Attributes for great customer service
To be truly effective in providing great service for customers a business needs to begin with its people. A great product or service that is well promoted will come to nothing if the customer experience is poor. Once you have decided on your customer service philosophy the next step is to make sure that people in the business are able to live up to it.
There are a number of personal attributes necessary for the delivery of a quality customer experience, some of the more important include:
- Communication skills
- Product knowledge
- Responsiveness & flexibility
- Organisation & time management
- Emotional maturity
- Positive outlook
Clear communication is a must. Customers need to know what they are getting and you should always endeavour to be crystal clear about what is and is not included in the price and when it will be delivered.
They also want to hear just what matters to them, so make sure you get to the point and deal with the important things before you talk about the weather.
Look for any body language signals that will help you better understand how your customer may be feeling.
Take care to listen properly to what customers say. Focus only on them whilst they are talking and don’t think too much about what you are going to say when it’s your turn or you might miss some vital information.
Take care to manage customer expectations – this is a major key to successful interactions. If it will take you 20 minutes to find a customer a table, or if you are unsure exactly, don’t tell them 10.
This may seem like such a basic requirement but many businesses have staff who are selling or delivering products and services but who can’t answer the most basic customer questions. Your product is the means by which you solve the customer’s problem; for them to have confidence in your product or service, they need to feel that your staff know what they are talking about.
It can be easy to underestimate the requirement to train staff on products; whilst there is much to be said for “on the job” training, remember that this can come at the customer’s expense, so make sure there is at least a foundation of knowledge before going “live”.
Responsiveness & flexibility
If you are in a customer facing role (and if you are a small business owner you certainly are), the customer’s needs must take priority. This means responding to queries or complaints promptly and with care and attention. Returning calls and emails or text messages within a reasonable time and being willing to relegate other tasks, such as administration, non-urgent correspondence etc. are baseline requirements.
Being flexible means being able to respond in the moment to situations and to think on one’s feet. It can also mean that you need to be willing to reorder your priorities to ensure you deliver for your customers. To do this a business and its people need to know what the priorities are, which brings us to:
Organisation and time management
In a customer-centric organisation, anything that is directly related to a customer must take priority over indirect and unrelated items. When each person in the business knows their priorities it is easier to manage this. This often means saying no to people who are trying to take your time away from serving customers
Anyone can have a bad day. Sometimes things in our lives are not working out too well yet we have to run our businesses or go to work.
The bottom line is that the customer doesn’t care about what is happening in your life; they care about what they want and how you can help them get it. This may seem harsh but it is a reality – of course when you help them to get what they want and have a great customer experience they will be much more likely to take more interest in how you feel.
It follows that however you might feel on a given day should have no bearing on the quality of the customer experience that your business delivers. This means that having a degree of emotional intelligence – being able to transcend your own thoughts and immediate needs – is a fundamental requirement.
It follows that when there is a difficult interaction such as an angry or displeased customer, that the person dealing with the customer is able to handle it calmly and without taking things personally or needing to prove they are right. In short, they must be able to focus on getting an effective outcome above everything else.
Having a positive outlook will help build better customer relationships. This means basic things such as smiling and having a pleasing disposition – a person others want to deal with – as well as always looking for solutions rather than problems.
Being positive means using positive language:
“We can have that item sent to you by Tuesday.” or “I’ll give you a call as soon as the item comes in.”
“We don’t have any more in stock, sorry.”
Customers will always respond more favourably to a positive than a negative.
In summary, great customer service is about delivering a great experience which in turn is about making the customer feel good about themselves and their purchase.
Always ask whenever you meet with, speak to or email a customer whether the interaction will achieve this or detract from it.