Improving Your Customer Service
In my last column I emphasized the importance of customer service. Excellence in customer service can give your business a competitive advantage and a lack of quality service can be fatal. There are many strategies you can use to improve customer service. The key is to create customer service excellence in ways that are meaningful to your customers.
First you should analyze all of all of your operations and procedures to ensure they are as efficient and effective as possible. Make sure you research your industry to identify best practices and compare how you match up. Trade and industry associations are a good place to start looking for this type of information. This is an important task because efficient operations can translate into lower operating costs. In turn, lower operating costs can help you be more price competitive. If you do not compete on the basis of price, then lower operating costs can mean bigger margins.
Take Your Time
When you recognize ineffective business processes, you may wish to immediately overhaul everything. But achieving customer service excellence doesn't require you to make radical or rapid adjustments. In fact, doing so may cause a delay in your staff's ability to adapt to the new processes, leading to:
o Inconsistent assistance,
o Low morale among workers,
o Client frustration, and
o Lost business.
Instead, for a more realistic and effective transition, implement changes in stages. And maintain open and regular communication with customers to ensure their continued satisfaction and loyalty as you improve your business.
A tiered approach also helps address other considerations, such as how your business will pay for the extra improvements you may want to implement. Also, consider ways to gain employee buy-in such as developing training programs for any new technologies and processes you implement. Training should delivered using the theme of improving customer service.
Next examine all of your customer 'touch points', that is, look at every place, time and reason you interact with a customer. What can you make faster, more convenient or complete? If you are not sure about what to do, ask your customers.
Make the Most of Negativity
Although no one likes hearing criticism, you can benefit from unhappy customer responses. After all, these remarks can alert you to issues while you still have time to resolve them. It's also possible that one customer may voice a problem that affects others the same way.
So as you implement a customer-centric approach, encourage workers to discuss issues with customers and ask for suggestions that would help improve the situation. Train employees to communicate glitches to managers and share details on how your business is handling these matters. Also, ensure workers inform you and your managers about major and minor hurdles; you may even need to create a formal reporting system. Employees often fail to notify the proper supervisors because they are unsure of the complaint's importance or whom they should tell.
Making client service a priority requires you to commit every aspect of your company to the idea -- from however a customer's experience begins with you to the point where that experience ends.
As competition heats up and demands placed on your business intensify, you'll need to provide exemplary assistance to sustain continued growth and profitability. If you feel your business's techniques in this area could use improvement, perhaps you can benefit from an external consultant. Contact me for specific suggestions, I can help you find the resources to develop a more customer-centric approach.
The next installment of this four part customer service series will focus on using Customer Surveys.