Customer service is critical to all businesses, but more importantly to small businesses, especially here in Nigeria where courtesy and good manners are imbibed as a culture. Good customer service can be the difference between being able to compete with other businesses in the Nigerian market and survive, and failing. So I'm continually amazed at how many small business owners take a "wing and a prayer" (In poor condition, but just managing to get the job done) approach to good customer service in their business; they hire what they think are good people and just assume that they'll do the right things – often without even bothering to do any customer service training.
Good customer service is the lifeblood of any business. You can offer promotions and slash prices to bring in as many new customers as you want, but unless you can get some of those customers to come back, your business won't be profitable for long. And always remember that once a customer has lost faith in your service, it is very difficult to restore.
Good customer service is all about bringing customers back. And about sending them on their way happy - happy enough to pass positive feedback about your business along to others, who may then try the product or service you offer for themselves and in their turn become repeat customers. If you're a good salesperson, you can sell anything to anyone once. But it will be your approach to customer service that determines whether or not you’ll ever be able to sell that person anything else.
The essence of good customer service is forming a relationship with customers – a relationship that that individual customer feels that he would like to pursue. How do you go about forming such a relationship? By remembering the one true secret of good customer service and acting accordingly; "You will be judged by what you do, not what you say."
This customer service guide is designed to take a more systematic approach to good customer service. It will teach you what good customer service is and give you tools to assess and improve customer service in your small business. If you truly want to have good customer service, all you have to do is ensure that your business consistently does these things:
• Be friendly and polite in your dealings with customers. Ensure they feel valued by your business and that their complaints or views are genuinely taken into consideration. In a telephone call, give customers a chance to air their grievances rather than talking over them. Courtesy costs nothing and will go a long way to building up a sound and long-term relationship with customers.
• Realize that your employees will treat your customer the way you treat them. It may interest you to know that we are all receptive beings and only give back what we receive. Employees take their cue from management. Do you greet your employees enthusiastically each day; are you polite in your dealings with them; do you try to accommodate their requests; do you listen to them when they speak? Consistent rude customer service is a reflection not as much on the employee as on management.
• Know everything there is to know. Dealing with customer enquiries requires knowledge of the business, the products and services, the prices, the terms and conditions, the guarantee terms, promotions and so on. It is imperative that those actually answering the enquiries from customers know about every aspect of the company and the product/service range otherwise they will look unprofessional and ill-informed.
• Make your products and services better. Use your customer service to help you to refine and improve your service or product. When customers regularly call to ask questions about the way a certain product should be assembled, for example, you should take this as a signal that the instructions are not adequately detailed or clear for all of your customers. This gives you the opportunity to provide better instructions next time, improving the customer experience as you go along and reducing the number of calls you receive on that particular aspect of the service.
• Be honest. A very golden rule is not to make promises to customers unless you know you can deliver those promises. Often customers come through to customer service whenever they have already encountered problems with your product or service. To promise to remedy the situation and then fail to do so will leave customers angry and dissatisfied. If you can't solve the problem immediately, say so. Customers will tend to be more forgiving if you level with them.
• Never Lose Your Cool. There's no point in getting into a heated argument with your customers where it can be avoided. Never lose your temper and always concentrate getting quick solution rather than focus on the root of the problem. Sometimes you may need to back down in a negotiation to retain the loyalty of your customers even when you know they are in the wrong.
• Don't confuse your customers. Don't use jargon or long words to throw your customers off balance. You will know more about the product than they do and you should seek to simplify and explain what's happening in plain, clear language. If the customer feels he is being patronised or talked down to he will feel silly and will not likely buy from you in the future.
• Understand the specifics of a complaint. Try to structure calls from customers as best you can. Customers will often call with a grievance and they should be allowed to air it in the first instance. Once this is done, an experienced customer service representative with take the opportunity to seize control of the direction of the conversation. You should break the problem down into specific points and summarise these back to the caller to clarify the exact nature of the complaint and to show that you are aware of what the problems are.
• Go through the points one by one and offer resolutions there and then. Be clear about the actions: what the caller needs to do and what you have promised to do. Make sure the caller can get back to you if necessary or, if they get through to someone else, that that individual will be aware of the nature of the original call.
• Never discuss customers in front of other customers. It gives a low opinion about you and leaves them wondering what you’re saying about them once they leave.
• Smile when greeting a customer in person and on the phone (and yes, they can tell if you are smiling over the telephone!). A company with great customer service is Guaranty Trust Bank. Many of their branches have very good and level-headed staffs that are always on their toes to help each customer that walks in. I know this because I’ve experienced their remarkable customer service severally.
• Greet your customers when they walk in through the door, phone or e-mail you. Be sure to start every conversation by greeting either on the phone, physically or when you send them messages. Here at Poisemedia, we make it a point of duty to let our clients and prospects know that their well-being is as important as their patronage to us.
• Want to know what your customers think of your company? Ask them! Keep a suggestion box or print a questionnaire to enable you know how well you are serving your customers and where you should improve on.
I hope these tips will benefit your business constructively, as it is my wish to get positive testimonies of this from you. However, if you need more advice giving your customers the best business experiences here in Nigeria, please don’t hesitate to mail me. And if you have tried all these and you still need more help in getting customers, please contact me to plan your advertising campaign. My contact is on the lower side of this website. Good luck in treating your customers as the royalty that they are!
Business Development Manager
PoiseMedia Communications Ltd