Ask anyone with a thriving company to share their secret to success, and the most common response will be: “Good customer service.”
This short statement may seem simplistic in theory, but without consistently positive experiences, the customers you’re hoping will keep your financial boat afloat may walk away with their money, leaving you to sink into the ocean of failed businesses.
The best product in the world won’t earn repeat purchases without excellent customer service, and nothing helps a company grow like positive word-of-mouth. With social media outlets like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, positive and negative stories about products and services can now spread rapidly, quickly making or breaking businesses.
According to the 2013 Customer-Rage Study conducted by the ASU W.P Carey School of Business, the amount of people reporting service problems has risen from 32% in the 1976 study, to 45% in 2011, to 50% in this year’s survey.
Customers also admit to yelling at company representatives more than ever before. This is because people are still 11 times more likely to complain via the phone, making well-trained, professional phone representatives a must-have for any company wanting to appease and retain dissatisfied customers.
If you can train all employees in the art of delivering great customer service, this is the most important step on the road to success you can take. Fortunately, being good at customer service and handling complaints are both easily achieved with respect, empathy and patience.
Below are 7 steps any company can take to provide amazing customer service that will increase sales and create loyal, happy clients.
1. Build a Relationship—
The most important thing any business can do to keep customers happy and returning is to interpersonally bond with them. Any effective salesperson will tell you that you’re not just selling a
product: you’re selling consistency, accountability—and your friendship. If you can develop strong relationships with your clients, you will win their consumer loyalty.
Learn the names and personal details of customers to help you cater to their shopping needs, and to develop a bond with them. People will return to a business that treats them like a person, rather than just another dollar to be made.
2. Stand Behind Your Product—
If you don’t believe in the quality of your product, why should anyone else? This means that if a customer brings back a broken or faulty item, don’t fight them about replacing it: if you happily remedy the issue, you will eventually make your money back with their repeat business.
People remember positive service experiences like this and share them on social media, so your kindness may also pay you back in new business from friends and family. Older, established companies like Bunn and Radio Flyer have been around for a long time and are well-known for their excellent customer service—and this is no coincidence. If you call complaining of a broken or missing part, both of these companies will replace it, no questions asked.
This incredible customer service and “How can we make this right?” attitude, handled by live humans on the phone and not frustrating automated menus, is exactly how to create and keep brand-loyal customers.
3. Validation and Acknowledgement—
When a customer calls to complain, one of the best responses a phone service employee can give them is verbal empathy. Sometimes an angry and dissatisfied buyer can be assuaged very quickly if they feel the employee understands and agrees with their issue.
Validating the customer’s emotions can be as easy as saying, “I understand why you’re feeling frustrated—that would make me feel frustrated, too,” or any type of comment that will let them know you’re on their side and want to find a solution.
Once a customer realizes you’re actively trying to help them, they will usually calm down and realize they no longer need to fight. Acknowledge the issue, validate their concerns, and then fix the problem to the best of your ability, and the customer will walk away feeling pleased with your positive attitude and assistance.
4. Human Handling Helps—
Nothing annoys customers more than calling to speak to a person, and being forced to suffer through an automated menu. Many people who might have only been mildly frustrated will move into the “officially angry” phase when forced to push buttons and enunciate yes or no-type answers for a computer.
This has become a problem, according to Scott Broetzmann of Customer Care Measurement and Consulting, because companies are focusing on the wrong things, such as “bad use of technology” like web chats and email complaints, when most people want to speak to a living person via phone. The website GetHuman.com was designed to help consumers bypass annoying phone trees to speak to a person as quickly as possible, further proving that customers are highly annoyed by time-wasting automated menus.
If your company doesn’t have the staff to handle customer phone calls without leaving clients languishing on hold, consider hiring a professional answering service. Having trained customer service representatives handling questions and complaints will help your business retain clients who may have hung up on an automated menu—and your company—forever.
5. Pay Attention to Social Media—
As people spend more time on the Internet, they learn to use different outlets to communicate with companies, making your website, Facebook and Twitter pages important opportunities to establish great customer relationships. Consider using blogs, videos or even podcasts to connect with your desired demographic.
Customer concerns discussed on social media should be addressed immediately, because feeling ignored can make a client think a company doesn’t care about their issue.
Answer all questions and address problems in a helpful and friendly manner, making it clear that customer service is your top priority, and that you want to right any wrongs as quickly as possible.
6. Apologizing is Awesome—
Never underestimate the power of saying, “I’m sorry this happened. How can we make it better for you?” You are not admitting guilt, you’re simply apologizing for the inconvenience and frustration your customer is feeling—and you’d be amazed by how quickly an angry person will calm down once they realize you want to help.
Because there are many poorly-trained customer service representatives, customers often call expecting a battle to get the problem resolution they’re seeking. You can completely disarm them and turn their feelings from negative to positive by apologizing, empathizing, and cheerfully fixing the problem.
According to the 2013 Customer-Rage Study, when companies added free remedies like apologies to monetary compensation, this increased customer satisfaction from 37% to 74%, proving that people are surprisingly forgiving when treated with respect and kindness.
7. Training is Terrific—
You’ve hired great employees, but that doesn’t guarantee that when faced with an irate customer they’ll know how to handle them with the professionalism to salvage the client-company relationship.
Make certain all representatives of your business can handle conflict in a manner that promotes customer loyalty and satisfaction. And don’t forget to lead by example: If you treat your employees in an unkind or rude manner, they aren’t going to believe you place worth on being respectful to others.
Employees given raises based on good customer service skills will also be motivated to work hard to keep clients happy. A successful company known for this smart business model would be Trader Joe’s, with employee reviews and potential raises every 3 months, and an emphasis on great customer service.
As you read the tips above for giving great customer service, one thing becomes clear: people want to be listened to and treated with dignity, kindness, and the respect they deserve. The customer is the reason anyone employed has their job, and should be treated like the valuable commodity they are; but most of all, they want to be treated like valuable human beings.
If you can train your employees to build positive relationships with customers and solve problems in a compassionate, helpful way, you will have a successful, thriving company with a great reputation—and the excellent profits to match.