of your customer. No two customers are exactly alike. Create customer profiles that assist employees in determining how best to respond to customer types. For example, technology companies might create a small business, home-based geek, and a stay-at-home mom profile to help script the best customer service for those demographics.

8. Treat employees the way that you want them to treat your customers. In all your interactions with your employees, model the value and respect you want them to show with customers. Care about your employees as individuals. Value their work. Show your appreciation for their contributions. These attitudes and behaviors go a long way in setting a customer-centric tone that breeds loyalty.
As the holidays approach, it is a good reminder to treat customers in a way that gains or retains their business. In today’s businesses, customers are quick to look elsewhere when the experience is below expectations. We are not suggesting over-promising and under-delivering to customers, but finding a way to make each one feel heard and of value is critical to customer success. Customer satisfaction impacts every organization overall, so we hope you found these quick tips a helpful reminder. We want to see your organization succeed and maximize the potential that exists!

Author: Diane Kucala at TJ Associates LLC (Talent Journey). Copyright protected, all rights reserved worldwide.