Often considered a lost art, good customer service can define a firm. Even if prices are lower elsewhere, customers will reward those businesses that seem to care. It’s often the simplest gestures that win the day, too.
A recent incident reminded me of what it means to provide excellent customer service. Customer service starts when the person walks in the door. This incident involved a trip to an auto service station. Most people–especially the elderly–cringe at the thought of taking the car in. In this case, the individuals were treated well. I noted several key examples of good customer service. Study and practice these as needed.
1. Listen carefully. We Americans have a knack for opening our mouths before the other person has closed his. Don’t interrupt, even if you think you know what’s coming. Wait for the person to complete the statement or question. That is basic courtesy. But there’s more.
By waiting, you ensure that you fully understand the person’s need. That way you can provide the best response.
2. Provide undivided attention. Complete your initial conversation or transaction before moving onto the next person. That second person will understand.
Look the person in the eye. A wayward eye suggests you don’t really care; that you’d rather be doing something else. Concentrate on that one person for the entire conversation. Regardless of how you feel about the situation (or anything else going on in your life), try to project a friendly disposition. That will help soften any ill will on the part of the customer.
3. Speak clearly and provide a thorough explanation. Some problems require an intricate process to solve. The steps and parts involved may be foreign to the customer. (This is often true when something needs repair.) Explain the entire process in terms the customer will understand. Be patient as the customer absorbs the information and asks questions.
4. Provide encouraging words. This couple lucked out: Their car didn’t need any repairs. (It had been taken in for an inspection and tire rotation.) They, of course, feared they’d be facing a major repair. What they heard was good news. They also learned of some work that should be done in the near future. That’s OK. The car will need some important maintenance soon. That process, costing about $90, will save the owners potentially thousands of dollars in repairs later.
Even in difficult (meaning costly) situations, find a silver lining. There must be something about the customer’s situation that is positive. Emphasize that, and offer sincere words of empathy.
“Treat others as you would want to be treated” is a principle we can all live by. Keep that in mind as you go about your day trying to provide excellent customer service.
For related reading, see “5 steps to handling customer complaints” and “Don’t let a communications breakdown cost you customers.”
Do you know some examples of good customer service? Feel free to discuss them below.
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