Rachel Clacher, co-founder and director of award-winning telephone answering service, Moneypenny, offers her top customer service advice to SMEs.
Customer service. It’s one of those overused phrases that’s used so much it no longer carries the traction it truly deserves. But in reality, the service that a person receives from a company has never been more important. People are wise to how they should be treated, technology has made it easy for customers to air their views, and choice is in abundance.
First class, people-first service should be instilled in every atom of a company, not consigned to a department. People rarely forget being made to feel good about themselves or something simply going their way. There are many guidelines for good customer service, but here are three no business can afford to ignore.
1) Walk in your customers’ shoes
There’s a lot of talk these days about the customer journey, and how a person feels from the first point of contact throughout the lifetime of the relationship. To really get an idea of the customer journey you’re giving as a company though, you’ve got to take a walk in your clients’ shoes and experience how your own service feels at each touch point. You may even be surprised by how things appear on the other side. A missing friendly ‘hello’, the courtesy call, the forgotten name – there is nothing too small that it becomes irrelevant in terms of making a customer feel important – and the best way of getting a clear picture of this is to get down to eye-level.
2) Keep your word
A promise is a promise, and a broken promise is almost unforgivable when it comes to customer service. Giving clients your word enables them to put their trust in you, just look at John Lewis’ ‘never knowingly undersold’ on goods or Virgin Atlantic’s guarantee of a ‘rockstar service’ on board their flights. But a failure to make good on that agreement erodes that trust and can damage your reputation. Your credibility comes not from your ability to tell the world what you can do, but by the actual delivery. Anyone can make bold statements, and word gets around quickly if a business does not live up to them. And, should there come a point in time where a promise to a customer fails to materialise, be honest. A well-handled incident could turn a complainant into one of your biggest fans.
3) Best foot forward
This positive, can-do attitude shouldn’t be reserved for customers alone. There is no place for a ‘Sunday best’ in business – you should wear it all the time. Suppliers, third party clients, members of the public; whomever you come across should receive the very best approach you’re willing to give. You never know where loyalty is born or your next customer will come from, but more than that, you’re reputation as an excellent operator will carry you places. To exceed customer expectations, is to exceed all expectations and deliver a gold standard of service, regardless of whether you’re doing business with them or not.