Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Are Your Customers Satisfied?
One of the things that I have enjoyed the most during my trip to the US is the excellent customer service that I get in most (almost all) of the places I have been to. I see, clearly, what is lacking in most of the developing countries like my country Nigeria. Last week, I walked into a car rental store to rent a car. I had my fears, since I was presenting a Nigerian international drivers license and a Debit card. However, I was pleasantly surprised with the kind of service that I got at the counter. This lovely woman was willing to do more than she was paid to do, and win business for her company. During the process, my brother in law’s fiancée, who had booked with another company, canceled her reservation with that other company and instead got a car from this woman. Imagine!
About 2 years ago, I went into a Mall to buy a camcorder for family use. I had been told that I will get the specification I needed at an affordable price somewhere in this Mall. The Mall had several electronic shops with about the same price for all items. I got into one and started looking around. No one attended to me personally. No one took notice of me. Every of the staff went about their normal business. I asked a few question about a particular brand I love and got mono syllabic answers. Predictably, I didn’t buy anything from them.
I went in to another store close by…infact right beside the 1st one. The difference was astonishing. I was warmly greeted by a staff. He asked me what I wanted to buy and gave me a small lecture on what to look out for. When I was considering buying a particular one (just because of the brand name), he explained to me, and demonstrated to me why he thinks I won’t like it. He suggested another brand that had about the same features, was cheaper and had better handling. He then proceeded to convince me that I was buying the best camcorder of the year in that category. He brought out a magazine that showed the award for this brand and then went ahead to do a demo recording for me with this camcorder! Did I buy it? Of course yes! In no time, I was counting the money at the cashier’s!
What made the difference between both stores? Definitely not the price. Not the size of the store. Not the name. It is called Customer Service. This is what is lacking in most organizations and companies that keep them small…especially in developing countries.
World class organizations have since discovered the value of service to their customers. Improving customer service is one of the top five anguishes for CEO's today. The creation of memorable, positive customer service - service so good, so unique, so different, that it takes the customer by surprise and leaves him with a smile on his face and a story to tell- is in high demand in organizations today.
Let’s consider a few customer service tips that will give you and your company a competitive advantage.
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 logical. The more you know your customers, the better you become at anticipating their needs. Communicate regularly so that you are aware of problems or upcoming needs.
Make customers feel important and appreciated.
Treat them as individuals. Always use their name and find ways to compliment them, but be sincere. People value sincerity. It creates good feeling and trust. Think about ways to generate good feelings about doing business with you. Customers are very sensitive and know whether or not you really care about them. Thank them every time you get a chance. This is perhaps one of the customer service tip that is missing in the 3rd world countries. They look down on customers. They let their moods affect how they treat their customers. Any wonder why they are still 3rd world?
Give more than 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? Be willing to go the extra mile. Be willing to do more than what is required. This will without doubt give you an edge over competition.
Know how to apologize.
When something goes wrong, apologize. It's easy and customers like it. The customer may not always be right, but the customer must always win. Deal with problems immediately and let customers know what you have done. Make it simple for customers to complain. Value their complaints. As much as we dislike it, it gives us an opportunity to improve. Even if customers are having a bad day, go out of your way to make them feel comfortable.
Be a good listener.
Take the time to identify customer needs by asking questions and concentrating on what the customer is really saying. Listen to their words, tone of voice, body language, and most importantly, how they feel. Beware of making assumptions - thinking you intuitively know what the customer wants.
Get regular feedback.
Encourage and welcome suggestions about how you could improve. There are several ways in which you can find out what customers think and feel about your services.
Listen carefully to what they say. Check back regularly to see how things are going.
Provide a method that invites constructive criticism, comments and suggestions.
Treat employees well.
Employees are your internal customers and need a regular dose of appreciation. Thank them and find ways to let them know how important they are. Treat your employees with respect and chances are they will have a higher regard for customers. Appreciation stems from the top. Treating customers and employees well is equally important.
You are in business to service customer needs, and you can only do that if you know what it is your customers want. When you truly listen to your customers, they let you know what they want and how you can provide good service. Never forget that the customer pays our salary and makes your job possible.