Customer service is not a department, it’s everyone’s job. With so many businesses to choose from and so little to differentiate them, good customer service skills can help you win new business over competitors. In fact, the White House Office of Consumer Affairs reported that 70% of people buy based on how they’re being treated, rather than the alleged value of the product.
So what can good customer service skills do for your business? It can create a good customer experience. Since 89% of consumers are willing to switch vendors because of a poor customer experience, it’s imperative your customer service is up to scratch.
Stats like these emphasize the significance of delivering a wonderful experience to your customers. To keep you customers happy, avoid making these six mistakes when it comes to your customer service skills.
1. Undertrained staff
How many times have you chased down a customer service representative for help, only to receive a vacant stare and a garbled ‘don’t know’ for your trouble? The answer is too many. Some businesses don’t train their staff properly because they think customers won’t notice the difference. However, 67% of consumers notice when a staff member lacks product knowledge, and according to Blue Wolf, engaged, knowledgeable employees deliver a better customer experience and close 33% more deals than their untrained counterparts.
The problem begins when untrained staff members can’t excel at their jobs. A lack of support combined with constant underperformance is demotivating, and unmotivated staff members provide poor service and taint your business’s reputation.
Don’t make the mistake of being ‘too busy’ to properly train your employees. Give them extensive knowledge about products and processes. Communicate early and often, while correcting any deficiencies along the way. Explain the reasons behind your policies, so they’ll do more than shrug and parrot policy to unhappy customers.
Where possible, rather than throwing staff into the wilderness with half-baked knowledge of your products and services, equip them with the customer service skills required to deliver an outstanding customer experience.
2. Playing the blame game
Customer service expert, Micah Solomon once said, ‘arguing with a customer is obviously ridiculous. You win the argument, you lose. You lose the argument, you lose.’ And he is absolutely right. If you choose to play the blame game with a customer, you better be prepared to lose them.
Don’t sacrifice a customer relationship for the sake of your bruised ego. Employees with good customer service skills speak calmly and reasonably to resolve the issue, and work towards a positive outcome. You may have to resign yourself to being some manchild’s verbal punching bag for a couple of minutes, but remember the customer wants a reaction out of you, which justifies their rudeness. Disabuse them by being the bigger person, and once the customer is done lashing out, they’ll be more amenable to a solution.
When you stop focussing on whose fault it is, things resolve naturally. So long as you remember your good customer service skills by taking responsibility, apologizing and fixing the situation as soon as possible, you’ll be able to walk away knowing even though the customer ‘won’ the argument, you won them over.
3. Breaking promises
Anyone who’s owned a business knows broken promises due to service failures are unavoidable. Breaking promises is the fastest way to churning customers and decreasing customer satisfaction. Customers don’t expect you to be perfect, but they do expect you to make up for your mistakes. A study by Accenture found 55% of consumers would give a business two chances before leaving. So when the inevitable occurs, make sure you handle the aftermath.
Broken promises require very delicate handling. It’s critical to be completely honest about what happened, and to offer a realistic, deliverable solution. You should be transparent about the process of resolution and provide an expected time frame. Once the problem is solved, follow up to see how that customer is doing to reinforce your continued relationship.
When you’re making up for stuffing up, keep your customer in the loop. Be there at a moment’s notice, and you won’t lose customers to your equally fallible competitor.
4. Call ushering
Everyone dreads calling customer service, because you often find yourself being transferred back and forth across multiple departments, until finally, someone hangs up the line. A study by Global Customer Service Barometer found 26% of consumers have experienced just this. In an age where 55% of customers abandon business transactions based on poor service experiences, it’s essential to make this channel an efficient method of communication.
Limit the amount of ushering to ensure customers don’t get frustrated and turn to your competitor for customer service. Make sure your employees know exactly who is responsible for what. Outline the significance of their role and its relevance to the company, so they recognise how their actions can influence the course of events. Once they comprehend the importance of their position, they’ll feel responsible for what happens each time they pick up the phone.
Losing a customer through something as trivial as a shoddy phone call is a bitter pill to swallow. So avoid that nasty feeling by educating your employees to remember their customer service skills, and you’ll outshine your competitors and keep loyal customers on your side.
5. Unyielding policy
Some organizations argue they don’t give special treatment to any customers because it’s unfair on others. I’d argue, what’s unfair is not giving your wonderful customers the special treatment they deserve.
At Client Heartbeat, we strive to empower all employees with strong customer service skills so they know when it’s okay to bend the rules. Obviously, policies and guidelines are in place to protect you, but you should encourage employees to use their judgement when it comes to offering special treatment. This is a great example of going above and beyond, one of nine customer retention strategies use can use to retain more customers and grow your business.
However, you’re safe to tweak policy when the positive consequences of doing so outweigh the negatives. For example:
- If a policy has been complained about by numerous clients, is giving your brand a bad name and is jeopardising customer relationships
- If a policy is obscure and difficult to follow
- If bending the policy causes your relationship with a good customer to progress significantly
Customers should receive exceptions when they’re exceptional. Use reciprocity to enhance your customer relationships even when it means circumventing stringent policies, and your loyal customers will appreciate your company beyond what you can physically provide.
6. The basics are ignored
When you Google ‘customer service’ you get over a billion hits. What this means is, everyone has access to information about how to implement good customer service skills. Businesses now have a clear image of what customers expect, and customers have a minimum expectation of basic customer service.
In summary, your representatives need to act like model citizens. They must smile and greet customers. They must always ask if the customer requires assistance and say please, thank you, and apologize when something is inconvenient. They should be polite, helpful and avoid ‘any behavior that conveys a lack of care or consideration for the customer’.
To reiterate, customers expect a minimum of basic customer service, but will be doubly thrilled if your employees have outstanding customer service skills. In today’s customer-centric economy, it’s imperative your customer service is up to scratch, so greet customers with a smile and a firm handshake, to keep prospective and loyal customers happier than ever.
Avoid losing business by improving your customer service skills
Whatever industry you belong to, the real product you’re selling is the ‘customer experience’. That means training your staff, resolving problems and making up for your mistakes. It means streamlining communication, bending the rules and practising the basics of customer service. Align your compass with the customer experience by avoiding these customer service turnoffs, and give customers a reason to come back, again and again.
Other recommended reading:
- Customer Service is the new proactive marketing
- 25 Skills for Excellent Customer Service
- Customer Service Skills
- 12 Most Winning Customer Service Skills to Create Loyalty
Photo credit: Strategic Seminars