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What is Customer Service?

We’ve all been there, on the phone with a company, in line at a store, DREADING the interaction that is about to happen. We engage with a person who seems to hate their job, we now hate that company, and we hang up the phone or leave the store with this thought in our head, ‘What is customer service and WHY can’t people figure it out?’

Customer service is a process – a series of actions intended to generate positive feelings about a product, service, or company. The customer service process – and its importance – varies by industry. However, some elements of the process remain the same – regardless of the type of business. And, customer service is normally an integral part of a company’s customer value proposition. It plays an important role in a company’s ability to generate revenue.

Here are six tips on how to provide customer service:

  1. Begin every customer interaction with a smile and friendly welcome, whether in person or on the phone. Use the customer’s name to make him/her feel important. Even if you’re having a bad day, there’s no excuse for taking it out on the customer. Like it or not, first impressions are important – and they have a big impact on whether customers come back for repeat business.
  2. Actively listen to the customer. If you’re meeting in person, make eye contact. It’s difficult to hear someone if they’re not looking at you when they speak. If you’re on the telephone, turn away from your computer screen. Give the customer your full attention, rather than fumbling through notes on your desk or catching up on your emails while you talk. Let the customer know you’re listening by using encouragers such as, “I see, uh huh, yes, or I understand.” Open all the communication channels so the customer can contact you in many ways (face-to-face, mail, phone, fax, and email).
  3. Identify the customer’s needs. What, exactly, is the customer requesting? A change in delivery date or location? Additional information about product specifications? Help in solving a problem? Take notes to help you remember customer requests – never rely on your memory.
  4. Tell the customer what you can and will do. Know your products and services. Be an information expert. Always be honest and tell customers the truth. By being honest, you are more likely to get a positive response to any situation. And, today’s technology makes it easy for customers to interact with others and get to the bottom line quickly. If you need to gather additional information to provide a response, tell the customer when and how you will get an answer. Instead of saying, “I don’t know,” or “I ..,” answer, “Let me find out for you.”
  5. Follow up. Be accountable. Do what you said you would do. When you say you are going to do something, customers expect you to do it. Keeping your word allows customers to trust you, and trust is the basis of any successful business relationship. If you cannot meet a commitment, communicate with the customer. Explain the situation and offer an alternative. Even when things go well, it’s important to make regular customer contact. People find comfort in regular, repetitive rituals such as weekly phone calls or progress reports. Customers expect a consistent quality of customer service from a company. When they don’t get it, customer satisfaction declines.
  6. Always remember to say “please” and “thank you for the business.” Good manners can go a long way toward making your customers feel respected and valued.
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