How good is your customer care and service department? Are you looking after your customers?

Posted: May 16, 2012 in Conservatory and orangery installations, Windows and Doors
Tags: , , , , , ,

Customer Care is how a business looks after its customers. This includes everything from the moment a customer makes contact with your business, at point of sale, during the provision and installation of goods and after sales care.

For a long time this has been a major bone of contention for me, and over the years as an Operations Manager I have suffered the wrath of a couple of customers due to bad levels of service and customer care. And to be honest, sometimes I’ve deserved it, most of the time it’s because somebody in the organisation has failed to keep a promise they made to that customer. The main one is not phoning the customer back or not keeping him fully informed especially if there is an installation problem or time issue.

If you only pick up on one thing in this article it will improve your customer care…….

We need to focus employees to remember that our existing customers are probably our biggest source of profit and produce our best quality leads, through customer repeat and additional orders along with customer referrals. You don’t get repeat customers unless they are satisfied with your product and service and they certainly won’t recommend you if they are not happy with the service you have provided them with.

High standards of customer care mean quality leads, quality leads mean profit, profit means plenty of work and plenty of work means staff remaining steadily employed. Remind your employees that your customers are the lifeblood of your business, and treat them as such.  Without their money you don’t have a job. Dissatisfied customers spread the bad news and undermine your business, which ultimately threatens everyone’s jobs. I try to instil that in staff by explaining the value of good customer care, or as I like to call it TLC (Tender Loving Care)

A huge range of factors can contribute to customer satisfaction that your customers, both consumers and other businesses are likely to take into account.

  • how well your product or service matches customer needs
  • the value for money you offer
  • your efficiency and reliability in fulfilling orders
  • the professionalism, friendliness and expertise of your employees
  • how well you keep your customers informed
  • the after-sales service you provide

A couple of interesting survey results for you

  • Companies with high levels of good service are able to charge up to 9% more for their product.
  • Companies with high levels of service grow twice as fast as the average company
  • Customers receiving bad levels of service tell at least 9 other people
  • 13% of customer complaints relate their experience to at least 20 other people
  • Customers who receive a silent service or no answers tell 3 or 4 other people

So you can see how the saying “bad news travels like wild fire” comes into being as people talk about bad service they or a friend has received.

One of my favourite descriptions of good customer service is “the ability of a company to constantly and consistently exceed the customer’s expectations.”

One thing’s for sure the employees working in your customer care and service departments are on the front line of your operation but are normally low paid and are quite often looked down on as minions in the operation. They are as important to you as your top sales rep. Make sure they understand all the company procedures. Remember they are normally the customer’s first point of contact and first impressions go a long way.

One of the big things for me is the attitude of your customer care employees is far more important than their technical skills or product knowledge or industry knowledge, you can teach skills, but attitude has to come from within.

You must make sure employees are up to speed with your product, get them off to manufacturers to get trained on products. Occasionally take them out on site to see a local Conservatory or an Orangery installation in progress, they will learn a lot and will thoroughly enjoy an hour out of the office on a trip to site. Whilst on site explain all the different aspects of the work being carried out.

Sometimes you’re staff need the patience of a saint. Just remind them they are being paid to do a job, part of that job may be to explain something to customers over and over again. Customers may be frustrated enough to have an angry disposition. Don’t let a customer’s mood affect your mood. Your staff are there to help the customers, they need to have plenty of patience and need to take things in their stride. Don’t let them take anything personally, get them to focus on getting any issues resolved in a professional and courteous manner.

This will seem like a list of do’s and don’ts but you could check them against your customer care procedures.

  1. Pick up the phone within 3 rings customers become irate waiting for long periods for the phone to be answered.
  2. Introduce the name of your company yourself and in a friendly manner and always ask “How can I help you”
  3. Take a name and telephone number in case you get disconnected and ask if the customer if they would prefer that you phone them straight back.
  4. Listen to the customer’s complaints or requests. It is vital to show a sincere interest and willingness to help and reflect back on the customer’s requests to assure them you understand and have the right information.
  5. Talk clearly and slowly, never raise your voice and always be courteous, even when you’re having a bad day, keep your personal feelings personal.
  6. Always take notes during the conversation, it would virtually impossible to remember everything if it is a lengthy call.
  7. This one is the most important “don’t make any promises that you can’t keep”
  8. Take ownership of any complaints and see them through to a satisfactory close
  9. Be honest with your customers. If your customer even suspects that you are trying to pull something over on him, you can kiss that customer goodbye – permanently!
  10. Always apologize for any inconvenience caused
  11. No matter what caused the problem, never blame others or make excuses. Instead, take the responsibility and initiative to do whatever you can to solve the problem as quickly as possible.
  12. Always phone the customer on completion of any remedial works to ensure they are totally satisfied with the service provided.

Good customer service is important as it’s easier and cheaper to keep existing customers happy than to keep finding new ones. Word of mouth is a powerful method of marketing and a happy customer will most likely refer their friends and relatives to a company that they have had a good experience with. They will probably also be loyal and keep coming back.

Here’s a few things to track in your customer care department to see how you are doing.

  • sales referral rates
  • the number of queries or complaints about your products or services
  • the number of complaints about your employees
  • the number of damaged or faulty goods returned
  • average order-fulfilment times
  • the number of contacts with a customer each month
  • time taken from order to delivery

I don’t mean to be derogatory but it’s a thankless job working in Customer care

Up till now we’ve been concentrating on what happens to the customers. But, what about the customer carers?

Since blaming them is what we think is the right thing to do when things go wrong, people who deal with the public, either face to face or on the phone, have to manage a barrage of unhappiness, dissatisfaction, anger and frustration on a day to day on-going basis.

No wonder customer service staff turnover in retail is so high. Fact. The largest turnover of staff in the UK is in call centres? Well, how many of us would want to work in one? We’re not talking about the conditions and environment that phone advisers work in we’re talking about the fact that day in and day out, hour after hour, these people have to deal customers complaints.

Whether they are regular people or professional complainer’s, most customers tend to find it easier to point out faults than to praise and acknowledge when things go right and their not always sensible when they do have a complaint.

Customers make assumptions that the person on the end of the phone will know exactly what their talking about. They take out all their frustrations, annoyances and anger out on the person who’s representing the company even if they had nothing to do with the complaint.

On the whole Customer care representatives do a marvellous job, and if they don’t it is normally our fault through lack of training and guidance.

Look after your staff: Look after your customers

It’s far cheaper and easier to nurture your relationship with existing customers than it is to find new ones. So in your efforts to win new business, never forget your existing customers.  Because they have already bought from you in the past, provided their experience was a good one, they are likely to purchase from you again.

It’s important therefore to make sure any contact a customer or a prospect has with your business leaves a good impression. Always remember that your staff, are the company as far as the customer is concerned; everything they say or do contributes to the overall image your customer has of your business.

Your employees’ attitude to your customers is often a reflection of your attitude towards your employees, so start by taking a good look at your own behaviour!

Keep your staff informed and up to date

It’s important to ensure ALL your staff, no matter what their role in your organisation, are prepared and informed :

  • make sure they all have a clear understanding of what your business actually does and know the names of your products and your main competitors
  • make sure they have a good enough understanding of who does what to be able to find someone to help a customer when they call
  • take time to explain the organisation’s aims and objectives to them
  • set measures for the business that they can all contribute to
  • provide a clear and simple report to show them how the business is doing

Review your procedures

Your staff don’t all have to be experts, but they should all understand the most basic concept of what your business is all about.  To make this happen you may need to consider:

  • reviewing all written communications that are sent out, including emails, and providing standardised responses for common queries
  • training staff on the way you want things done
  • creating a staff information pack or presentation for all existing staff
  • paying special attention to reception staff and anyone picking the phone up or greeting people after hours
  • giving the pack to all new members of staff as part of their induction training
  • cross-departmental meetings to build relationships and enhance understanding and cooperation

Look after your staff and make them feel valued

Good staff should be nurtured and valued.  Give them all the opportunity to contribute to the growth and success of your business:

  • listen and act upon their concerns and suggestions
  • invest in their development
  • consider running a ‘best idea of the month’ award to encourage creative thinking for customer service improvements or for cost-saving or revenue generating idea
  • incentivise and reward them for introducing a new customer to your business

Probably the best response I have ever heard to a customer complaint is as follows

“You ponce in here expecting to be waited on hand and foot, while I’m trying to run a hotel here. Have you any idea how much there is to do? Do you ever think of that? Of course not, you’re all too busy sticking your noses into every corner, poking around for things to complain about, aren’t you? “

John Cleese as Basil Fawlty in Fawlty Towers.

A bit overboard you might think, but it does show how our natural instinct is to go on the defensive?

There’s nothing to gain in winning an argument only a customer to lose. Try to understand your customer’s point of view and solve the problem so your customer is happy. Even if you know the customer is wrong, sometimes it still makes more sense to resolve the complaint quickly and move on…

Always remember, Treat customers in the same way that you would want to be treated if you were paying for your products or services… Provide good customer care and many of your customers will come back time and again !!!

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