Every day we use various services, patronize different businesses, and interact with customer service personnel. We all – as business owners, employees, individuals, and customer service reps- have experienced good and bad service at some point in time. Therefore, the best estimation of customer service quality and value is our own individual preferences and experience.
Whether it is that business you always buy from because you have great rapport with the staff, the business you visit because they have parking or the restaurant you go to because the service is fast or the food is great; good service affects purchase decision and customer retention.
The customer service quality offered by a business is directly related to the ability of the business to satisfy and retain its customers. A Harvard business review study conducted in 2014 by Peter Kriss found that customers that have a good service experience are likely to spend 140% more than dissatisfied customers. The study also found that satisfied customers would stay with an organization longer than dissatisfied customers.
Offering Good Service to Customers
Organizations often think of customer service as just the engagement of customer service representatives with clients or the processing of customer orders and service delivery but overlook the other components of service and completely miss the opportunity to provide truly exceptional service.
A good customer service strategy should understand how your business operates and how your customers use your product/service and aim to offer convenience to customers at every point of the business flow. For instance, if you run a business that customers need to physically visit, the convenience and ease of getting to your store will contribute to the customer’s overall perception of your business. A customer that has driven round the block 3 times in search of parking and walked 10 minutes from the only available parking space to get to your store, is not going to arrive in the best spirit. This discomfort will indirectly affect the customer's overall rating of their service experience. The hassle of finding parking will be simply become the stress inherent in visiting your establishment and may put potential clients off from visiting your store again.
Here are the key considerations to cover when thinking of the customer service provided by your business and tips for improving overall service experience:
Reaching Your Business
How do potential and existing customers contact you? Do you have numbers that customers can call for inquiries? Do you have social media platforms? Are these channels responsive? How convenient is getting to your store/business? Are you along a major highway or busy street?
The process for contacting your organization and receiving information must be efficient and stress free for customers. Ensure phone calls are picked quickly and emails receive prompt response. These initial contacts are first impression and greatly affect customer perception of an organization's customer service.
Businesses located along busy routes or at areas with poor parking should look to secure dedicated parking spots for customers, prompt customers to the difficulty of finding parking in the area or offer delivery services.
Ambiance & Reception
How welcoming is your store/business? Do you have a nice waiting area? Is the area humid or hot? Does your office smell nice? Is your environment friendly and relaxed? Are your customer service personnel responsive and attentive to clients? Are your employees proactive? Are your employees problem solvers?
I have ducked into businesses just because I know they have great air conditioning on hot days to cool down and made purchases to justify my presence. So pay attention to the comfort of your business environment as it motivates customers to visit, stay longer or leave quickly.
Order Taking and Payment
What is your order taking procedure? Can customers place orders online? Pay cash or pay by electronic transfer? Do you issue invoices and receipts? How efficient is your invoicing system?
Easy and efficient order taking and payment systems is the difference between a customer making an order now and that customer making the same order 2 months later when their busy schedule allows them visit your store. Customer service representatives should be armed with ready solutions to order taking and payment challenges to avoid losing business and displeasing customers.
Getting Your Product/Service
Do you deliver or do clients pickup? If you are a service provider do you offer offsite services or onsite along?
How your product can be obtained or your service used is a critical measure of service quality and impacts the overall service experience. A clear understanding of your business processes and how your customers use your products or services will help you determine the most effective system for getting your products to your customers. For example, if your target customers are young professionals that work for corporate organizations and work long hours, delivery service or opening on weekends will ensure your service is convenient and satisfying to your customers.
How To Maintain Good Service
If you have factored the location of your business, the uses of your products and services to your clients and the convenience of obtaining your product or service into the design of your business process and customer service strategy, then how can you ensure you offer customer service that satisfies and retains customers consistently? Here are some tips from Terry Irwin to help you deliver excellent customer service:
- Solve the source of dissatisfaction: When customers complain about something, don’t just resolve the surface issue. Look for the root cause of the problem and make the necessary adjustments. Frequent delivery mix ups are more likely to be due to an inefficient order taking system than incompetent service personnel. Look at the bigger picture when an issue occurs frequently in order to find lasting solutions.
- Solve problems don’t evade: No one likes to hear bad news, especially businesses. Don’t brush service failures or problems under the rug, though – find solutions. Pointing fingers and passing blame around is bound to happen when service failures occur, especially when delivering with 3rd party organizations. It is not enough to tell customers their parcel hasn't been delivered because the delivery company has it! Call the delivery company, find out the issues, and resolve them for the client – that's good customer service!
- Never be too busy to help: Reduce or completely eliminate the instances where customers are put on hold or passed from one employee to the other. Ensure that if a customer calls they are speaking to the best person to handle their request by designating numbers and personnel to specific causes e.g. have a dedicated complaints line separate from your order placement line.
- Let customers teach you about your business: Listen, listen, listen–You may learn a thing or two! From your customer feedback and how customers use your products or services, you will gain great insight on how best to position your business.
The quality of customer service offered by a business directly affects the success of the business and its ability to satisfy and retain customers. Customer-focused businesses must go beyond viewing customer service as merely polite service personnel and operations and adopt the holistic approach of assessing service quality based on the convenience of their overall business engagement process for customers.