Over the past few years, I’ve been asked to facilitate training for workforce development professionals on customer service, specifically on how to engage customers and keep them coming back. In my preparations, I came across a customer service training book adapted from the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), by Maxine Kamin that really addressed the fundamentals. In it, I was introduced to strategies for providing ‘Fantastic Service Every Time.’
The following is a summary of some key points:
1. Something to ponder – a customer’s opinion of the quality of our services is based on THEIR perception – specifically, on what a customer wants vs. what they get from us. If they come to you thinking you provide Service A when you really provide Service B, you have an automatic disconnect that needs to be addressed immediately. The takeaway – know exactly the services you provide and don’t provide and communicate it to your customers up front! Don’t wait for a misunderstanding to occur.
2. There are five areas that relate to a customer’s expectations – reliability (you do what you say you’ll do), responsiveness (you do it promptly!), assurance (you know how to do it), empathy (you show respect & understanding), and tangibles (your facility/surroundings are attractive). It’s important that we address all five of these areas. For example, if we are reliable and deliver what we promise, but we lack the empathy in how we deliver, will our customer be satisfied? Probably not! These five areas are all interrelated, but reliability is probably the most important in meeting customer expectations. Responsiveness, assurance and empathy are the most important in exceeding them.
3. Last, is creating an environment that allows fantastic customer service to happen! When a customer walks through your door, they should immediately be greeted. How many times have you walked into a business or organization where you’ve felt ignored? This simple step sets the tone for your future interactions. Make sure someone is available to greet your customers with a smile. Next, determine the customer’s need and how or if you can resolve it. This may be over a series of interactions with your customer. While doing this, always “make the moment memorable.” There are a lot of ways we can do this. This step relates to doing something unexpected that the client will appreciate. I know in our program, we send congratulatory cards for client milestones. Anything that will set you apart from standard practice and will let the customer know you’re interested and you care about the outcome. Once you’ve addressed the issue, then make sure to ask for feedback to ensure the client’s need has actually been me. We may think it has, but it’s important to get confirmation. Last, make sure the customer knows that you’re available to continue serving them, always thanking them for seeking YOU out.