Maximize Customer Satisfaction Blog

5 Ways to “Rev-Up” Your Customer Service

Posted by Meredith Estep on Thu, May 26, 2016 @ 10:54 AM

dreamstime_6464977-4.jpgCustomer service is the competitive edge that works wonders, even in a sluggish economic market. If you see your competitors revving up their service quality, it will be up to you to take your own service to the next level in order to stand out from the crowd.  Consider these five ways to “rev-up” your customer service and truly delight your client base.


Make it Personal


Customers really love the personal touch, so give it to them every time they walk through your door. Here are a few ideas to personalize your service:


  • Learn your customers' names and use them.
  • Ask about their family, pets, or favorite sports teams.
  • Provide personal attention, even if customers do not buy from you.
  • Learn your regulars' favorite items and let them know about upcoming sales.


Make it Fast


Customers want to be able to walk into a business and walk back out with the item they need in tow as quickly as possible. To help speed up your customers’ experiences with you, consider the following:


  • Answer your phone within a set number of rings.
  • Return all calls within 24 hours.
  • Put aside your customers' favorite items for easy access when they come in.
  • Staff sufficiently to avoid long lines.
  • Apologize if your customer does have to wait for service, even if it is just a minute or two.


Make it Convenient


Convenience is another valuable tool in revving up your customer service. To enhance your customers’ convenience, try these tips:


  • Communicate with your customers about upcoming sales and promotions.
  • Keep popular items in stock so customers do not have to come back or go to a competitor to get what they want.
  • Extend your hours to make it easier for customers to get into your business.
  • Ask customers what you can do to make their experience with you more convenient.


Make it Pleasant


Customers want more than a product or service; they want an enjoyable experience when they walk into your business. To increase the pleasantries, try these ideas:


  • Teach your staff to greet customers with a smile every time they walk through your door.
  • Incorporate customer appreciation events a few times a year.
  • Follow-up with customers to ensure their product or service was satisfactory.
  • Go the extra mile, particularly for regular customers.


Make it Satisfying


What do your customers say when they walk out of your business? Were they mostly satisfied with the experience? Here are some ways to make sure your customers are happy with your level of service:


  • Empower your staff to bend rules and policies when possible to keep customers happy.
  • Diffuse angry customers by apologizing for mistakes and going the extra mile to remedy them.
  • Offer discounts or additional bonuses to customers who have had less than stellar experiences in the past.


Providing customer service that stands out from the crowd is essential in putting your business ahead of your competitors. With these five areas of focus, you can amp up your service level and surprise and delight all of the customers that walk through your door.

Topics: Customer Service

5 Rules Every Customer Service Company Needs

Posted by Meredith Estep on Wed, May 11, 2016 @ 12:03 PM

--ufp1-generaldocs-ihd_services-images_for_blog-dreamstime_8762191.jpgHiring good customer service reps is only half the battle – once you have these employees on staff, it is important to be clear in your expectations of their performance. One way to define what you expect from your CSRs, and hold them accountable for their actions, is to create a list of rules that make up your customer service philosophy for your business. We have five rules of customer engagement every business needs if they are serious about putting their customers first.


Greet Customers with a Smile


Smiling is such a small, simple rule, but it has a profound impact on setting the stage for a positive customer experience. It is also somewhat shocking to see just how many companies do not bother to make this nicety significant.


When a customer walks into your business, the rule should be that employees drop what they are doing to greet a customer, smiling and calling the customer by name if possible. Even a customer coming in with a complaint is more likely to leave their exchange on a positive note if it is begun with the right attitude.


Listen to Their Problems


Customers come into your business looking for a solution, whether they are making a purchase or voicing a complaint about a previous experience with your company. Make it a rule to actively listen to what the customer has to say, so your employees do a better job of identifying the customer’s issue and providing the solution that fits the bill perfectly. CSRs should be discouraged from interrupting customers or completing other tasks while a customer is talking to them.


Never Pass the Buck


Even if the customer’s problem was not your fault, they want you to offer a solution. What they don’t want is excuses as to why the issue occurred in the first place. Customers also don’t want to be passed off to another department when a problem arises. Instead, the rule should be that whoever begins the exchange with the customer now “owns” the issue and is responsible for seeing it through to its logical and satisfactory conclusion.


Give More than you are Asked


It’s one thing to meet customer expectations, but it’s quite another to actually exceed them. If you want your business to get serious about offering five-star service to customers, you must focus on the latter. This means customer service reps must be on the lookout for ways to surprise and delight your customers every single day, with faster, friendlier and more efficient service options.


Follow Up without Fail


The customer experience should not end when your customer walks out your door. Instead, implement a rule for follow-up with customers to ensure they were satisfied with their experience and find out if they require any additional services. An added bonus is that customer follow-up often means a bigger bottom line, since many customers will make additional purchases as a result of this effort.


Customer service is an essential component of any business that wants to be competitive in the marketplace today. With these rules in place, you can rest assured your service employees are prepared to offer the highest quality of service to your customers every single day. 

Topics: Customer Service

5 Facts Your Staff Needs to Know about Customer Service

Posted by Meredith Estep on Thu, May 05, 2016 @ 01:55 PM

dreamstime_4295567_service_action_figures.jpgTeaching effective customer service is not easy. Sometimes employees come to work with absolutely no idea of how to serve customers well, and other times, they do not understand why it even matters.


Before you can instill good skills in your employees, you need to explain the importance of high quality customer service for both your staff and your bottom line. Here are the basic facts your employees need to know about customer service.


It Boosts Sales


Let us start with the obvious: the better your customer service, the more sales you make. High quality service puts your staff in tune with your customers so needs are recognized and products and services are sold to meet them.  When customers feel comfortable with your employees, they also feel more comfortable opening up their wallet to make purchases.


It Builds Loyalty


When customers like your employees, they are more likely to come back to your business time and time again. High quality service does more than boost your sales; it also builds customer loyalty, which in turn builds your bottom line. Your staff needs to understand the vital link between the service they provide and the confidence customers have with your company.


It Puts Customer Service Representatives at the Forefront


When your staff is providing high quality service, they become the shining stars of your company.  Customers do not come to see the corporation; they want to work with the same customer service representative that provided them with stellar service on their last visit. You can do much to support this philosophy by providing your employees with ample training and support that allows them to be the best customer service representatives they can be.


It Gives a Competitive Edge


In many industries, customer service is the competitive edge that makes the difference between companies that thrive and businesses that flounder. Your staff holds the key to the success of your company in comparison to all the competitors in your area. Most people have a natural competitive streak, and knowing that they make the difference in your competition can inspire and motivate many employees to put their best foot forward every day.


It Builds Your Reputation


Most employees want to work for a top-notch business, but do they understand that they hold the key to your corporate reputation? When employees are providing the best possible service to your customers, your business is automatically looked upon in a more positive light. The better the service they provide; the better your reputation becomes. Your staff needs to know that they are the primary factor in the quality of business they work for.  They should understand that the better their service is, the better their company is.


When your staff understands the importance of high quality customer service, they have a better perspective on the impact they make on the success of your company. Before you begin teaching your employees the finer points of customer service, explain the significance of their work to the success of your company overall. When they feel like an integral part of your team, they will be more likely to show up for work every day, willing to give their best to their jobs.

Topics: Customer Service

Understanding CRM and How to Use it to Your Benefit

Posted by Meredith Estep on Wed, Apr 27, 2016 @ 11:39 AM

dreamstime_9632847_CRMM.jpgCRM is a common buzzword in customer service circles today, but what is it and how can it work for you? CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management, and it is a process involving the use of technology to provide more efficient service to your customers. Although it originally was used to refer to a specific type of software, the term CRM now encompasses an entire customer service philosophy that incorporates building customer loyalty by compiling information about your customers into one, easy to use tool.


The Components of CRM


Today, Customer Relationship Management utilizes all of the following to provide the highest level of service possible:


  • Your entire staff, which must embrace the CRM philosophy, from your CEO on down
  • Your company's processes that are used to bolster customer service
  • The technology used to drive the process for the best efficiency possible


When all of these components are working together harmoniously, you are effectively building customer loyalty and providing a level of service that will attract new customers and help you maintain your current base.


A CRM system is designed to provide as much customer information as possible to your customer service staff every time your customer calls or walks in your door. For example, by simply plugging in your customer's name or phone number, your employee might see the customer's previous purchase history and potential products for cross-selling. With the information easily accessible, customer service representatives will be able to effectively provide additional information the customer might find helpful.


Building Customer Loyalty


The primary purpose of CRM is to build customer loyalty by learning about your customers' behaviors and personalities. CRM collects information from a variety of sources both inside and outside your company to produce the most complete customer profile possible. The process allows you to build stronger relationships with your customers, which is the best way to nurture loyalty and increase your profit margin. By using information about customers, market trends and effective marketing techniques, you increase the value of your business overall.


The Benefits of CRM


When CRM is used effectively, it offers many benefits to business owners, including:


  • Increased efficiency in call centers
  • Greater cross-selling potential
  • More effective and increased sales
  • Better customer profiling that can be used in marketing, sales and service
  • Reduced costs and increased profits
  • Increased customer base and customer loyalty
  • Better customer service overall


By compiling the most comprehensive set of information on customers, CRM offers many opportunities to amp your business up to the next level.


While CRM offers a host of advantages, it is not without its share of challenges. The systems are often quite complex to integrate and may require the expertise of a CRM expert to get them up and running smoothly. It is also important that the entire company is sold on the CRM philosophy, which means extensive training of your entire staff before implementing the system. However, the benefits may far outweigh the challenges, when your company enjoys a loyal customer base of satisfied clients that come back again and again for your products.

Topics: Customer Service

Turning Customer Complaints into Gold

Posted by Meredith Estep on Tue, Apr 19, 2016 @ 02:48 PM

dreamstime_7265765.jpgAsk any customer service representative about their least favorite part of their job, and they will probably tell you it is unhappy customers. No one likes getting thrown into an emotionally charged situation with a customer whose expectations have not been met by your business.


It is important to instill in your customer service staff the importance of handling customer complaints in a positive way.  These tips can help you and your staff transform customer complaints into golden opportunities for your company.


Seize the Day!


The first step in handling customer complaints is to recognize them as the opportunity that they are. Studies have shown that the vast majority of customers (more than 90%) will never complain about less than stellar service. Instead, they will quietly move their business elsewhere. Many complaining customers are actually voicing their frustration to give you the chance to fix the situation and repair the business relationship.


Diffusion Tactics


Unfortunately, frustrated customers quickly become angry customers, which makes them much more difficult to manage. Instead of trying to argue or shout over an angry customer, let them have their say. Listen carefully to what they are saying so you can identify the basis of the problem.


Once they have stated their case, try repeating the problem to make sure you heard it correctly. Voila! Your angry customer has now become a merely frustrated customer who is willing to hear what you can do to remedy the problem.


The Power of an Apology


If your customer's frustration stems from an error on the part of your company, do not be afraid to apologize for the mistake. It is amazing to see how many customers are simply looking for an "I'm sorry" from a business, yet so many businesses are hesitant to offer it. An apology is one of the quickest ways to make the customer feel validated in their concerns. However, do not stop with the apology, or it will appear that you are only paying lip service to the issue.


Find a Fix


When your customer has a legitimate problem, it is up to your customer service staff to fix it. Empower your staff with the knowledge and authority to deal with the majority of customer complaints, so your frustrated customer does not have to be referred to another entity to get their problem solved. If the problem is one that can be repeated due to a faulty system or poor procedure, make the necessary changes so it does not happen again.


Exceed Expectations


You have met your customer's expectations. You have listened to their complaint, apologized for the inconvenience and fixed the problem. Now take your service a step further. Send your customer a discount for their next visit or follow up with a phone call to see if there is anything else you can do to keep the business. When your customer talks about your company to others, this is the step in the process they will relay most.


Customer complaints are not easy to deal with, but proper handling can transform an angry customer into a loyal one. Teach your staff these steps, and they will be properly prepared to take customer complaints in stride.

Topics: Customer Service

12 Tips for Hiring Stellar Customer Service Staff

Posted by Meredith Estep on Thu, Apr 14, 2016 @ 11:20 AM

dreamstime_7822202-1.jpgIt takes a certain type of person to provide the highest level of service to your customers.  However, how do you know whether the applicant sitting across the desk from you is that kind of person?


The hiring process is where your customer service begins. If you hire carefully, you are more likely to staff your office with people who enjoy working with customers and will stay with your organization for years to come.  Implement these tips to help you hire customer service representatives that will reap good results.


Begin on the Phone


If your customer service representatives spend a significant amount of time on the phone with your customers, begin the hiring process with an extensive phone interview with prospective candidates. If the applicant has a winning phone personality and is able to answer your initial questions in a positive, concise manner, it is probably worth calling them in for a face-to-face interview.


What to Incorporate in the Interview


If you have never been properly trained in the fine art of interviewing, it is worth the time and money to invest in a class on this subject. The more effective your interviewing skills are, the more likely you will be to hire stellar customer service staff the first time around. Once you are properly prepared for your interviews, here are a few key components to include:


  • Ask the applicant for their definition of customer service to determine if the person has a complete understanding of their role in the company.
  • Present a messy customer service scenario and ask the applicant how they would handle it.
  • Use a filtering test either online or manually to determine a person's aptitude for customer service.
  • Watch for hidden attitudes, words or facial expressions that might indicate the applicant does not have the patience or empathy to work in customer service.


Qualities to Look For


Once you bring in an applicant for an interview, there are a few specific qualities to look for:


  • People Interaction – Look for applicants who seem to enjoy interacting with other people, whether on the phone or in person.
  • Customer Focus – Great customer service representatives are always able to see situations from the other person's point of view.
  • Flexibility – Customer service is an ever-changing job, and your employees must be ready and willing to wear a number of hats in any given situation.
  • Desire to Learn – The best customer service representatives head to work wanting to learn something new each day.
  • Consistency – Although customer service representatives must be flexible, they must also be consistent in terms of the standards they uphold and the level of work they do.
  • Accountability – Customer service representatives are not afraid to shoulder the responsibility of customer satisfaction and will not be inclined to "pass the buck" when things go wrong.
  • Teamwork – Customer service representatives should be team players, utilizing the expertise of the entire staff to provide the highest quality of service possible.


By approaching the hiring process in a methodical, thoughtful way, you will be more likely to find the best customer service representatives for the job. Hiring quality people in the beginning will reap great rewards in terms of staff retention and customer satisfaction.

Topics: Customer Service

The Art of Follow-Through

Posted by Meredith Estep on Thu, Mar 24, 2016 @ 11:32 AM

--ufp1-generaldocs-ihd_services-images_for_blog-dreamstime_8762191.jpgGoogle the term "follow-through" and you will find lists of customers complaining about the lack of follow-through from various businesses. It appears this is one of the top issues customer service departments may deal with today. 


Unfortunately, lack of follow-through is also one of the fastest ways to lose customers, as they become frustrated with companies that do not seem to care whether their issues are resolved or not.  On the other hand, attentive follow-through is also one of the easiest ways to surprise and delight your customers and keep them coming back for more. We have tips to help you develop a habit of follow-through with your own customer service staff.


Situations that Require Follow-Through


There are many times when your customers will require effective follow-through to keep them satisfied, including:


  • When your business is unable to keep promises in terms of delivery times or product quality
  • When your customer receives less than stellar service and complains
  • When phone service does not meet customer expectations
  • When someone at your business makes a mistake
  • When your customer is not sure how a product is supposed to work and directions that accompany the product are inadequate
  • When your customer has been waiting an unusually long time for a product to be received or an issue to be resolved


Nothing frustrates a customer faster than feeling as though they have been left hanging by your company. Fortunately, in nearly all of these circumstances, the simple act of follow-through can transform a potentially angry customer into a patient and reasonable one.


Reasons to Follow-Through


Follow-through can take on many different forms, depending on the circumstances. Use follow-through techniques to:


  • Answer your customer's questions or provide additional information about your product or service
  • Apologize for the customer's inconvenience that was caused by lack of quality goods or services on the part of your company
  • Update the customer on the current status of an order or resolution of an issue that is taking longer than average to complete
  • Provide customer with additional resources, such as extra information about the product they purchased or other products they might find useful
  • Listen to a customer's complaints and find out what you can do to remedy the situation for them
  • Ensure that your customer is completely satisfied with the product they ordered and the service they received
  • Offer compensation when warranted, such as a discount coupon or freebie in the event the customer was greatly inconvenienced by the issue


Follow-through can be done over the phone, by email or through a letter. It is best if the follow-through is managed by the same customer service representative that handled the customer's initial transaction, to ensure consistency and continuity throughout the process. However, customers that have become disgruntled may require follow-through by the management team to ensure they are satisfied at the end of the transaction. When you keep the lines of communication open between your staff and customers, you are more likely to maintain a satisfied and loyal customer base.

Topics: Customer Service

How to Handle the Fickle Customer

Posted by Meredith Estep on Wed, Mar 16, 2016 @ 11:36 AM

dreamstime_6778271.jpgIn an impersonal, technological age, the fickle customer has become more common. After all, why should they not go to the place where they can get the desired product faster and cheaper? In many cases, the fickle customer will want last-minute changes to their order, which may or may not be an easy fix for the company. What do you do when a customer wants changes that will cost money or delay the production process? Better yet, how do you keep customers content so they do not become fickle customers in the first place?


Consider these tips for dealing with fickle customers without running your business into the ground.


Preventing the Fickle Mentality


To prevent fickle customers from moving to the business down the street at the first inkling of dissatisfaction, you must build your customers' loyalties up front. Customer loyalty is directly related to the relationship you form with your customer. If the individual feels they are treated more like a person than a number, they will be much more likely to stand by your products and services for the long term. This sense of loyalty makes it much easier to deal with occasional changes or demands that you find difficult to accommodate.


Set Realistic Expectations


Your customers should know what to expect from your company right from the beginning in terms of the time it will take to get a product, the choices in products available, and the ability to make last minute changes. When fees are involved with particular changes, your customer should understand what they are before they sign on the bottom line. If your customer has realistic expectations from the first encounter, they will be less likely to try to push unreasonable demands on you throughout the transaction process.


Get Agreements in Writing


A written contract is an easy way to counter the unreasonable demands of a fickle customer. When fees and delays are clearly stated in the contract, your customer cannot get too upset if their last minute changes come with additional cost or take more time to complete. If you do not use written contracts in your business, follow up your initial contact with an email or letter stating the terms of your agreement.


Define the Boundaries


If you are offering a limited time offer or bending the rules for a customer, make sure they understand the boundaries of the deal. Some business owners make the mistake of trying to attract new customers by offering less-than-profitable terms on the first sale, and then get duped into continuing the practice because the limits of the deal were not clearly laid out. Do not count on your customer to read the fine print on your promotional material or contract.  Explain the terms as well so there is no misunderstanding in the future.


Fickle customers are a necessary evil in business today, but there are many steps you can take to protect yourself from last minute changes or unreasonable demands. By dealing with customers in a direct, honest fashion from the very start, you will be more likely to prevent difficult situations and additional time and cost investments.

Topics: Customer Service

Good Customer Service is Personal

Posted by Meredith Estep on Wed, Mar 09, 2016 @ 11:16 AM

dreamstime_2627496.jpgIn our impersonal, technological age, it is hard to believe that personalized service is still preferable to the high efficiency and accuracy of a computer. However, in order to build customer loyalty and satisfaction, personalized service is absolutely necessary for successful businesses today. Customers do not want to be treated like a number; they want to know that their business is valued by the person on the other end of the phone or behind the counter.


Take advantage of these tips to help you provide customer service that is personalized to your customers' direct needs.


Know Your Customers


When you take the time to get to know your customers, you begin the process of building relationships with them. The first step in developing that professional relationship is to learn their names.


Customers love to be called by name when they walk through your door, so make a game of it with your staff. Offer rewards at the end of the week for the staff member that can remember the most customer names. You might be surprised at how quickly it becomes second nature to use names when interacting with your regular customers.


Maintain Correspondence


Regular newsletters that keep customers abreast of your latest products and promotions is another fabulous way to keep in touch with your customer base. However, do not settle for the standard form letter addressed to "Dear Customer," or "To Whom it May Concern,". There are software programs that allow you to personalize your mass email to each recipient, which offers a friendly touch to all of your correspondence. Customers are much more likely to read emails addressed directly to them, rather than "Occupant," or another such generic title.


Set Up Client Histories


Another computer trick is to link a customer’s history into your system so it comes up every time your customer comes in to make another transaction. When your customer service representative pulls up your client's name, they will also find previous purchases and other pertinent information that allows them to customize their service approach. Perhaps they will find that this customer typically buys a product that is soon due to go on sale or is going to be discontinued. This allows your staff to share pertinent information with customers every time they visit your business.


Handling Issues


When your customer has an issue or complaint, this is when personalized service should rev into high gear. The initial employee that hears about the issue should be the one to see it through to its resolution, even if other staff members must get involved in the process. Train your employees in the fine art of follow-through to ensure complaints are dealt with to the finish. There should also be follow-up contact with the customer after the resolution to ensure the customer was satisfied with the response of your company.


While automated processes have diminished some of the personalized customer service today, they can also be used to take your service to a whole new level. By utilizing these tools to your fullest advantage, you can continue to delight your customers with service that sports a decidedly personal touch.

Topics: Customer Services

Break Down the Techno-Jargon to Improve Your Customer Service

Posted by Meredith Estep on Wed, Mar 02, 2016 @ 02:51 PM

dreamstime_8433634-1.jpgWhen you work in a particular industry, you are probably exposed to the jargon of the field every single day. Words get abbreviated and technical terms become a part of your everyday language.


However, customers do not have the same exposure to that technical jargon every day. When words that they do not understand are used to explain issues or policies, customers become frustrated and even angry. 


Thankfully, we have tips to help you teach your staff how to communicate with customers without using the techno-jargon that can become such a source of frustration today.


Define the Techno-Terms


Before you can train staff to avoid technical terminology, they need to understand which words and terms fall into that category. Your employees may spend so much time throwing around techno-jargon that they may not realize they are doing so.


At your next staff meeting, take some time to brainstorm a list of terms your customers may not be familiar with. It may be technical product names, the process involved with ordering the product, or terms describing the transaction process. See how many words you can list on a white board in fifteen minutes.


Analyze the Terms


Once you have a hefty list, you can begin analyzing the words to determine whether customers would understand the terms as they are listed, or if they need to be revised into easier terms to understand. 


Keep in mind that your list probably will not be complete, but that is perfectly fine. The idea is to get your staff thinking about the words they use every day and how those terms might sound to customers. Make a second list of the words you think should be revised when communicating messages to customers.


Find Substitutions


From your revised list, begin analyzing each term and finding new ways to say them that the customer will more easily understand. In some cases, it might be simply a matter of shortening the term to eliminate possibly confusing words. Other times, it might involve eliminating an abbreviation to refer to the product or document by its full name.


For example, instead of calling a document an "EDA," refer to the paper as the "authorization for electronic debits." It takes a bit more time, but your customer knows exactly what you are referring to and does not get frustrated by the process.


Apply the Lesson


Drive the point home by beginning your meeting using terms your staff has never heard before. Give them an instruction using techno-jargon they are not familiar with and then ask if they are ready to begin. See how many willingly ask for clarification of your instructions.


Explain that customers feel the same way when policies or procedures are described to them in this fashion. Thus, it is important for customers to understand what your customer service representatives are talking about the first time around.


By eliminating techno-jargon from your communication with customers, you eliminate the potential for frustration from the beginning of the transaction. When your staff understands the importance of positive communication, they will be more likely to satisfy customers on the very first try.

Topics: Customer Service

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