5 Ways to Improve Your Employees’ Customer Service Skills

customer service skills

You can have the best product or service imaginable, but the value and integrity of your business is nearly always determined by the quality of service you and your employees provide to customers. And while it seems unfair, you may never hear about the negative experiences your customers have, since many of them will simply switch allegiances to a competitor whom they believe (rightly or wrongly) can serve them better.

Protecting against such a possibility is a compelling reason to continuously improve your employees’ customer service skills. Also, by leaving the present state of customer service “just as it is” for too long often means mistakes go unnoticed, bad habits become ingrained, and before you know it, the “customer service differentiator” you’ve always relied on is no longer working in your favor.

Here are five tips on enhancing the quality of service your employees provide and thus keeping your customers happy:

customer service, improve your employees' customer service1. Make sure dedicated channels are always working. Every system you have in place for communicating with customers should be operating at peak efficiency at all times. This includes email, phone and the “Contact Us” function on your website. Conduct periodic tests of all available touchpoints so you’re confident customers can reach you when they want to.

2. Beef up your customer representatives’ “people skills.” Certain interactive personality traits are crucial for treating customers with the respect and dignity they deserve. It’s well worth the time and expense involved to ensure your customer reps exhibit these traits in all of their customer interactions. Here are essential traits recommended by the survey solutions firm SurveyMonkey:

  • Empathy and patience. Reps must be able to respond in a level manner to customers who are irritable, slow to formulate their concerns, persistent with repeated questions, etc.
  • Adaptability. The ability to react appropriately to whatever surprises customers throw at you is another quintessential customer service skill.
  • Communicating clearly. Ambiguous or misleading answers to customer questions only make a difficult situation worse. A customer rep needs to provide information in a clear and coherent manner.
  • Comprehensive product knowledge. A rep must be “informed enough to respond to most inquiries and know where to turn if the questions become too detailed or technical for you to answer.”
  • Handle angry or insulting customers. A good customer service rep can’t afford to feel personally insulted by an angry caller. The goal is always to rectify a situation and leave the customer satisfied with the outcome.

3. Be adept at using social media to serve your customers. The quality of a company’s customer service efforts is always being judged (and commented upon) on social media. That’s why it’s imperative to have at least one service rep dedicated to monitoring your company’s presence on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp and other relevant platforms. Their skills should include being able to engage respectfully with users who leave comments, so it’s clear your business values active interaction with its customer base.

4. Find ways to honor your best and most loyal customers. SurveyMonkey also suggests seeking out opportunities to provide “VIP treatment for your best customers to let them know they are appreciated.” No one ever wants to be taken for granted, and your loyal customers should be periodically rewarded in some way for sticking with your business.

Be open to feedback at all times. Perhaps the best way to fine-tune your employees’ customer service skills is by collecting all the feedback and data you can. Among the options for gathering such information:

  • Phone surveys
  • Email survey
  • A comments section on your “Contact Us” page

Consider offering an incentive to participate in your customer service survey, thereby increasing the likelihood of a qualitative response.

Just as you place a high value on continuous research and development, it’s important to always look for ways to enhance the service you provide your customers. Often, it’s the deciding factor in whether or not they choose to do business with you.

Think a peer advisory board could help your company–with customer service and many other topics? Find a TAB Board today!

 

6 Tips for Winning Back Lost Customers

Customer service, winning back lost customers

Sooner or later every business loses a valued customer. Needs change, problems occur, personalities differ. But nowhere is it written that a lost customer must stay lost. In fact, the mark of a successful business is its ability to determine why customers stray and to take action that, over time, effectively brings at least some of them back into the fold.

Here are six tips to keep in mind when you decide to focus your energies on regaining customers lost to your business in the past:

1. Reach out to former customers. Some businesses just write off lost customers, as though they’ve disappeared or gone into hiding. On the contrary, those customers are still out there. It’s up to you to reach out and re-establish a connection. If possible, approach them via a more personalized route than email. A phone call or even a written letter may prove to be the “pleasant surprise” needed to get these customers to respond to your inquiries.

2. Determine the reason for defection. Customers don’t stop purchasing a company’s products or services for no reason. While their departure may have nothing to do with the quality of your offering, nonetheless, it’s entirely possible that they left because of some related element of dissatisfaction. Your business can only improve if you clearly understand why this happened.

Business author Geoffrey James recommends asking two key questions of former clients: (1) Why have you decided to leave our business? (2) What can we do to bring you back as a happy customer?

It’s a “no-lose proposition,” James contends. Ideally, “customers will be so impressed with your curiosity and concern they’ll reconsider their decision to leave.” At the very least, “you’ll learn what’s driving customers away so that you can make corrections.”

3. Apologize sincerely and take responsibility. If the cause for defection relates to the quality of your product or shortcomings in customer service, it’s time to issue a sincere apology. But don’t stop there.

“Saying ‘I’m sorry you’re unhappy’ isn’t enough,” writes business owner Vladimir Gendelman. Even if your company isn’t technically at fault, “make it clear that you can understand why they would be upset, and that you’ve taken steps to make their next purchase more satisfactory.”

4. Reassess your business operations. It’s not easy taking criticism, justified or not, but learning what drove a customer away means looking objectively at the way your company conducts business. Sometimes you can achieve this goal on your own, but for many CEOs and business owners, getting clear-headed advice and guidance from outside sources can make all the difference in the world. (Joining TAB and attending Business Owner Advisory Board Meetings guarantees you’ll receive honest, insightful feedback on your customer service and all other business operations.)

5. Begin the process of re-establishing relationships. Lost customers aren’t “found” overnight. It may take awhile to win back the trust of a customer who feels they’ve been short-changed in the past.

One viable strategy is to ask permission to resume contact and regularly share key industry information with a former customer. Learn more about their particular needs and challenges, and begin sending on articles, white papers, blog posts, etc. that can help provide solutions to those challenges. In this way, your business takes on a new identity as a “trusted partner” in helping customers grow.

6. Land a one-off project and prove your worth (again). A former customer may be understandably reluctant about hiring you on a full-time business resource. Instead, bid competitively on a single project—or offer to provide a different product or service altogether—and do everything in your power to “wow” the former customer. If things go well, you can move forward incrementally and demonstrate with certainty that you’re fully committed to satisfying the newly-found customer in every way possible.

Acquiring new customers if far more costly than retaining the ones you have. The ROI of reclaiming a lost customer, therefore, is well worth the time and effort involved.

Think your business could benefit from a TAB Board? Apply for membership today!