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Sarah Haston: Keys to improve your team’s customer service skills, part 2

Sarah Haston • Oct 2, 2017 at 10:23 PM

A bad customer experience at any point in the customer lifecycle can ruin your relationship. In addition to making sure the right skills are demonstrated, you need to be sure they’re being demonstrated consistently. 

Pay the most attention to key touchpoints, but make sure you have a full view of the customer experience, or you risk lapses in service that can really hurt business. If your staff has the necessary skill set, that’s a good start. But they still need to relate to your customers. 

Here are some tips for making sure customer service is both thorough and well received:

• Ask reps to try to identify a common ground–like shared interests–with the people they help. Having this point of understanding makes conflict easier to overcome by humanizing the relationship, and it endears customers to your rep and ultimately your company.

• Practice active listening so your customers feel heard. Clarify and rephrase what the customers say to ensure you understand them. Empathize with and reflect their feelings by saying things like, “That must have upset you” or “I can see why you feel slighted.”

• Admit your mistakes, even if you discover them before your customers do. This builds trust and restores confidence. It also allows you to control the situation, re-focus the customer’s attention and resolve the issue.

• Follow up after a problem is solved. Make sure the issue stays fixed and that your customers were satisfied with the service. Sending an email, or even a feedback survey is an excellent way to let the customer know you’re still on their side.

Enhance your customer service strategy

Your staff may have the skills and know-how to interact with your customers. But what organizational strategies can you employ to please customers? Practice proactive customer service by making your customers happy before they come to you with problems. Here’s how:

• Get personal. Your customers want to feel like they have access to real people, not bots and FAQs. Offer more than just automated email responses, and do not let your telephone prompts or website send them down a rabbit hole. Take full advantage of social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Yelp, and write responses when your customers post on your page. Post photos and bios on your website. This shows your customers that you are real people working on their behalf.

• Be available. Part of the personal touch is making sure your customers can reach you. For example if your business is primarily online, meet in person occasionally with local customers and offer video calls such as Skype for those farther away. Work early and late when needed, especially if your customers are in different time zones. Even providing customers with your physical address helps build their trust and reminds them that your company exists off the internet as well.

• Cater to your customers. Make sure you are fully meeting your customers’ needs. Consider assigning reps to specific customers so they can build a relationship. Offer VIP treatment for your best customers to let them know they are appreciated. What special services might your customers like? Set up focus groups, interview customers, or run a survey to get ideas.

Give your customers a way to provide feedback

Whether it’s a phone survey at the end of a service call, an email survey sent directly from your CRM tool, or a form on the “Contact Us” page of your website, creating a means for customers to give feedback makes it easier for you to learn what needs improvement. It also helps keep unhappy customers from voicing their displeasure on highly visible places like your social media pages.

Not only will you discover touchpoints and skills that need improvement, but your customers will see that are dedicated to providing top-notch, proactive customer service.

Sarah Haston is Lebanon’s economic development director.

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