The first interactions with your company or organization really the the most important ones. It’s what makes your company in a person’s mind — be it good or bad. It’s the initial filter that everything else passes through. It’s also really really hard to turn around a negative first impression.
I’ve been in service-oriented positions before, and in positions where I didn’t have to offer great service, but chose to anyway. It’s really made a huge difference in both how customers perceived me, and in the way I felt afterwards. Like I was actually helping out vs. just “doing my duty”.
Good customer service isn’t hard.
I think it’s more of a mind-set, than anything, to want to offer good service to everyone, even if they’re not your customers per-se.
It’s about making their lives a little easier and less difficult. And it’s about not having the mind-set of “that’s not my job”. In fact, for those people who only do the bare minimum, and no more, only trying to get through the day, only “putting in your time” and “paying your dues”, this post isn’t for you. Just leave. Or die.
For those who do care about adding value to the world, I’ve put together a short list of things which can really boost your organzation’s customer service to the next level.
1. Smile. Always, no matter what. I mean, don’t give fake smiles, be genuine. Make people feel welcome. One way to cultivate this attitude is from the book “The Greatest Salesman in the World”, by Og Mandino. From The Scroll Marked II:
I will greet this day with love in my heart.
And how will I confront each whom I meet? In only one way. In silence and to myself I will address him and say I Love You. Though spoken in silence these words will shine in my eyes, unwrinkle my brow, bring a smile to my lips, and echo in my voice; and his heart will be opened. And who is there who will say nay to my goods when his heart feels my love?
— from The Scroll Marked II
2. Don’t expect the customer to know anything. I see employees get frustrated all the time when customers don’t know or aren’t aware of something. And then vent on the customer or rudely explain to them the “rules” of the establishment, or policies, or whatever. Look, customer’s don’t know the business inside and out — that’s the employee’s job. It’s also their job to make the customer feel like the most important person in the world, which brings me to my next point:
3. Treat your customers like gold. Like solid gold. Because, they’re your lifeblood. Each and every one of them. A customer isn’t a one-time thing. Know the lifetime value of a customer and then treat that customer as such. Do this for every single customer and you’ll be fine. Customers talk. They also listen and see. They can see when you or your staff treats another customer poorly, and they think “Well, what’s to stop them from treating me the same way?”. The answer is “nothing”, so just treat them like gold instead.
4. Take care of the customer. Even if it’s not your field of expertise. You don’t have to know everything, or be an expert. People don’t expect that. But they do expect to be treated well, to be taken care of.
Example: Let’s say your business is dry-cleaning, and a customer asks about the best method to wash… a car. Sure, it’s asinine. But people sometimes are. Regardless, compare these answers below:
“Umm… we don’t do that. We’re a dry-cleaners, for clothing.”
“Well sir, I’m not really an expert on car washing, but let’s see… there’s a car wash about 1/2 mile down on the right. I know that someone there will be able to help you better than I can. We’re actually a dry-cleaners, for clothes like suits and shirts and such. If you ever need any of those cleaned, be sure and come back and see us.”
Which one gives the customer That Warm Fuzzy Feeling?
5. Always be professional. Always be pleasant.
Sometimes customers get irrational. Sometimes they’re jerks. This does not give you the right to be a jerk back. Remember, other customers are watching. Remember the phrase “I’m very sorry” and use it in difficult situations.
“No sir, I’m very sorry, but the price is actually X, and you still owe us Y.”
“I’m very sorry for any inconvenience, but we just don’t have it in that color.”
“I apologize ma’am, but my manager’s simply not in right now. I’m very sorry.”
This might require training in keeping your calm, especially if you’re someone known to have a short fuse.
6. Never air dirty laundry. Don’t bicker or argue with an employee in front of any customer. If you must settle something with a co-worker, pull them aside or around back, out of sight of customers. This is especially true about arguing with customers. (But never do that, also see the above point.)
7. Always go above & beyond. Do more than is expected. “That’s not my job” should never, ever come out of your mouth, nor of your employees. Of course, your words originate in your mind. In truth, this shouldn’t even be in your thoughts. Rather, how can you take care of the customer? What needs to be done? Just do the thing.
Even if it’s not your job, if no one else is around to do something and that thing needs to be done, then just do it yourself. Don’t stand on principle, just do what needs to be done. Also, don’t complain about it, nor about having done it. In fact, just don’t complain at all, ever.
This is how you become valuable.
8. Remember the lifetime value of a customer.
A couple of months ago I was searching for an accountant for my new business. I called a local accountant that I found through Google and set up an appointment with John.
John was nice enough and answered all my questions. But I couldn’t help but feel a sense of disdain from him. Answering my questions unconcernedly, just trying to get me out of his office. Almost like I was a joke and he didn’t really take me seriously as a businessperson. This really discouraged me for a few days.
I almost thought about giving up on local accountants, then decided against it. Maybe it was just him, and a chat with a different accountant might be a completely different experience. Boy, am I glad I did.
My meeting with my current accountant started with a warm greeting, smile and handshake from Keith, then he ushered me into his office and answered all my questions. We chatted accounting. We talked about my business and deductions I could claim. About young, determined rookie IRS agents and how to deal with them. For an hour and a half, he answered every question I had about accounting and starting my new business. That was his own time, given to me for absolutely nothing.
Keith knows the lifetime value of a customer, and now I’m a paying client of his. All that to say, always keep the lifetime value of a customer in mind. In addition to building goodwill and adding value to the world, it will also be of value to your own bottom line.