Source: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, December 2, 2012.
By Rick Goldstein, a registered architect and co-owner of MOSAIC Group [Architects and Remodelers]
Customer service is an important part of a successful business; good service helps attract and retain customers and increase sales, while a negative experience can have a damaging influence. But good customer service is more than a slogan; it takes planning, buy-in, and reinforcement.
Start with creating proper expectations. Unless clearly identified, expectations can’t be met or surpassed, nor will you know if or how you’ve fallen short.
The secret is to set expectations that can be reached or exceeded. Overpromising and underdelivering is a losing strategy; it’s better to underpromise and overdeliver, as long as the goals aren’t set artificially low and don’t provide an incentive to your company and employees to work hard at achieving them.
Once they’re set, meeting your goals is an important accomplishment, but if you want your customers to experience the “wow factor,” you’ll have to do more than that.
Surprise them with small personalized extras and go well beyond their expectations.
One way to do this is by building relationships with customers, observing them, learning what they want and what’s important to them, and then delivering it.
For example, train your staff to monitor conditions while they work and address, or better yet prevent, anything that might be problematic. Don’t wait for the customer to call your attention to a problem. This will help build trust, which is an essential component of a successful business relationship.
To achieve lasting success, customer service goals and expectations should be shared from the bottom to the top of the company. Unless your company has worked to achieve buy-in from all departments from the beginning of the goal-setting process, cooperation may be limited. Regular training and reinforcement are essential to ensuring that employees understand the goals and are prepared to carry out their work with them in mind, even in unusual circumstances.
A focus on customer service should also extend to the hiring process. Screening and interviewing should be designed to help identify candidates who demonstrate willingness to please the client, not simply pick up a paycheck. This applies as well to vendors and contractors, since by extension they also represent your brand.
Customer service matters whether a company provides services or makes products. Service companies, by definition, live or die based on how well they satisfy their customers’ needs and achieve their goals.
However, the decision to buy a product often depends as much on the service behind it as the quality of the item itself.
Companies that seem only interested in selling something and are unwilling to provide service or assistance when a problem arises will lose business in the long run.