In the businesses I have been involved in, both past and present (and future - I mean, I'm sure I'll learn ... of course I will learn more! But I will always put customer service in any business or organisation I'm involved in), the way we interact with customers is always integral to our business and directly linked to how many would like to return. My basic philosophy is as follows:
1. Respond to emails ASAP - I am well aware of the fact that there are a number of companies and people who don't respond to emails for a few hours or days because they need to look into the issue or consult with their co-workers. A lot of people genuinely don't mind this ... but - I believe that once you have experienced near-instant email reply, you will never look back and you will expect it from any company you deal with forevermore. I believe in emailing straight away and saying, "Hey! Thankyou so much for your email, I want to answer you, I intend to answer you as soon as humanly possible, and I will do so in the next half hour. I just need to look into this with our X specialist and I'll get back to you soon. Thankyou so much, talk soon."
Three things are important:
- Firstly, be honest - if it's busy, it's busy; if their question requires more than a couple of minutes, say that.
- Secondly, give a timeframe - "I'll get back to you within 15 minutes, within one hour, within two hours, by COB today."
- The third thing is to thank the customer for their email and reiterate that you care about them and that you genuinely WILL GET BACK TO THEM VERY SOON.
2. Don't be afraid to be happy in your emails. I have worked as a consultant in serious and corporate firms, as well as a start-up co-founder. I have talked on the phone and via email to CEO's, students, lawyers, doctors, serious people, unhappy people, relaxed people, stressed people. No matter what you are talking about or who you are talking to, you can always improve your customer service by being happy. A lot of people don't agree with me on this - but I personally advocate smiley faces, corny catchphrases like "Thanks a super lot of bunch!" and exclamation points. They create an impression, they get the attention of the person, they make them smile or they make them slightly confused - none of these things are a bad thing ;).
3. DO be afraid if you are not honest. Always, always be honest. Seriously, when an airline says, "I understand that sir and we are doing everything we can to track down the luggage that we have misplaced for a number of weeks now ..." - do you believe them? No. You know they are lying and they know they are lying but everybody just accepts that that's the way the world works and so everyone pretends it's okay. It's not okay in my world, and if you stamp it out in YOUR world, with the people YOU do business with, it will become the new norm. Imagine! Honesty, transparency, friendliness and compassion between business owners and customers, between team leaders and team members, between competitors ... it's a really nice environment to be in.
All of the things I've talked about will work towards improving customer service in your business. I will go into more depth when I talk about customer service skills training and I'll give some really great ideas for training yourself and your staff in customer service techniques ... but if you can get this, you are already two-hundred million, five hundred and sixty-six thousand, nine-hundred and forty-one steps ahead of your competition:
Treat your customers how you would like to be treated if you were in their position.