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Customer Service: Taking It to the Next Level

I am sure we can all agree that we have experienced varying levels of satisfaction and dissatisfaction as customers. The adage that the customer is always right is true if you want the customer to return. Successful companies have grasped the understanding of just how important the customer relationship truly is, and these companies have one thing in common: they never take the customer for granted. They also strive to be the best they can be for their customers.

Excellent customer service involves all functions within a company, not just one department. The customer expects the product to be good quality, the price be economical and fair, the availability be reasonable, and finally the service…ah yes! The service must be top notch. Products from one organization to another can be very similar. Often the only thing that will differentiate them is the service, both before and after the sale.

In order to achieve first class customer service, a company must be able to anticipate a customer’s needs and go above and beyond to satisfy them. Studies have shown that people will elect to do repeat business with a company not because of price, but because of the customer service they received. A company must understand and embrace the art of effective communication to provide top-rate customer service. An effective communicator must first be a good listener. It’s important to note that communication doesn’t just mean simply communicating with the customer but also communicating internally. Planning, manufacturing, production, quality and shipping need to be in constant communication, while also keeping sales informed so they can update the customer as necessary. Over the years, I have come to realize that the customer would rather be informed of a problem immediately than to be surprised later. Keeping the customer well informed is critical to earning a customer’s loyalty and repeat business.

Do you prefer email, live chat or a phone call when it comes to customer service? Seems like an obvious choice to me. They all play an important role in providing effective communication to a customer, however I always prefer a phone call with a live person. Nothing beats good ole live customer interaction. We’ve all had the experience of calling to inquire about a bill or another issue and have been greeted with the delightful sound of a computer-generated operator. We listen patiently to the half dozen or so menu options only to discover that the one we need is the last one mentioned or isn’t even mentioned. We then enter what we think might be the best selection based on our need only to be guided deeper into the abyss of menu prompts. Out of desperation we start pressing numbers repeatedly or shouting “representative” into the phone. If we are lucky, it ultimately connects us to a representative. But more times than not, all representatives are currently busy, so we must wait for the next available agent. The wait could be five minutes or an hour, sometimes only to be ultimately disconnected! UGHH! Organizations that value their customers and put a strong emphasis on customer service don’t throw their customers into the land of no return and frustration.

When a business wants to provide excellent customer service, it starts with knowledgeable team members eager to provide quick, accurate answers to customer questions or solutions to their issues over the phone. Remember how good you felt after speaking with a friendly, courteous, well-trained customer service representative? That’s what first-rate, customer-centric companies deliver when they truly care about their customers. I’ll bet you’ll have no hesitation doing repeat business with that organization. More importantly, you’ll probably mention your positive experience or recommend that company to a friend. Studies show that the level and quality of service that a person receives determines if he/she will return with repeat business.

Here are some interesting customer service facts*:

  1. 90% of Americans use customer service as a factor in deciding whether to do business with a company.
  2. 49% of American consumers switched companies last year due to poor customer service.
  3. Investing in new customers is between 5 and 25 times more expensive than retaining existing customers.
  4. Consumers are willing to spend 17% more with a company that has outstanding customer service.
  5. It takes 12 positive customer experiences to make up for one negative experience.
  6. Millennials prefer live chat for customer service over every other communication channel.
  7. Happy American customers will share their positive experiences with approximately 11 people.
  8. Increasing customer retention rates by just 5% can increase profits by between 25% and 95%.

*Source: https://blog.hubspot.com/service/customer-service-stats

Of course, top notch customer service is only one piece of the puzzle. Many years ago, I was asked to give a presentation to over 300 members of the Sales Team as the Technical Support Manager. My Director at the time reminded me that I would need to create an elevator pitch. Not knowing what an elevator pitch was, I asked him and was told an elevator pitch is a 30 second sales pitch about the product and company that you are representing. It is what you would say if you got on the elevator with a decision maker of a potential customer and you had until the elevator doors opened on the bottom floor (approximately 30 seconds) to convince him that your company is someone they should do business with. The closing line on that 30 second pitch was, “It’s not just the product, but the people behind it that you’ll love.” For a company to be successful, it must have a solid product as well as superior customer service. Continuously look for ways to give the customer an experience that they will want to rave to others about and new business will follow.

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