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Getting Back To The Basics of Customer Service

Female Sales Assistant Serving White British Family In Delicatessen Customer service can make or break a business. Just as stellar service can keep customers coming back, bad customer service can send clients running for the hills. Unfortunately people have become all too accustomed to outsourced customer service reps from other countries, with whom they can barely carry on a conversation. Or worse yet, they get caught in a never-ending vicious electronic loop of elevator music and automation, with no hope of reaching a human.


This is not just to paint a sad story of unfortunate customer service tales.  Quite the contrary. According to the 2016 State of Small Business Report, 43 percent of small businesses hope to grow revenue this year through improved customer experience and retention. Improving customer service skills is all about getting back to the basics. [Tweet "Improving customer service skills is all about getting back to the basics."]
  • Get personal– With more and more business happening online, your company can quickly become faceless. It only takes a small gestures to combat that. Rather than only corresponding via email, make a point to call customers or send a personal note. Also, as a small business, you may be running things from your home rather than office space. So be up front about who you are as a company. A little information goes a long way and builds customers’ trust.
  • Always be there– Nobody wants to deal with a business that is never there for them. When people practically become BFFs with your voicemail, you won’t count them as customers for long. I’m sure you can think of more than once when you changed companies based on their availability. When it comes to improving customer service, it’s essential that you not only be there for even the smallest requests, but also go above and beyond.
Take this example from United Airlines. New York Times best-selling author Steven Levitt recounted his experience with the airline that made him a customer for life. When Levitt was running late for a flight, a United rep personally called him to tell him his flight was delayed by a few hours. Another time, during a similar situation, the airline also called to let Levitt know the flight was delayed and went one step further, ready to book him on an earlier flight.


Whether it’s something as simple as always having someone available to answer calls or flying across the country to meet face-to-face with a customer, going above and beyond the call of duty keeps your customer relationships strong and growing.
  • Learn to adapt.  As you well know from being in business, customers’ needs vary and can even change on a weekly basis. This is something you can’t control. What you can do is always be ready for surprises and adapt to your customers’ moods. You can also look at those situations as learning opportunities for your customer service to grow.
Starbucks exemplified adaptability in an incident with a disgruntled customer named Jason.  There was a mix-up with a New Jersey barista, and Jason was called into the Starbucks corporate offices to address the event. Instead of simply giving Jason a refund, the customer service rep told him that they needed to "make him whole, and give him an experience nothing short of fantastic." They did that by immediately filling his rewards card with $50 of store credit.
  • Clear communication. Make sure your customers know exactly what you mean. For example, don’t make it sound like the customer is getting 50 percent off when he’s actually getting 50 percent more product. It’s also important to use positive wording and to keep calm and cheerful during customer service interactions. Don’t end a conversation without confirmation that the customer is satisfied.
  • Reward customers, both new and old Rewards programs and special discounts are important, especially when you can provide services or sales that your competitors can’t. There are so many “bait and switch” promotions or special offers that are only for new customers. Are there also specials you can offer existing customers only? Perhaps something that could be considered a luxury that they might even pay for?
Casual man shopping at an electronics store and talking to salesman One example can be found at the Airport Fast Park at the Baltimore Washington International Airport. They don’t offer just any "park-n-ride" service. “When you enter their lot, an attendant greets you and shows you the best row to park your car so you don't have to search for an open space,” Glen Stansberry explained in an article on Open Forum. “The shuttle meets you at your parked car so there's no waiting at a shelter. Then the bus driver helps you with your luggage, and if it's raining meets you with an umbrella.” The friendly driver actually talks to you, will take you directly back to your car on the way back, as well as give you a free bottle of water.
  • Focus on Knowledge– While it’s of utmost importance to build solid relationships with your customers, but it’s also important to be a resource for your customers about your products and market trends. Not to sound cliché, but knowledge really is power. So make sure your customer service and other marketing representatives are educated in current market trends as well as the ins and outs of your products and services available.
For example, an article in The Consumerist told of one woman whose puppy had eaten seven Claritin tablets. She was afraid her pooch was in danger and called the ASPCA poison hotline. The operator informed her that the call would cost $65 to speak to a professional. In taking time to speak with a person at Schering Plough, the operator learned that the drug company covers the cost of any calls about any of its products.  That knowledge sharing ensured the dog was taken care of and brought it back to health. It’s also essential to learn from your customers. After all, they work in the “trenches” every day and might know more than you do. When you take time to talk with customers about their own pain points or preferences, it can lead to a more enriched relationship. You might just learn something new, and your customers feel valued that their opinions count. The implementation of an inventory management system empowers your customer service department to grow, as well. When your staff has access to real-time, accurate inventory data, it’s one less thing they have to worry about and gives them the opportunity to take those extra steps to win and retain customers. How many lifelong customers can you attribute to previous outstanding customer service?