Great Customer Service
By Bob Maiorano:
Over my years as CTO, a program director and leading a 400-person service delivery organization, I’ve learned that two values are critical to an organization’s long-term success: great customer service and investing in employees. Many companies that fail to put these ideals into practice struggle to reach their full potential. Taking care of employees and adopting a customer-first focus helps position an organization to execute on its vision and deliver long-term value to the market.
Organizations and employees should focus on providing great service to their customers. Here are some of the benefits of providing great service:
1. Customer loyaltymakes harder for the competition to steal your customer.
2. A positive company/customer relationship improves the work environment for both the customer and your employee.
3. Customer retention and referral business. Happy customers renew, give you additional business and referrals for new opportunities.
Whether you are an internal support organization or an outsourced services provider, creating a strong Statement of Work (SOW) is an important first step; but excellent customer service goes beyond the scope of support and services it outlines.
Ask questions and listen to customer feedback. Give them your undivided attention. Find out what is most important to your clients and, through clear efforts, show them that their priorities have become your priorities.
Customers do business with people they like. Get to know your clients. The more you know them, the better you will be at understanding their problems and needs. The better they know you, the more comfortable they will become communicating exactly what they need, which sharpens your ability to deliver it.
Treat your customers as individuals. Clients can tell if you really care about them. Thank them regularly for their business – they have plenty of other options for the services or products you are providing.
Always over-deliver. Follow through on every promise or commitment you make to customers. Then, look for ways to delight them with creative and exceptional service wherever possible. Follow up to make sure they are pleased.
When something goes wrong, apologize, work hard to fix it and make things right. We all make mistakes, but addressing and fixing those mistakes as quickly and professionally as possible is key. Use these curveballs as opportunities to learn and improve.
Welcome feedback. Continue to check in regularly and respond to your clients. Both positive and negative feedback offer opportunities to invest in and continually grow the relationship.
Investing in your employees is an investment in your clients.
Our employees support our clients. They are the face of your organization. It is the service technician, help desk agent, systems engineer or account manager on the front lines working to take care of customers. Great customer service starts with your team, as it provides day-to-day client support. A negative experience can create a less than positive impression of your company.
Ensure that employees have the right skills, training and attitude. My tips for delivering great customer service apply to creating a strong employee culture, as well. Ask for feedback. Treat them as individuals. Over-deliver. Address issues quickly and professionally. They will do the same for your clients.
Create a company culture that instills great customer support. Starting at the very top of the organization, build a customer-first corporate culture.
Empower employees to succeed. Help them recognize how their unique skill set makes them a critical part of the team.
Provide the technical training employees need to support their customers. A knowledgeable team can get the job done right the first time, whereas learning on the job creates stress and inefficiencies for both your employees and your clients.
Look beyond technical training. Pleasant, friendly, and courteous employees create positive experiences and increase the likelihood of customer satisfaction, repeat business and excellent references for future clients.
Reward employees who go the extra mile to provide great customer service. Share customers’ specific praise for their work. Also, respectfully discuss detailed opportunities to improve, as part of a team effort to build long-term client and employee satisfaction.
Customer service, good or bad, leaves a lasting impression on customers. If we want their loyalty, we must show them we value our relationship with them, and with our own employees. Always provide service with a smile.