A business owner once said to me: “Everything would be fine if we didn’t have to deal with the customers”.
It is a statement that invites sympathy from many a business leader. However, in the absence of an alternative to making money, the only way forward is to make dealings with customers more enjoyable and profitable.
Customer service and experience is central to every business that has a product or service to sell. It is a simple tale. Good service motivates people to buy from you and keep buying from you. Bad service motivates them to buy from somebody else.
You can roll out the most intelligent, innovative and sophisticated marketing plan that has ever been written, but if it is not supported by positive customer experience, it is more likely to roll off the desk and onto the floor than take you to the dizzy heights of success.
Integral to customer experience is the ‘c’ word – communications. Communication with the external world and its wealth of potential customers; communication with existing customers, at point of purchase and aftersales, and (this is the one that is the most overlooked) communication with your staff. Because there is little point in launching that intelligent, innovative and sophisticated marketing plan if your staff know precious little about it and/or they think it is rubbish.
Employee motivation and engagement is directly linked to communication; communication is directly linked to customer service; customer service is directly linked to customer experience, and customer experience is directly linked to making sales and brand loyalty.
How to improve customer service
What’s needed is a review to identify gaps and failings in communication that affect customer service and experience. It won’t all be wrong, but there are likely to be weak spots that make it not quite right. If you were in your customer’s shoes what would you see and hear? If you were an onlooker, what would you notice? Every business that is still in business will have worked hard to please customers. This means it is likely you already have the resources you need, which is excellent news. The next step is to work out how to make best use of them to improve your current and future offer.
The objective of my business, Ribbon Media, is to identify areas of customer experience that are working and not working and add real value that will result in customers signing up and coming back to you again and again. We know customers choose to buy or not to buy based on their ‘shopping’ experience and we want everyone in your organisation to live and breathe your values. We call it building the brand from the inside out. Your customers will notice the difference – as will your financial director…
In the meantime, consider the 8-rule list designed to make customers like you more:
1. Answer your phone with real people, not robotic messages which involve punching numbers and endless waiting listening to piped music.
2. Listen, listen, listen. When your customers are speaking they are generally communicating to you what they want.
3. Deal with enquiries effectively and be helpful. If in a shop, for example, don’t point to the distance and say “it should be over there” or the most irritating – “if it is not on the shelf…”
4. Don’t make promises you cannot keep. If the customer cannot have the product or service tomorrow, don’t tell them they can or this will come back to bite you.
5. Deal with complaints. Bad news travels fast – sadly, a lot faster than good news.
6. Equip your staff with knowledge, motivation, enthusiasm and loyalty. They should be proudly ‘wearing the tee-shirt’ of their organisation and voluntarily singing the praises of its products and services to everyone they meet. Note also, the most successful brands are usually near the top of the ‘best place to work’ category.
7. Deliver beyond the expected. Give your customer something extra. They may not show their gratitide immediately, but they will love to talk about it to all their friends.
8. Smile. It is completely free and it creates the impression that you are enjoying your job!