Customer service is always a hot topic in both the consumer and business space. Everyone knows it’s important, but how can you implement the practices to make your company stand out from the rest?
If you examine the companies that have become synonymous with outstanding customer service — Nordstrom, Disney, Ritz-Carlton, and Zappos.com — you will see a few different trends, each aimed at making the customer/client the center of the experience.
So, how do you provide exceptional and unparalleled customer service like the experts do? It may not be as straightforward as having a great return policy or trying to spread Disney magic to your clients, but the endgame remains the same: meeting and exceeding your clients’ wants and needs.
Statistically, we’re likely to tell 10 to 15 more people about a bad experience than a good one, so your company’s customer service is a huge factor in determining your success or failure. How are you going to make your clients love you?
1. Make it easy for your customers to do business with you.
The less effort it takes for consumers to achieve their goals when talking and working with you, the more loyal they will become. Take the time to explain what information they need to provide and what you expect of them in a way they will understand. This means minimizing jargon! Nothing will turn current and potential customers off more than terms and phrases that are unfamiliar.
It is also vital to be clear about your processes and procedures so your customers know what to expect from you. Setting expectation is paramount to a healthy relationship. When it is necessary to implement a change or update a policy, explain in detail why the change is necessary and how it will affect them directly. When everyone understands how things should work, the relationship will be mutually beneficial.
A lot of time is spent dealing with problems, but how much time gets devoted to complimenting customers when they do something right? Surprising clients with accolades – big and small – goes a long way in nurturing your relationship. Here at Hitachi Business Finance, we are big fans of “surprise and delight” gifts. For example, we send out gifts quarterly to clients that we appreciate and value. It’s just one small way of letting our clients know that we appreciate them and their trust.
2. Form a good relationship with your clients.
No one wants to be just another transaction to your company or an ID number in your database.
This is where Nordstrom does a great job. They’re hands-on, 100% of the time. When you call their customer service number, you’re talking to a human. Same goes for their online chat. There’s always a real person on the other end. Same for Zappos. They even offer new hires that complete their orientation a bonus to leave if they feel they won’t fit into their customer-centric organization. They want the best workers who are willing to give it their all to make customers happy because as statistics have shown, a satisfied customer can turn into a forever customer.
Take a look at your company — how many people are involved in the customer/client relationship? I recommend having a relationship manager who knows the client, and understands their business, wants, and needs. This person should be the consistent point of contact from your organization. Dealing with the same person on a regular basis not only provides a personal touch, but may also help establish a rapport so each party feels comfortable addressing issues, concerns, and roadblocks. People don’t want to be bounced around a company seeking help. If there is one point of contact, he or she always knows who to call.
3. Be responsive.
Your clients want to know they are getting your attention and that you are working to meet their needs, both known and unknown. If a customer leaves a poor review on Yelp, or tags your company in a negative tweet or Facebook post, respond to it. Showing a disgruntled client that you care will likely change their opinion on your company, and may even cause them to change their original review. Either way, it is important to respond to customer complaints and reviews.
The Ritz-Carleton practices their “Gold Standards,” which set forth expectations for all their workers, known as Ladies & Gentlemen. These people are expected to protect guest and company privacy, build life-long relationships with guests, have layers of responsibility for appearance and cleanliness, and are empowered to great unique and memorable guest experiences.
In one instance, a guest lost his sunglasses in the ocean. Later that day, his glasses were returned by the hotel staff. However, he did not tell anyone at the resort his glasses were lost. Someone overheard him talking about it, and the hotel workers went snorkeling to retrieve them. Talk about going above and beyond and exceeding expectations!
4. Listen to your clients.
We all want to be heard and appreciated. Clients want to know that when they speak, you listen. It seems simple, but the act of truly listening is a dying art form. In a world filled with constant distractions, the temptation to multi-task is more prevalent than ever. You may not be able to grant every client request, but you can be sure you are hearing their concerns. Also, although it should go without saying, be courteous and respectful when communicating with your customers. I know it is not always easy, but a commitment to remain professional, respectful, and calm will always serve you well.
One woman posted a blog, upset over her distaste for Target’s children’s clothing. Once she posted the blog, other parents stated their agreement. Target not only apologized for the line of clothing, but offered the blogger the opportunity to help them come up with new clothing ideas for children. The bloggers were very pleased with the quick response from Target, and excited that their voices were heard by such a big company.
5. Make it about them, not you.
Your clients are your bread and butter. They keep the lights on. Going above and beyond for them ensures a long and plentiful relationship. Earlier this year, a woman visiting Disney World made headlines because the park honored her unused ticket from 1994, no questions asked. Now, the price of an admission ticket has certainly gone up in the past 22 years. But because Disney puts the utmost importance on the visitor experience, the woman enjoyed a day at the park and even socially shared her story. In the end, both parties were the winners.
Disney is also known for its “assertively friendly” policy. This means that workers are always on the lookout for people who need assistance. Need someone to take your picture? A Disney worker will gladly help. Are you celebrating your first visit or a special anniversary? Wear a special button with your name, and Disney workers will not only address you by name, they’ll be sure to congratulate you on your special event. It’s the unexpected and surprising touches that make an experience positive.
Attracting new clients is a lot of work. But keeping existing clients is just as important. Remember, it costs six to seven times more to acquire new customers than it does to retain existing customers! So the next time you’re talking to a client, keep that in mind and always put your best foot forward.