Ron Kaufman helps companies on every continent build a culture of uplifting service that delivers real business results. Making transformation his mission, Ron is one of the world’s most sought-after thought leaders and experts on achieving superior service. With a clientele of government agencies and multinational corporations including Singapore Airlines, Xerox, Nokia Siemens Networks, and Wipro, Ron delivers powerful insights and global best practices, enabling organizations to gain a sustainable advantage through service. Below, Ron writes on how to build a superior service culture:
What does good customer service mean to you? Is it a restaurant owner who ushers you to your favorite table with a warm welcome? When a company accepts a return and gives you a full refund with no questions asked? Or when someone takes the time to say a genuine thank you?
Today we use sophisticated technologies to learn a great deal about our customers. We track what they like, what they spend, what they search for, where they go, and how often they return. Yet despite all this new “big data” and the insights it can deliver, customers all over the world still appreciate “Old School Customer Service”.
These four “Old School Customer Service” techniques are time-tested, and they work as well today as they have for generations.
1. Make a personal connection.
Let’s face it: sometimes we hide behind our keyboards and devices. It’s easier to dash off an email than to schedule a phone call. It’s a lot faster to update everyone with a social media post than it is to update one real person with a face-to-face meeting.
While the digital world offers many advantages in speed and scale, it still makes good sense to relate to your customers on a personal level. No matter what business you are in, there is still a human being on the receiving end, and that human being has a name, a face, and feelings.
There are obvious reasons why you can’t always meet one on one with all your customers in our global economy. But it is still a good use of time and resources to meet your clients in person whenever you can.
And when you can’t meet in person, you can still use technology to create a personal touch. Your phone can be a great customer service device. Talking with a real person instead of leaving each other messages is distinctly old-school, but it can make a big difference in how your customer feels about you in today’s increasingly impersonal world. Combining voice with video lets you meet face-to-face without the travel expenses. Skype, Google Hangouts, FaceTime, WebEx, GoToMeeting, and other platforms make it easy.
2. Use your customers’ names.
We are all wired to enjoy the sound of our own names. Have you noticed how an acquaintance lights up when you remember his or her name? Can you recall the disappointment you felt when someone you admired had forgotten your name?
“Old-School Customer Service” doesn’t refer to people by their order numbers or passwords; it uses names. Addressing your customers by name helps each person feel valued and acknowledged. There are many tricks for remembering names, and one of the best is simple repetition. When you are introduced, use the other person’s name. When you part (or sign off), use their name again. The next time you meet, use their name. If you have forgotten someone’s name, instead of not using a name at all, ask him or her to remind you, and then repeat the repetition process again.
It helps to remind customers of your name as well. When you put yourself on a familiar name basis with clients, it helps to develop a genuine relationship. Using names makes each customer’s experience a bit more personal and more valuable.
3. Follow up promptly.
“Old School Customer Service” feels the need for speed. How do you feel when you e-mail a company and never receive a response? How do you feel when you are left waiting on a phone line by a service provider who forgot to tell you just long it was going to take?
Making customers wait is simply bad business. Study your response times today and find a way to cut them down tomorrow. When you respond quickly to a customer inquiry can be the difference between gaining, keeping, or losing a valuable customer. It doesn’t take much for customers to find someone else who can and will answer their questions.
And after a sale has been made or a problem has been solved, contact your customers again. Make a phone call or send a personal e-mail to find out how your customer feels, and what else you can do to help or serve them. The time you invest in this small extra effort will pay back handsomely in customer retention.
4. Show your appreciation.
Today it’s easier than ever for customers to switch and take their business to someone else. Options are the ordinary, alternatives are abundant, and your competition is just one a click away. When someone does choose you, make it a point to show your appreciation in a manner they will truly notice. Don’t just send an email, follow the “Old School” rules and send a handwritten note. Yours will be the only one they receive, and will surely remember. If the situation is appropriate, send flowers, a box of chocolates, something that says “Thank you very much!” and not just “We appreciate your business.”
Showing appreciation also applies to your colleagues, vendors, suppliers, and other business partners. Letting them know just how much you appreciate them can make their day. And that can make your day easier the next time they go an extra mile to help you.
And don’t worry about showing your appreciation too much. Have you ever heard of a person feeling over-appreciated? Me neither.
There is something important and effective that happens when we smile. We become kinder and more generous. We choose our words more carefully. We even end up living longer and more successfully – and this video proves it. This change in attitude can be felt by your customers, your colleagues, and everyone else you meet.
Whether you are working over the counter, over the phone, or over the web, smiling always works. When you have eye contact and you smile, other people automatically and subconsciously notice. It makes them feel more relaxed and at ease. Smiling makes working together more effective.
When you speak and listen on the phone, putting a smile on your face will also make a difference. The next time you listen to someone else on the phone, imagine whether or not they are smiling. You can tell just from their tone of voice! And others can tell the same about you. So smile when you are on the phone. You will both hear the difference.
Smile when you are writing an email message, a web-chat, or filling in a form on the web. Smiling boosts your energy, raises your spirits, and will influences those who read the words you choose. Try writing one message without a smile, and then another with a grin on your face. Can you feel the difference? Those who receive and read your words will certainly feel them, too.
Old School Values are Never Out of Date
The world is always changing, and new possibilities will appear. But old school service values and behaviors will never go out of date. “Old School Customer Service” is good practice and good business.
These five proven techniques are here to stay. Use them regularly and you will be here, too.