The Customer Is Always Right
No doubt, when it comes to what’s good customer service, there are differences of opinion. For example, between individual customers as well as what the suppliers perceive as good customer service. Not only that, but the standards and policy expectations versus the quality of service provided.
Certainly, there are variations between what we think good customer service looks like and what it could and should be. This business advice & coaching blog explores this and raises some questions about customer service. You’re encouraged to consider the included questions and tips to facilitate good customer service practices.
Gone are the days when the ‘customer was always right’. A bold statement, but there was a time when it went without saying. By no means is this blog suggesting that you act on everything your customer asks or requests. The intention is that you listen to the ‘voice of the customer’.
The Voice of the Customer (VOC)
VOC is a Lean Six Sigma term, which is used to describe customer requirements. Most importantly, it includes the stated and unstated requirements of internal and external customers. Ultimately, it’s about capturing and logging customer feedback. In turn, this can be used to make product or service improvements. For example, address service quality through customer service training.
The VOC process is about being proactive and capturing changes in requirements. Therefore, it’s important to constantly innovate. There are several ways you can capture this type of data. For example, through running product focus groups, direct discussion and/or interviews. In addition, from surveys, customer specifications, observations and complaints.
The Customer Service Journey
The customer service journey is a process, with a beginning, middle and an end. It includes pre-sale, during purchase and post-sale experience. For example, the pre-sale customer service experience might be providing product/service information. The during purchase experience relates to the payment and billing process. Whilst the post-sale experience includes things like product/service aftercare, following up etc. It’s important to consider customer retention, repeat business and how this is achieved through brand and remarketing.
When exactly does the customer service process start? For instance, whilst walking around a shop and asking for help? Is it when a customer calls or emails for the first time to make an enquiry? What about when an existing customer makes a complaint? Alternatively, is it during the lead, enquiry and/or conversion stage? Yes, it’s all these situations and more, but may vary according to the type of business. i.e. product or service, bought online or in-store etc.
It’s also a continuous journey. Each and every touch point between you (the supplier) and the customer, requires some level of customer service. It’s about the level of quality and professionalism you and your startup provides. Most importantly, the experience and impression that each and every customer is left with.
Customer Service Quality – Listen & Remain Professional
By remaining professional and actively listening to customers, you increase the chances of success. Remember, every touchpoint is an opportunity to provide good customer service. Naturally, no amount of training, experience, quality processes or best practice can completely eliminate the opportunity for service improvements.
Certainly, a negative experience could have damaging consequences for a startup. However, after receiving negative feedback, it’s important to acknowledge it. Most importantly, apologise to the customer and try to come to a satisfactory solution. Equally, it’s important to take ownership of customer complaints. Admitting mistakes happen and confirming it shouldn’t have happened, demonstrates authenticity and honesty. This can also help rebuild the customers’ trust in you, your startup, and/or the product or service itself.
Ultimately, we all have different opinions and interpretations of what’s good and bad. However, if a customer says they’re not happy about something, it’s important to listen and remain professional. Certainly, the customer service journey can be influenced by several factors, including several people.
What Influences the Customer Service Experience?
The customer service experience is influenced by several factors, not just the the human interactions themselves. For instance, cultural and social factors including differences in expectations, values and beliefs. Secondly, knowledge and experience, including the availability and desire to provide effective training. Add into the mix, different leadership styles and how this can filter through into the types of people you hire and how you manage them. What impact could this have on how you/staff deal with customers?
In addition, technology and the impact of digital transformation. For example, automated processes and social media, apps & tools. In turn, this has changed the way we market products and services. For example, through the likes of Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest etc. and the use of language, tone, style, images etc. Certainly, different social media channels target different demographics. In addition, what about the impact of marketing promises and whether or not the end product/service meets those promises?
Investing time, resource and money in customer service also contributes to quality. For instance, the availability of training, support and material that supports service excellence.
With the above in mind, it’s no surprise that customer service varies, even from within the same company. For example, if you have a bad day, you’re upset or frustrated. What impact could this have on service? Let’s not forget the customers’ themselves too. How would you react to a customer who shouts down the phone? What impact does tone, attitude and behaviour have?
Closing Thoughts for Startups & Small Business Owners
The provision of good customer service is imperative, if not crucial to startup success. It’s what sets you apart from the competition. Bad service could affect your reputation and in turn, your revenue stream. With cash flow being one of the main reasons for startups failing, prioritise good customer service. Not only that, but good customer service is a must have for the sustainability and scalability of your startup.
Make sure you listen to customer feedback and ideas. In addition, ensure customers feel heard when they have grievances. Most importantly, address issues timely and with a customer-centric focus. It could be the deciding factor in repeat business and referrals.
With the impact of social media and technology advances, customer service is in the spotlight. For instance, with websites like Trust Pilot for verified customer reviews and star-ratings. In addition, business directories like Google My Business, Yell.com, Thomson Local and Yelp. The voice of the customer makes it even more important to act and respond with service excellence.
Watch this short YouTube; Tips to Ensure Good Customer Service for more information. Alternatively, contact Maximum Solutions Consulting Ltd or visit the Business Advice page for details about services.