Customer service is an area of business that many business owners struggle with. The principals that you should follow are really quite simple and logical and if you stick to them religiously in your relationships with your customers, you will emerge triumphant.
Customer service, whether it is in person or online, follows the same basic principles, with only a few differences. The definition of customer service, according to Encyclopedia Britannica, "…involves an array of activities to keep existing customers satisfied." If you ask customers (in person and online) their opinions, they will feel valued. If they give you suggestions, you should try to use most if not all of them.
One of your most important driving forces when it comes to your customers is developing a true understanding of what is important to them. If you demonstrate that you care enough about them to make that a top priority, they will return to you over and over again.
The only way to really understand what is important to your customers is to ask them. That is why surveys are so important to the success of your business. Defining your customer's experience depends, to a large degree, on the sort of business that you own. If you have an online business, your customer service will be based on the ease of navigation of your website. If you own a business where you deal with customers face to face, accessibility will be one of the most important factors that determine your business's success.
One of the most basic questions that you must ask yourself when considering how to approach customer service is "Have I educated my staff appropriately to deal with our customers." If the answer is "no," an immediate crash course is definitely called for.
In addition to verbally communicating to your staff on how to treat customers, you should have policies and procedures that are written down and that you and your staff refer to on a regular basis. Of utmost importance is a firm knowledge about you and your business. If you don't understand how to communicate that, how can you expect to impart it to your customers and potential customers?
The following are principles that you should follow when serving your customers. It is a foolproof method that has been proven over and over again to work.
- Knowledge: As was discussed above, every member of your staff (including you) must be totally knowledgeable about your business, your products and services and your competition's products and services.
- Friendliness: This is one of the most basic and simplest of principles. Even if you are having a less-than-perfect day, make sure to always be friendly and kind when dealing with customers. Nobody wants to have a professional relationship with someone who makes them feel badly.
- Helpfulness: Always try to help your customers in any way that you can. Your customers wouldn't be reaching out to you if they didn't need help of some kind. Remember, without your customers, you wouldn't have a business.
- Value: Your products and services have to scream value at all times. Customers may buy a product or service from you that is not of the highest value once. It is pretty much a guarantee that they won't buy the product or service a second time under those circumstances. You owe it to your customers and to your business to always offer the highest value possible.
- Ease of access: You must always be available for your customers. If you constantly demonstrate that you are there for them, they will always come back to you. Not only will they buy from you initially but they will keep buying from you. Customer loyalty is the bread and butter of your business.
- Ease of transaction: Once your customers have decided to buy from you (and it certainly is not always an easy decision based on how much competition there is out there), you need to make sure that the transactions run smoothly and quickly. People have precious little time in their days and your customers are no exception.
- Cleanliness: Always have a clean and neat appearance. I guarantee that your business will suffer if you are not cognizant of cleanliness. Nobody will want to buy from you if you turn them off physically. If you give the impression that you don't care about yourself, your customers will assume that you don't care about your business and them either.
- Courtesy: Courtesy and kindness (which has already been mentioned) are essential when dealing with customers. Would you want to buy from a business owner or a staff member who is rude and abrasive? I know that I wouldn't want to.
- Confidence: It is very important to always exude confidence in your knowledge of the business and your products and services. If you are confident, you will pass on a feeling of security to your customers.
- Responsiveness: Customers like to know that what they feel and say matters. If you are responsive and you fulfill their needs, they will continue to come back to you. It will be the difference between their buying from you and your competition next door.
- Professionalism: It is critical that you and your staff always behave in a professional manner. Your professional manner will most likely differ from how you behave personally, although your core values are the same. Always treat your customers with respect and make them feel that you will always do your best to satisfy their needs.