Treat your customers as if they were newspaper reporters; this is the new mantra for savvy companies of all sizes.
Like many journalists, your customers have become sceptical of advertising and marketing in all its common forms, having being duped, tricked or, made to feel foolish on more than one occasion.
Journalists are looking for the truth. So are your customers.
Journalists are looking for answers to their questions. So are your customers.
You get the idea.
Every has a different definition of ‘good’
Good customer service is a vital ingredient in a company’s ability to maintain profitability and succeed in business. Not only does good customer service build loyalty above all other forms of marketing, it almost guarantees a company’s viability in today’s competitive market.
If you do not accept this, or are not willing to expend the necessary resources to meet a customer’s needs, you will soon find yourself scrambling for business. Speak to any one of your customers and they will agree in saying that customer service is one of, if not, the most important part of your company’s overall business strategy.
The problem is, everyone has their own definition of what is ‘good’ when it comes to customer service.
What one company considers ‘good’ may barely be ‘good enough’ in the eyes of a customer.
Without customers you really don’t have a business
You may be asking yourself, “If this is the case, why is it that most of us can easily cite examples of poor customer service in our daily lives?”
I believe every company either has or, thinks it has, good customer service. However, the reality of the situation, is that customers and businesses differ in their perception of what is ‘good’.
Toby Schulz, co-founder of MyNappies.com.au, has built his entire online business around providing exceptional customer service. He believes the key to truly providing great service, regardless of what industry you operate in, is strong customer relationships.
“You have to start building a relationship with every customer from their very first interaction, whether that be them signing up, placing an order or, simply making an enquiry,” said Schulz.
“By personalising this first interaction you achieve many things, the most important of which is that you start to build trust. In the online world, trust is king. If your customers do not trust you, then no matter how good your product is, they will not buy from you,’ Schulz explained.
While there are hundreds of different tactics you can implement to further improve your customer service, it is my view that there are five crucial strategies every company must follow:
- Know who’s boss. You are in business to service customer needs. Quite simply, to achieve this you must listen to these needs. When you truly listen to your customers, they let you know precisely what they want and how you can provide first-rate service in giving it to them. Remember, you have two ears and one mouth, so use them in the same ratio.
- Identify and anticipate needs. Customers don’t buy products or services. They buy good feelings and solutions to problems. Most customer needs are emotional rather than rational. Communicate regularly so that you are continually gauging the emotional climate of your target market. The more you know your customers, the better you become at knowing and anticipating their needs.
- Give more than is expected. Since the future of all companies lies in keeping customers happy, think of ways to elevate yourself above the competition. Consider the following:
- What can you give customers that they cannot get elsewhere?
- What can you do to follow-up and thank people even when they don’t buy?
- What can you give a customer that is totally unexpected?
- Treat employees well. Employees are your internal customers and need a regular dose of appreciation. Treat your employees with respect and chances are they will have a higher regard for customers. Appreciation stems from the top. Treat customers and employees with the same level of esteem.
- Under-promise and over-deliver. When you make a promise to a customer, they remember it better than you do. They tell others. They look forward to it. They build your whole reputation around it. If you then fail to deliver on that one promise, your whole reputation is in tatters. If you have to promise, then under-promise and delight your customers by doing better than they expected.
Business has changed significantly in the past 5-10 years. It is ever more fierce, fast and competitive than before. Gone are the days when product or service was an advantage. In today’s business climate most things can be replicated rather easily but, a strong customer service culture cannot.
In the words of Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart, “The goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best but legendary.”