The Company Welcome Mat:
Keep Customers Knocking on Your Door
By Nancy Friedman, Telephone Doctor
I’m often asked: "What is the biggest and
most costly customer service mistake in business today?" Our answer
is simple – "We’re just not friendly enough."
Customers should be treated as welcome
guests when they call an organization; instead, they’re often
treated like an interruption or, even worse, an annoyance. More than
90 percent of all customer service includes a telephone call. That
said, customer service mistakes happen anytime and in many ways,
whichever way you communicate with your customers.
These customer service tips will help you
start or benchmark your own customer service training program. Bring
your staff together at a time when everyone can attend and talk
about any frustrating customer events. Discuss how they handled them
versus how it could have been done. The meeting can be short, maybe
15 minutes, and it doesn’t need to be daily – but it does need to be
done. Not having a customer service training program in place can
cost every organization revenue and customers. Poor customer service
creates a negative image for the entire organization, no matter how
wonderful the products or services are that you offer.
And if staff has the attitude that there’s
no competitive organization for customers to go to, tell them that
may be right, but if one customer tells another about a negative
experience and so on down the line, more customers will leave your
business. Then staff jobs will be lost, and eventually, bang – no
organization at all.
Here are 3 of the biggest service mistakes
that are most likely to anger customers into lifelong resentment
toward an organization:
Smile. It sounds insanely simplistic, doesn’t it? We’re taught early
that a smile can get us a lot. This is true even as adults,
especially on the telephone. Since the telephone is the most
commonly used mode of communication, we need to understand why a
smile works – because you can hear a smile. We recommend keeping a
mirror by your desk, so when you pick up the receiver, you can tell
if you’re smiling.
Okay, sometimes we don’t feel like
smiling. Well ya know what? Smile anyway. The caller doesn’t care if
you feel like smiling or not. At Telephone Doctor, smiling before
you pick up the phone is a condition of employment; not smiling is
grounds for termination, and, yes, I have exercised that option.
With customer service as our top priority, we simply don’t tolerate
not smiling before you pick up the phone. Frankly, I’d rather have
the caller think your office is closed than to have you answer the
phone in a negative mood. (Yes, the caller can hear the smile.)
Not Acknowledging A Caller’s Request Or Problem
Rapid responses. We have a so-called "mental stamp" at Telephone
Doctor that reads "RR," which means, "This request or piece of
information needs an immediate and rapid response." Requests and
problems need to be handled sooner than later. Delaying a request
can cause more problems than the original request.
Another good habit to get into is to ask
the customer: "By the way, when would you be needing this Mr.
Jones?" Our surveys found that when a customer is asked when he or
she would like to receive the needed information, 80 percent did not
automatically respond, "I need it now," as you might expect. Thus,
you don’t have to promise, "I’ll get that to you right away." Often,
callers won’t need something until tomorrow or next week. Asking for
a timetable is good customer service. And, by the way, "as soon as
possible" is not a time. Confirm a date or time.
Immediate Rejection Of A Request
Be a "double-checker." It’s so easy to tell people, "We don’t have
it." or "Sorry, it’s past the deadline." or "We ran out of that
report." Instead, try a soft rejection: "The last time I checked it
wasn’t available but, let me double-check on that for you." It’s a
wonderful way to defuse any disappointment about you not having what
they called for in the first place. This simple statement
immediately defuses some of the tension of not being able to fulfill
a request completely. And often when we do double-check, we find a
way to get what the person wanted after all.
You now have three techniques (simple that
they are) to kick-start or benchmark your customer service training
program. To make these techniques happen, the entire staff, from
President to maintenance, needs to embrace the customer service
program or it won’t work. Be firm. The organization’s entire image
is at stake since it is unlikely to get a second chance.
Don’t have time? Make time. What or who is
more important than those customers? You’ll be surprised at how much
fun it is to hear a customer say, "Thanks, you’ve been super."
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