Why good customer service pays

June 2, 2011 at 10:09 am

By Helen Jones, Pelican Business Services

There has never been a more critical time to set customer service as your business priority, no matter what your industry or profession. In the current economic climate many businesses are struggling to keep afloat and whilst it’s tempting to focus on finding as many new customers as you can, that may come at the cost of jeopardising the business you already have.

In good times businesses can sometimes get away with paying less attention to their customers and their needs, but this behaviour comes home to roost when times are tougher and customers thinner on the ground. Those businesses who invested in good customer service in the past are now reaping rewards.

Sadly we can all quote many examples of poor customer service from our own experiences whichever country we live in, whether a face to face interaction or over the phone. Your customer service policy should vary depending on whether you sell products or services and whether these are one off sales or regular purchases. But in every case, good customer service is one if not the factor that drives customer loyalty and retention.

If you are in a market where there is lots of competition from other suppliers it allows you to stand out from the crowd – as price competition is very strong in most markets at the moment, good service gives you something else on which to differentiate you business. It also helps you to build a closer relationship with your customer and helps them to get to know you and you them, so making it much more likely that they will come back to you again next time.

The basics:

Listen to your customers
Understand what they want and don’t always assume you know what that is. Remember that needs and markets change so don’t try to make your customer fit your product, adapt to new requirements. Equally customers are often willing to compromise but you will only know this by interacting and listening.

Courtesy
Service with a smile and willingness goes a huge way in giving customer satisfaction. And be genuine. Everyone likes to be treated well. This applies equally to any phone interactions too. Always say thank you and don’t take customers for granted.

Responsiveness
This is one of the most critical parts of looking after your customers – always respond to customer’s questions or queries, never ignore a customer or potential customer. If you don’t have the answer straight away let them know that you are looking into it. Also set expectations so customers know exactly what will happen and in that way avoid misunderstandings and frustrations. Always deal promptly with complaints or concerns.

Ask them what they want
Build a communication channel with your customers whether it be face to face, by phone or email. Ask for feedback on your product or service on a regular basis across a cross section of clients to identify any problems areas. Also keep up to date with their changing needs – there are many ways of doing this either as part of your regular communications, i.e. your newsletter, or using short telephone or email surveys.

Do what you say you will
Nothing annoys customers more than not getting from you what you told them to expect.

Capitalise on what you know about your customers
Referring to customer information or purchase history when you interact with your client is a powerful way to build a bond. Utilise sales history to identify new opportunities such as a new market segment, product variations or seasonal offers.

Paying close attention to customers has never been more important and in the current environment where buyers deliberate hard about if and where they spend their euro, dollar or pound, a good reputation for service significantly strengthens your chances of attracting and retaining that customer.

Helen Jones, Director, Pelican Business Services
T: +351 282 760 548 | M: +351 914 563 407
helenjones@pelicanbusiness.com
www.pelicanbusiness.com

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