Courtesy the golden rule of customer service

Customer Service — is there a phrase that is more overused? It seems like every business, no matter whether an independent or international company, claims they offer superior service. The reality is often that this claim falls short.

Customer Service — is there a phrase that is more overused?

It seems like every business, no matter whether an independent or international company, claims they offer superior service. The reality is often that this claim falls short.

We’ve all been at the customer service desk, with statements posted on the wall. But the practice is often lacking. Most businesses will train staff in at least the basics, but over time skills start to fade and people slack off.

In today’s environment, the consumer has numerous choices. Business is more competitive than ever.

So how do you position your products and services — yourself — as the foremost alternative in customers’ minds? Why would someone choose to buy from you over your competition?

No matter what role you have in a business, you must deliver consistent service. It doesn’t take much to impress people or to build a relationship with your customers. It’s the little things.

We know that first (and future) impressions are integral to good customer relationships. But how many businesses make a practice of looking, and speaking, like a professional every time?

Common courtesy is No. 1. Remember the “golden rule” — Please and Thank you. Whether over the phone, by email or in person, these two simple phrases show respect.

One impatient or rude response over-shadows any discussion. Be pleasant, watch you voice tone and always speak politely.

How is your handshake? Do you make eye contact?

Offer your hand first, taking a full, firm grasp. In that brief couple of seconds, establish your confidence and offer professional courtesy to the individual as well.

Show respect to every person at every level of business, starting with the person that answers the phone or greets you at the reception desk. You will get nowhere if you appear insincere or overbearing.

Go as far as to practise in front of a mirror to get a sense of how you appear to others. Leave a voicemail message on your phone to hear if you need to speak more clearly or slowly and how you can improve your voice tone and delivery.

Think of how many businesses you deal with because they’ve taken the time to learn about your background, or have gone out of their way to be helpful. Building that business relationship takes time but will eventually translate into a satisfied customer.

Ask quality questions, answer briefly and then listen. The best way to present your products and services is to fully understand your customer’s needs.

Listen to better understand their hesitations and concerns. You can’t recommend solutions if you don’t know the issues.

Summarize conversations and take notes at meetings. Collect key information so you can highlight your products and services and be confident you’re offering viable solutions.

Establish a contact system. Record your customer’s information: meetings and conversations, their preferences, their past purchases and future plans.

Become an expert, the favoured “go-to” person. Call to introduce a new product you know would be of interest to them. You may not always have what they’re looking for, so suggest options.

Follow up to see if your recommendations were helpful. Put customers on an advance notice list, informing them of the launch of new products and services that relate to their business.

Send postcards, reminders and birthday and anniversary cards. You can be sure that your efforts will be remembered.

People don’t like to be “sold” to, but they like to buy. Everyone is looking for good value, a quality product or service at a fair price.

Most managers certainly encourage great service from their people, but customers are primarily looking for a warm personal buying experience. Customer service is not complicated. It’s the simple things in the buying experience that makes the sale — and a customer return.

ActionCoach is published on the second and fourth Tuesday of every month in the Business section of the Advocate. It is written by John MacKenzie, whose Red Deer business ActionCoach helps small- to medium-sized organizations in areas like succession planning, systems development, sales and marketing, and building/retaining quality teams. MacKenzie’s blog can be found at bprda.wpengine.com and he can be contacted by email at johnmackenzie@actioncoach.com or by phone at 403-340-0880.

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