You know how some weeks you look back and go ‘wow, what was that all about?” Well I had one of those last week…Within 24 hours, both our vehicles blew up – and everything that usually worked perfectly didn’t. While thankfully one vehicle was able to be salvaged, last week was spent madly hunting (and trust me, it did feel like hunting) for a new vehicle. The whole experience of looking for a new car left me completely frustrated with the lack of customer service I received and sadly it’s an all too familiar experience.
We can probably all agree that great customer service stands a company apart from its competitors. Just think of Apple. Ok they have very sexy and intuitive products. But have you ever been into an Apple store? Their service is impeccable – and consistence. They greet you with a smile, they have a desire to help, they have a great knowledge of their products and others, no problem is too big or small and if there is a problem, they will fix it. Their service is orientated around making you, the customer, happy and satisfied.
While I don’t claim to be the customer service expert (and customer service is pretty logical), my previous marketing and business background has certainly given me an education in its importance. And here’s the crux of my argument on customer service… You are only in business because a customer or client buys your product or service – something that sadly too many companies (and large ones at that) forget. Sure you may set up a business because it’s an absolute passion, but passion doesn’t necessarily keep you in business.
The business world is changing – dramatically. With the advent of social media, we are changing the way we relate to our customers by building personal relationships before we go anywhere near the selling stage. More and more women are setting up their own businesses, girls outweigh the number of boys enrolled at University, legislation is forcing companies to admit a percentage of women to the boardroom and women are responsible for the purchase decisions in the majority of households. So given this changing landscape, perhaps there’s an opportunity for women in their own businesses to excel at something I see so lacking today in the business world? During my search for a car last week, I spoke to one salesman about the great opportunity for women to be in the car business because car sales men are so dodgy. In all his years of selling cars, he’s only worked with four women, and those four women out did the men, year in and year out, in sales. I wonder why this is??
Great customer service is definitely not gender specific. It surpasses all genders but given the number of women setting up their own businesses, perhaps customer service is an opportunity where we could make a difference.
In my eyes, a great business is a company that puts their customers first and who is there, with authenticity, to look after their customers and make the relationship seamless. Service is not about ‘us’ but about ‘them’.
If you’re a woman who has her own business or if you’re in business, how does your business rate in the customer service stakes? Here are eight customer service tips I’ve created that you may find interesting:
Have a think about your business processes. Are they geared towards the customer or towards your business? There’s a fine line between having a process, and irritating the customer because it makes it easy for you, not them.
Think about consistency. If you have repeat customers, they don’t want to come back the next day to something different. Provide consistency in everything you do. It shows professionalism and gives the customer assurance and, repeat business is much more cost effective than attracting new clients.
Have a no-problem approach to service. If there’s something wrong, fix it. Offer solutions. Put a wrong right. Do what ever you can. Take responsibility. Go that one step further.
Give something away for free. It doesn’t have to cost you much, but people love it. Some cafes in New Zealand put a little biscuit on your coffee or tea saucer. Doesn’t cost them much, but it tells me a lot about how they view me as their customer.
Orientate your business around your customer. Keep thinking about them, their needs, and their wants. For example, if you have a website, orientate your language around the word ‘you’. A customer is interested in what you can do for them, not on how great you are.
Keep checking in with your customers. What questions are they asking? What do they want? What do they like? What makes them tick? Do they like your service? The more information you have about your customers, the more changes you can make to satisfy their needs.
Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and see their interaction with your business as your experience. Be a customer of your business and see what it feels like. What does it tell you about your business? For example, how long does it take to answer the phone? How many levels does it take before they get to speak to someone?
Create an end result of customer service for your business. Get really clear on what you would love to create and then take the steps to create it. You might be surprised what comes up.
And finally, think about the last time you were personally overwhelmed by great service. How did it feel? What did you think? Do you leave your customers feeling the same way? If you experienced great service I can guarantee that you went and told people about it, because great customer service makes us want to do just that.
R.I.P. David Croft and Steve Jobs