Truth be told and a “boots-on-the-ground” reality check indicates that the customer is not always right. If you don’t believe me, then take a poll of people who work in retail or any of the other service occupations. And yet, according to the Ten Commandments of Good Customer Service, the customer must always win. Now I don’t want to disparage contemporary (and customary) consumer theory but in today’s business climate, I’m not certain that that’s even a given. Providing good customer service means just that and today those that last, and even excel in their fields, will know the difference between customer service and customer servitude.
The difference between the two is a fine line but it is a line that you can see. It starts with you recognizing who your customers are and what services you want to, or have to, provide them. Good customer service is not open-ended or infinite. In fact, you should never provide any service that you are either unwilling to, or unable to, provide consistently, 24/7. Being all over the place, inconsistent or wishy-washy only undermines any successful program you hope to create, as well as any relationship you have, or hope to have, with the customer.
As important as consistency in service provisions is your ability to professionally and successfully use the term “no” in your daily effort, the capacity for which should not be taken lightly. Used improperly, no is a shut-off valve of wanted, if not necessary, services; a portent of negativity and unwillingness. When used correctly, no becomes a reasonable answer to requests, both legitimate and questionable; a sound, thoughtfully given response that must be reconciled and cannot be pushed aside and characterized as simply, bad attitude or work ethic.
Finally, providing good customer service is easy as remembering only four rules. It’s only four but they cover a wide range of tasks and scenarios and are easily adaptable. They are:
- Never promise to do anything (any service) that you can’t do consistently, always.
Think it through. Think about the fact that you’ll be committing yourself to this request and that the customer expectations will be that you do this, not only today, but from now on. So don’t say yes if you aren’t saying yes to the next day, and the next day, and the next day…
- Always listen thoroughly and make eye contact when you do.
Every customer, like every man, has the right to be heard, so listen. Do so intently and ask questions if you don’t understand. Don’t look away and don’t be occupied with something else while the customer is talking to you. You want to listen well because you’re going to have to make a decision and if it becomes a negative one, you want to start off on as good a foot as you can, under the circumstances. At least, you listened like you care.
- If you can’t do it (provide the service) then say so but explain why you can’t do it. Then tell them who can (present a solution).
There will be times when you just can’t fulfill a customer’s request. Inform him as soon as possible and have a viable solution available when you do. Follow up with the alternate provider to ensure the service was completed and afterwards with the customer to see if the service was done satisfactorily.
- Be courteous and professional at all times.
Of the four customer service rules listed here, this one is possibly the most important; it’s definitely the most all-encompassing. Courtesy and professionalism should be exhibited always, whenever you’re on duty, and in many cases these days, even when you’re not on duty (on call). Along with your name tag or any other identification, your courteous demeanor and professional attitude will be another badge identifying you and setting you apart from all others. And when things are going badly, it will be that same courtesy and professionalism that will assist you in pulling your fat out of the fire.
There you are; four simple customer service rules that should help you in just about any scenario. Of course it helps to be willing to come in and do a good job to begin with. As the retail market continues to expand, where consumers shop will often be determined by how nicely they’re treated. Businesses are becoming ever more aware of the correlation between poor customer service and dwindling sales. As a professional service provider, it behooves you to know how to provide sound service that builds customer satisfaction while simultaneously maintaining your sanity. Following these four rules is a step in that direction.
For more info: Customer Service Reps
Ten Commandments of Customer Service