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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Providing Great Customer Service

How to Become a Customer Service “Hero”

By Wendy Connick

If you want to retain your customers – and encourage them to refer more customers to you – you'll need to give them a reason to do so. And excellent customer service is a pretty good reason.

Keep in mind that having a good product is a prerequisite to good customer service. If your product offering is useless, no one will buy it no matter how well you treat them. On the other hand, excellent customer service can strengthen an adequate product and make it great. Providing top-tier customer service is also one of the best ways to differentiate yourself from your competitors, which can definitely give your product offerings a little extra kick.

Communicate With Your Customers

How do you know what your customers want? Well, the easiest way to find out is to ask them! It's amazing how often businesses will change a product or launch a new service only to find out that their customers hate the new offering. Check with your customers periodically to find out how they feel about your product, and ask if they have any suggestions to make it even better.

Talking to the customers regularly will also identify any problems before they become critical. If a customer is not particularly happy with your company for some reason, you'll have a chance to make it right before they simply take up with one of your competitors.

Resolve Problems Gracefully

When you do find out about a problem, here's the process you can follow to resolve it:
  1. Apologize to the customer. It doesn't matter if it was your fault or not, apologize anyway. A simple “I'm sorry for the inconvenience” helps to smooth down any ruffled feathers.
  2. Fix it or explain why you can't. Don't just let the customer languish in Service Limbo. You need to either resolve the problem in a timely manner or get back to the customer ASAP and explain why you can't change the situation.
  3. Follow up to confirm resolution. Contact the customer a few days or weeks later and make sure the problem really is resolved. This is also a great chance to touch base and make sure there aren't any other issues lurking.
Customer complaints are a golden opportunity. Don't dread them! Fixing a problem in a helpful and pleasant way actually endears a customer to you more than if no problem had occurred. After all, your customers don't really think about your product... until it stops working or something else goes wrong. When it does, the product and the company come to the front of the customer's mind. If they leave the encounter feeling good about your company, that's an improvement over the merely neutral feeling they probably had about you before things went wrong.

Reward Your Customers

Businesses often launch promotions to snare new customers, but they rarely think to reward their existing customers. So occasionally giving your customers something of value will make you stand out in a good way. It could be something as simple as a holiday greeting card with a coupon for their next purchase from you, or as elaborate as a “Customer Appreciation Day” where you hold a party for your customers and provide games and prizes. Again, it's a good idea to sound out your customers and find out what kind of reward they'd prefer.

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