The Seven Secrets of Great Customer Service
Great customer service doesn't just happen, you have to commit to it and plan for it. Here are seven key strategies for providing exceptional customer service.
That, of course, is what every thinking business person wants to have customers do for their business. What could be a more effective marketing tool than a truly excited “customer evangelist”? If you want customers to truly fall in love with your business, here are some things you can do:
1. Make a CommitmentIf you don’t commit to great customer service, you can be sure it won’t happen. Devote yourself to treating your customers right. Develop a company culture that focuses on customer service, and go above and beyond the call of duty. Your customers will thank-you for it, and more than likely, tell their friends.
2. Know Your StuffCustomers are pretty astute judges of character. If you are competent, confident and knowledgeable, you stand a better chance of winning their confidence and trust. I have a long list of questions customers usually ask when buying log furniture, and I know the answers to those questions like the back of my hand. You might say this comes from selling log furniture for five years, but it took more than that.
When I first started into this business, I kept a list of questions customers asked. Questions about shipping, product weight, log bed assembly, warranties—the list goes on. I memorized the answers to those questions, and that initial groundwork has helped me immensely over the years.
3. Get Acquainted and Follow the Golden RuleSome customers aren’t chatty, and that’s fine. But some do like to talk, and it takes a fair amount of conversation to wrap up a large log furniture order. Some transactions are pretty cut-and-dried, but on some, by the time their furniture is delivered, the customer feels like an old friend. I feel a very strong obligation to them, and they sense that. They trusted me with their money, and they want quality furniture for their mountain cabin or chalet on the lake.
A friendly phone relationship goes a long way towards working out a smooth transaction and delivery, and customers who have connected with you will be a lot more likely to shout from the housetops that they are thrilled with your customer service. The bottom line for me is to treat customers how I want to be treated. If you treat your customers with courtesy and respect, they will not only appreciate it, but be much more likely to send their friends your way.
4. The customer is always rightEven if they are stressed out and totally unreasonable, I never argue with a customer. Some of my customers are coordinating two or three shipments of furniture on one day. Many of them just built a new log cabin, and have a lot going on. Then a semi truck gets stuck on their mountain road, or their vacation is almost over and the furniture has to come in a three-day window of time, and the customer gets worked up. It’s been my steady experience that if I am calm, reasonable and fair with a customer, they will respond in like manner. There are still a lot of good people in this world—and if you treat them well—even if they are under stress for some reason totally unrelated to you, they will usually respond to that.
5. Communication is KeyWe can give people a pretty good idea of when their log furniture will be delivered, right when they order. But since it sometimes takes 2-3 weeks to arrive, communication is very important in our business. People like to know when their furniture shipped. They like to get a tracking number. They like to know what to expect when the shipment arrives.
Customers really appreciate it when you respond to their inquiries with a sense of urgency. They want a quick resolution to their concerns, and if you can provide it, you stand an excellent chance of winning their repeat business.
6. Expect the Best out of PeopleI had a customer order a log bed from me yesterday whose credit card wouldn’t go through. I kept getting address mismatches on her card. I called the merchant account processor, and they suggested it might be fraud. I was concerned, yet the customer did seem legit. In the end, it turned out there as a glitch between American Express and my credit card processor. After some checking, American Express assured me that all was well with the customer. During this time, I had thoughts about fraud but never let on to the customer what I was thinking. Even though I had questions, I chose to expect the best.
This doesn’t mean I put through the transaction until all seemed to be well. But it does pay off to give the customer the benefit of the doubt. Often people will only rise as high as your expectations of them. If you expect them to be a jerk, or treat them like a jerk, an otherwise nice person may get annoyed and act like a jerk. And the reverse is also true.
7. Keep your PromisesThe lady who just ordered the log bed has to have it in two weeks. When she first asked for that, I had to do some checking. I simply do not make a promise unless I know I can keep it. I had to get her zip code and see how long it would take to ship. I had to check with my Amish furniture maker to see if he had the bed in stock, and when he could have it ready. It wasn’t until I had promises from my trustworthy suppliers that I could make a promise to the customer.
Customers notice whether you keep your promises. If you give an honest account of what you can do, then “stand on your head” to keep your promise, customers will appreciate your level of customer service. I don’t know how it works in your business, but in my business, people who need log beds also need night stands and armoires. They need log book shelves, and bar stools, and rocking chairs. And they often live on a lake or mountain, near other people who like rustic furniture as well.
More often than not, a happy customer translates into repeat and referral business. And that’s music to the ears of any business person—to hear the voice of their good friend—a repeat customer—on the phone and ready to order again.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cari Haus, CPA and entrepreneur, sells log furniture on her website, http://www.logcabinrustics.com/