How may I help you? Oh, the question that puts a smile on your face! As leaders and business owners, our livelihood depends on how well we answer that question. The Stanford Research Institute found, “The money you make in any endeavor is determined by only 12.5% knowledge and 87.5% by your ability to deal with people." In today’s market, with so many choices, it is not enough to just give the customer what they want. We must also anticipate what they don’t know they want and provide service that WOWS.
So, why do customers leave? Research reveals 1% die, 3% move away, 5% form other relationships, 9% for competitive reasons, 14% due to product dissatisfaction, and 68% leave because of an attitude of indifference toward them by an employee. Think about that. nearly 7 out of 10 people who quit buying from you do so because of a failure in customer service. There seems to be a gap in service mentality nowadays. Some employees seem to be disengaged, viewing their work performance separate from the organizations overall success. They fail to understand that the two are directly connected. Serving customers should be seen as an opportunity, rather than an obligation. Here are a few suggestions for taking customer service to the next level.
1. Ask the Customer
Knowledge is a powerful tool that propels business success. Having knowledge about how customers see our business allows us to make positive changes. When we know the truth, it
also helps to increase the speed of that change. Ask customers for honest feedback and embrace the truth. It may not always be what you expected.
Here are a few great questions to ask:
Why did your customers originally choose to do business with you?
Why do existing clients continue to do business with you?
How would your customers rate their overall level of satisfaction with your business?
According to your clients, what do you do well?
According to your clients how could you improve?
Do your current clients know what other products and services you offer?
What could you do to get more business from your existing customer base?
What additional products or services would your clients like for you to offer?
Would your current clients be confident in referring business to you?
Answering these questions can also help to establish a benchmark for training staff. It will provide information and clearly identify performance gaps. At the same time, you may find new business strategies to generate growth and increase revenue. Knowing your customers is essential to long term growth. Today’s customers can be impatient and demanding. They have high expectations and very little time. Top performing companies are always looking for ways to speed up and improve service. To get feedback about customers needs, Lexus started an Owner’s Advisory Forum in 1998. For Lexus, communication can be especially challenging considering manufacturers are in Japan and the majority of customers are in the United States. Each year, Lexus brings about 20 engineers who are responsible for design and production, and they meet with 15 to 20 loyal Lexus owners. Together they talk about the details of the car, what they like and what they dislike. As a result Lexus customers have grown from 500,000 in 1996 to over one million. Lexus dealers have also earned highest honors in customer satisfaction from J.D. Power and Associates for eight of the past nine years.
2. Define Superior Customer Service
During our customer service workshops, one of the first things we do is define superior customer service. What exactly does that mean to you? Most people have never thought that our customers are just like us. When we think of service we tend to think of how we have been served and not how we serve. We view customer service from our own perspective. As an organization it is critical to expand those personal experiences by communicating, not only verbally but in visual and kinesthetic ways, specifically what we expect our employees to deliver. I have heard it said, “When you hear something, you may forget it. When you see something, you will remember it. But not until you do something, will you understand it.” We should treat our customers as we want to be treated. But until we experience superior customer service for ourselves, we may not understand what it takes to provide that level of service.
“When you hear something, you may forget it. When you see something, you will remember
it. But not until you do something, will you understand it.”
3. People Development: Character and Skill
Superior customer service requires character and skill. It can be defined by delivering the unexpected. We expect people to be friendly. We expect at best an average level of service.
The average work environment isn’t terrible, it’s average. And consequently, good is the enemy of great. To get people to deliver superior customer service, we need to look at two areas, the development of character and the training of skills. People who demonstrate superior customer service have a genuine passion for serving people. They remember the customers’preferences, pay attention to the details, know their products and services and exceed expectations.
Tammy Holyfield is the founder of Holyfield International, a business and personal development company. Holyfield International works with business professionals, entrepreneurs, CEO’s, managers, leaders and individuals from all walks of life, teaching skills that are proven, practical and get results. She is also a business and personal coach, professional speaker, author and consultant. For information on organizational solutions or to reach her visit www.holyfieldinternational.com or call 619-431-1345. Follow Tammy on Twitter and Facebook for more insights on business and leadership.
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