How do you sound when you answer a customer call? Cheerful? Energetic? Enthusiastic? Have you ever called for service, be it a plumber, an electrician, a doctor, whoever, and the person who answered the phone sounded as though you were an interruption? They were disagreeable, argumentative, or just plain unhelpful?In today’s busy world many workers wear more than one hat throughout the day. They answer phones while entering spreadsheet data, repairing equipment, or practicing their new show or dance steps. Does this sound familiar?
Still we can never forget that each and every phone call or drop-in visit could be from a prospective customer. How they perceive us and our professionalism in the first 30 seconds of our conversation often determines whether they would buy services from us in the future. Before we explain our services or quote a price we must create an open and receptive atmosphere for the customer. Only then can they really hear what we propose. An unfriendly face or voice, an abrupt manner, a perceived unwillingness to help them with their questions or concerns could sour a relationship for years to come.
So how do we avoid this customer service pitfall, and make a great first impression?
It’s really a matter of always putting the customer first. If customer service is our top priority as individuals, and as a corporate culture, we will nurture ways to improve customer interaction. In every organization it starts from the top, whether you are a one-person operation, or a multi-op service. The person in charge can and should set the tone for everyone else, employees, subcontractors, fellow vendors.
We start the process by creating a mission statement that reflects our service and our customer relations. This statement must be written and it must be specific, so that everyone understands the commitment and responsibilities it entails. A mission statement can be brief, one or two sentences, or it can be one or two paragraphs. An example might be: “Great Sound Entertainment will provide mobile DJ services to customers in the Milwaukee, WI area. At Great Sound we will strive to provide great music and entertainment, while working to amaze customers with prompt, courteous, enthusiastic service.”
A mission statement becomes a good foundation for more detailed company guidelines or action plans. It sends a message which says “I, the owner, care about music and business while understanding and embracing the needs of the customer, and I want it to show in all that we do.” This step is particularly important, the emphasis on action, because many companies say that they care about their customers and customer service, but they don’t seem to show it! Owners, managers, and their employees go about their work creating dissatisfied customers, and then wonder why revenues are down and sales are stagnant.
Creating your mission statement is a critical step in crystallizing your company vision with regard to customer satisfaction, a necessity for long-term success.
How do we take our mission statement and develop it into a detailed plan? Part of the statement deals with the service or product, and part of it deals with the customer. Here we will focus on the customer portion.
Because we have been specific in our statement, we can quite easily list some detailed guidelines of operation by simply making an outline.
Courteous and Respectful Attitude
We then determine how to fulfill these commitments. We determine what are the steps, or specific actions or behaviors, that we need to initiate in our workplace.
How will we Amaze Customers? Faster service? Longer hours of operation? Better performance?
How do we define Prompt Service? Answer the phone within two rings? Greet walk-ins immediately? Return phone calls within 12 hours? Answer emails within 24 hours?
What type of behavior reflects Courteous and Respectful Attitude? Prompt greeting? Friendly but not too familiar? Smiling professionalism? Using proper titles like Mr., Dr., Ms.?
How is Enthusiastic Response shown? A smile on your face and in your voice? Helpfulness? Willingness to make extra effort for the customer?
When you write your mission statement and then detail your work policies you begin to discover or renew all the ways you can serve your customer better, creating the positive reflection you need to go forward and earn more and more referral business, and increased profits. People you have had no direct contact with will seek you out, because someone told them you or your company displayed the type of customer service we all appreciate.
So, using our mission statement as a “guide”, we’re back to that first phone call, that first interview, or walk-in customer. If we have created the “customer first” attitude we need, we know that we should immediately stop what we’re doing, take a deep breath, put a smile on our face (it’s heard in our voice on the telephone, too!), and greet the customer. Make eye contact! Introduce yourself. Think about what the customer is asking, the discomfort or awkwardness they might be feeling, and be cheerful, helpful, and courteous. Offer assistance, go beyond the call of duty. Be proactive in addressing customer questions or concerns. The customer will feel they are the most important person in the room (or on the phone), if you feel they are. It shows!
People always remember sales and service providers who made them feel embarrassed, insignificant, unimportant, or angry. And they seem to tell everyone they know.
They also remember great, amazing customer service, and will tell everyone they know about the great experience they had, because, despite all we hear about customer service in business today, outstanding, amazing customer service is still a rare commodity!
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