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The Art of Customer Service

Monday, November 8 2010 10:42 AM
By Scott Thome

Customer service was a big part of growing up for me - having the retired Director of Customer Service from The Coleman Company for a mother tends to have an impact.    I've grown to understand that customer service is vital to every corner of the business world.  Not only is it integral to client retention but also to the viability of your brand.  Consider customer service as the easiest form of marketing.

I have the pleasure of working with clients from every market imaginable, and I've noticed a direct relationship between their perspective on customer service and their ease of success within their own niche.  My first clue about how a client approaches their customers comes from my initial meeting with them to go over their goals and objectives for any given project.  When a client's primary goal is to educate, communicate and engage their customers, it tells me that this client "totally gets it."

You see, that's what potential customers are looking for.  They want to feel special.  Customers want to feel like a patron, not a sales figure.  To me, that's the root of customer service.

Unfortunately, I see customer service becoming more rare.  Outside the office, I'm a consumer just like everyone else in the world.  I encounter vendors and service providers everywhere who shuffle me through their checkout lanes like cattle and who can be downright rude if I have a question or need assistance.  The lack of customer service isn't so much a personnel issue as it is a corporate one.  If you don't have your relationship with your customer somewhere in your mission statement or mantra, it's going to be an uphill battle.

Customer Service Action Plan

Let's turn customer service into an integral part of your marketing.  Here are 5 steps to get you started:

  1. Shoot For The Win-Win
    Customers do not want to feel wrong, uneducated or misinformed. That will get your relationship off to a rocky start in no-time flat. No matter what the issue or disagreement is, the customer's opinion is rooted in something they hold as fact.  As a customer servant, you must understand their point of view and build from there.  If you can find a way to meet their needs while still solving the problem, then you all win.
  2. Put On A Happy Face
    The need for customer service usually comes up during a negative exchange with the customer.  If they're unhappy with a product or service, the conversation could get personal fairly quickly.  Remember, it's not personal.  Give them a smile and a sense of understanding.  Be empathetic.  Talk to them about their issue and try to get to the Win-Win.
  3. Give The Customer Priority
    I can't count how many times I've been in the middle of a huge project or knee deep in a creative breakthrough just to get a call from a client who has an urgent revision to their website.  My needs become secondary, and I take the call.  I'm not a fan of voicemail, so I don't send them to the machine.  I'm not a fan of an unanswered email, so I respond as quickly as possible.  A customer who is treated like a priority will remember it forever.
  4. Thank The Customer
    This is so easy, just do it.
  5. Educate The Customer
    All customers have questions, and you should strive to answer those questions fully.  Don't use their question as a chance to up-sell them.  Don't answer their question quickly just so you can get back to doing what you were doing before.  If you don't have an answer, tell them you'll find an answer for them, then follow up as quickly as possible (see #3).  Look for opportunities to further educate the customer.  Perhaps a question about a particular service may elude to a lack of understanding of a related service.  Help the customer make an informed decision.
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