Top tips for improving your customer service

David Haxton gives some advice on getting to know your clientele and serving them better.

Treating your customers or clients to exemplary service is an integral part of any successful business and can have a major impact in its long-term future. Not doing it can have powerfully negative results. In fact, according to Zendesk, 39 percent of customers continue to avoid companies two or more years after a bad experience, so not taking this seriously can have major repercussions.

Whether you’re looking to retain your existing customers or increase your word-of-mouth mentions, good service is key and doesn’t have to cost you or your business the earth. By following these simple steps, you can ensure that your business is keeping its customers happy through excellent customer service, taking your commercial success to the next level.

1. Getting to know your customers

Be honest with yourself, what do they dislike about your products or service? How do they feel about the way you handle complaints? Are they repeat customers? If not, why not? A great way of finding all this is out is by using surveys to measure customer satisfaction and to gauge where the pain points across your business are hiding, which you can then address and eliminate. You might need to hire an external supplier to develop the questions and interpret the findings but, more often than not, the end results justify the cost.

Customer Service case study 1: Cosmetic surgery practice Castlefield Clinic

Following an extensive customer survey, Nishant Agarwal, the MD at cosmetic surgery practice Castlefield Clinic, realised that change was long overdue. ‘We had been running for 20 years and had manual systems in place right from the year dot, which we had just improved as we went along rather than having a complete overhaul of everything,’ he says.

After investing in a customer relationship management system, turnover improved by 15 per cent per annum.

‘It seemed the problem was that not all staff knew what they were doing, so we decided to put a CRM system in place,’ he says. Now, staff performance and customer service are both measurable. ‘We can pull out information that shows how many enquiries are turned into orders and which members of staff are performing,’ says Agarwal. ‘It has also freed up a lot of time for staff so they can focus on the phone with customers, rather than doing admin. And as the service we offer is so personal, building up relationships with customers is crucial. It has absolutely transformed the business.’

2. Building customer relationships

People are more likely to trust you as a business if you don’t lose the human touch. Nowadays lots of businesses rely on technology to interact or keep in touch with their customers, meaning they have to try even harder to make customers feel valued.

It’s not impossible to do this through technology, but it has to be supported by employees going the extra mile. Every customer, regardless of the sector or product, wants effective help and fast resolutions and they should be aware of this from the frontline of your business right through to senior management. This is vital to making your customers feel valued and building long-lasting relationships.

Customer Service case study 2: Ladbrokes call centre

In certain sectors, keeping customers satisfied is a matter of survival. Liam Hennessy, head of call centre at Ladbrokes, says, ‘For us, it’s a matter of the cost of not having it. It’s a very competitive market and we would lose market share if people weren’t happy with the service they received.’

Hennessy adds that the key to staying ahead of the game is to make sure that every phone call is answered in the shortest space of time. ‘A speedy response is crucial; if the phone isn’t answered immediately, the customer will go somewhere else.’

In order to prevent people from waiting, Hennessy invested in a router, which transfers calls to agents in different call centres if lines are busy. This approach was coupled with an extensive training programme.

‘We’ve extended the length of the training course from four to eight weeks. That way, staff confidence levels are high when they are on the phone. Some customers phone around five to six times a day and it’s important they receive a consistent customer experience.’

3. Please your customers at every touchpoint

This might sound simple, but again it’s vital to excellent customer service. If you are a webstore, make sure you offer customer service touchpoints throughout the online customer journey. If you rely on telephone customer service lines, make sure your employees answer the phone with a smile on their face. Many phone experts say customers will hear the smile in the employees’ voices. Think about how you like to be treated when you interact with a company. It’s not a hard thing to do, and it can start with something as straightforward as giving your employees leeway to meet customers’ needs.

Hire people that love people. Your HR team should be looking for not only people with good experience, but people that want to help your customers and put a customer’s needs above anything else. As Mr Selfridges once said, ‘the customer is always right’. While we all know that this may not be true in every case, it helps to approach every problem with this ethos firmly in the forefront of your mind.

Customer Service case study 3: Brompton Quarter Brasserie

Valeria Zilkha, co-owner of restaurant Brompton Quarter Brasserie, says that negative customer feedback led to the transformation of the business. ‘We had a few complaints; people were saying the food was great and they liked the location but the service wasn’t all there – it wasn’t prompt enough and they weren’t being given enough attention.’

The solution was to roll out a thorough staff training programme, says Zilkha.

‘The problem was that employees weren’t properly aware of their roles. Now we assess every member of staff each week. We go through all the positives and negatives with them, which is time-consuming but important to keep staff engaged. ‘Following these changes people told us that they noticed the difference. It really shifted the energy of the place and our turnover has improved by 30 per cent,’ she says.

4. Forecasting the future

There’s nothing more frustrating than carefully planning a purchase only to make up your mind and then find the item is out of stock. We have all been there. While stock related or resourcing issues will sometimes occur in every business, especially with the most popular products, properly managing your stock flow and ensuring you’re aware of potential spikes in demand will save you and your customers heartache.

If you don’t have the item you advertise available to buy, chances are one of your competitors will and more often than not customers will seek to purchase from them instead of you. With figures showing that attracting a new customer is five times more expensive than keeping an existing one, your business cannot afford to disappoint its customers. Develop meaningful sales forecasts in terms of basic units, predicting weekly sales for the first few months and monthly sales for the year ahead. Be sure to consider possible scenarios that might affect this, such as a 10 percent rise or fall in sales.

Of course, sometimes this level of advance forecasting is just not possible, for a number of reasons. But, if your employees are able to reserve the item for when it is next in stock, you’ll still be able to find a way around the problem.

By following these simple steps, you will be able to keep your most important asset happy – your customers. So what are you waiting for!

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Related Topics

Customer Loyalty

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