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What is customer service?

Offering a good level of customer service is essential to helping your business thrive; it will increase your customer base and develop loyalty amongst existing customers. Here we give you some practical tips on customer service that you can incorporate into your everyday dealings with your customers.

What is customer service?

Customer service is all about providing the right level of service to your customers before, during and after they have purchased either goods or services from you. Good customer service is not just about meeting their expectations; it’s also about knowing what you need to do to exceed your customers’ expectations.

It doesn’t matter what type of contact you have with your customers. Whether you serve a customer face-to face or over the phone you will want them to remember that contact in a positive way – they will want to feel important and that their custom is valued.

Good customer service = happy, satisfied customers. Satisfied customers are good for business; they are more likely to buy your products or use your services again and recommend your business to others.

What are my customers’ needs and expectations?

Understanding your customers and what they expect from your business is key to providing them with a good service.

In general customers want:

  • to feel welcome
  • to receive prompt service
  • to be understood
  • to receive help
  • to feel important
  • to be appreciated
  • to be respected
  • to be remembered.

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes – what type of service would you expect to receive? In what ways could your needs and expectations be met or even exceeded?

Good customer service can be provided by:

  • Remembering the customer’s name so that you can address them correctly
  • Being attentive whenever you are in contact with them; show them that you will go the ‘extra mile’
  • Responding promptly to enquiries
  • Fitting your appointments with customers round their schedule (where and if possible) and not yours
  • Listening to the customer. This will ensure you find out exactly what the customer wants and can offer them the product or service best suited to their needs.
  • Calling your customer once a job is completed to make sure they are satisfied with the service
  • Keeping records of your customers – this will help in repeat business, dealing with queries, resolving any complaints, or targeting specific products and services
  • Making sure your marketing messages match your customer service, for example don’t put ‘100% customer satisfaction guaranteed’ if you can’t actually guarantee it
  • If the customer has a problem, try and solve it as quickly as you can.

 

How can I find out if my customers are happy with the service they receive?

Feedback is invaluable in gaining an understanding of what customers think of your business and how satisfied they are with the service they receive. It also gives an insight into what your customers want (e.g lower price, a new or wider range of products, flexible delivery times) and where improvement is needed.

What’s the best way of getting feedback from my customers?

Whatever method you use in seeking feedback from your customers you should be prepared for both positive and negative comments. Use both types of feedback to look at ways to improve your service to your customers. Remember to respond to customers who supplied negative feedback in a timely fashion and look to resolve any complaints you receive. Feedback can be obtained by one of the following ways:

Surveys

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Surveys can be used to gauge customer satisfaction or to gather feedback and opinions on a new business idea. They can be conducted over the phone or by email. Think carefully about what the purpose of the survey is and only include questions you really want an answer to. Always thank the customer for completing the survey and if applicable let then what you plan to do with feedback.

Keep surveys as short as possible – aim for a maximum of five questions. Here are some examples of questions you could ask:

  • How satisfied are you with the quality of products we supply/service we provide? Did we have the item you wanted in stock?
  • How convenient is our company to use? How easy are we to contact?
  • Do you find staff friendly, knowledgeable and helpful? 
  • If you had a complaint how well did we deal with it?
  • How would you describe your overall experience with us? Would you recommend us to others?

 

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Feedback forms

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While surveys will only be accessible by customers at the time you chose to send them out, a feedback form will allow customers to give feedback at any time. One of the most effective ways of obtaining feedback is to set up a dedicated email address (e.g feedback@mybusiness.com). Alternatively you may want to consider adding a feedback form to your website.

The most basic feedback form will contain fields that allow the customer to add their name, email address and include their feedback/query along with a submit button. As best practice the form should only list questions relevant to feedback, and just like a survey questionnaire the feedback form shouldn’t be too long.

So that your customers know their feedback has been successfully submitted, it’s a good idea to set up an auto-responder email that will go out to your customer. This should thank them for their feedback, and in the event of a query being submitted, give an indication on when they can expect a reply. 

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Talking to your customers

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Another good way of finding out how your customers feel about the service they receive is to ask them directly – either face-to-face or over the phone. Some customers may not feel comfortable in offering feedback or making a complaint while speaking to you directly, but some will, so it’s a worthwhile exercise.

To ensure you make good use of any feedback you get make sure you make a note of what’s said. By keeping information on file means you can go back and compare this with other feedback received.

If you see patterns emerging, e.g if there are a few complaints about deliveries being late, you can then take proactive steps to improve on this. 

By taking the time to ask for feedback from your customers will show the customer you care about them and this will make them feel appreciated.

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Why is body language important?

Understanding body language and how it can be interpreted by your customers can help you to improve your service. Body language accounts for approximately half of the way in which we communicate, so posture, gestures, eye contact and facial expressions are all important when dealing with customers.

Your customers will read your body language and it can influence their perception of you and your business – both positively and negatively. Being friendly but professional and enthusiastic in all your dealings with your customers can make the difference between the customer choosing your business or making the choice to go somewhere else.

You still need to think about body language and tone of voice when you are dealing with customers over the phone. When contacting customers over the phone it’s worth remembering that:

  • You can’t see the person you are talking to
  • You can’t see the expression on their face
  • You can’t see what  they are doing while they are talking to you
  • You can’t see what’s going on around them
  • You can’t read their body language
  • They can’t see you!

Without seeing your customer’s face it’s easy for the message to become muddled or even misinterpreted.

The minute you pick up the phone, your tone of voice is the main way you are communicating – 86% is your tone of voice, the other 14% are the words you are using. Within the first 10 seconds of the conversation your customer will know what mood you are in! It’s important to sound upbeat and interested.

On answering the phone always:

  • Greet the caller
  • Give your name and that of the business
  • Offer your help.

When closing the conversation:

  • Thank the customer for their call
  • If you resolved a complaint reassure the caller of the agreed steps you’ll take to rectify the problem
  • Leave the caller with a positive feeling.

Finally – If for any reason it’s not a convenient time to take a call then arrange to call the customer back.

How can I go that extra mile for a customer?

Getting repeat business is the life blood of most businesses. If the service you offer is just adequate then it’s probably invisible to your customers.

So ask yourself the following:

  • Are your customers delighted with your service?
  • Do they give you repeat business?
  • How easy is it for your customers to be enticed by a competitor who goes the ‘extra mile’?
  • How can you go the extra mile?
  • Are you always calm and patient with your customers?

Think about incorporating the ABC of customer service into the skills you use:

  • Attitude
    • Being willing to help
  • Behaviour
    • Being friendly & polite
  • Competence
    • Able to solve problems, knowledgeable, providing the service the customer wants.

 

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