Make a Good First Impression
A customer’s first contact with your company must be a positive experience, regardless of whether that contact occurs via the telephone, the internet, or in person. If clients generally call your company, make sure your receptionist interacts well with strangers and is knowledgeable about the business. And, whenever possible, avoid automated telephone recordings with confusing menus. If clients are likely to first encounter you via the internet, make sure your website is attractive, easy to navigate and, by all means, accurate. If you meet customers face-to-face, make sure they’re greeted with a smile and an immediate offer to provide assistance.
Although it may be uncomfortable delivering bad news, most clients appreciate getting honest, complete information upfront, free of sugar-coating or promises on which you can’t deliver. Misleading your customers or leaving them in the dark about important things will make you appear deceptive and untrustworthy.
Failure to show your clients the utmost level of respect could be detrimental to your professional relationship. For example, cancelling meetings at the last minute or appearing distracted when you talk to them could give the impression that you’re too busy and don’t respect them. Therefore, make sure to appear attentive to your customers’ needs and treat them how you would expect to be treated by someone else.
Return Messages Promptly
Whether you deal with customers in person, by phone, or via email, the cardinal rule of good customer service is to follow up when a customer contacts you. Delays in returning voicemails or neglected emails give the impression that the customer is not important to you.
Listen to Them and Hear What They Say
Just because you sit silently on the other line as clients discuss their concerns does not mean you’re a good listener. You must listen to what they say, but you must also take action if the circumstances demand it, and you should digest the information so you remember the conversation. If you fail to take the appropriate action in response to a conversation, or if you’ve totally forgotten what a client said the next time you speak, you’ll create the unfortunate impression that you don’t value their business.
Don’t Smother Them
While making customers know that you care is important, your attempts to convey that message should be tempered by professional courtesy. For example, phone calls should be kept to a reasonable level to avoid making clients feel harassed. Keep in mind that your clients are likely busy people and are paying you to take care of business. Don’t overburden them with details unless they specifically request it.
Have you ever met with a store clerk or spoken to a customer service representative on the phone and gotten the impression that they weren’t very familiar with their company’s products or services? That phenomenon occurs much more often than it should. To be fair, every employee in a company can’t be expected to have an immediate answer to every question about every product or service, but a simple “I don’t know” is never an acceptable answer when dealing with customers. Instead, the customer should be given an explanation of why the information isn’t readily available and a promise that you’ll get back to them promptly after a little research. The customer shouldn’t be left with the impression that employees are uninformed or that the company’s failure to train has created an insecure workforce. In all levels of a company, from lower level employees to the executives, all representatives of a company should exude confidence in every interaction with clients.
The Customer is Always Right…Even When He’s Not.
If you’ve ever worked in a customer service position, then you know the old adage that “the customer is always right” isn’t accurate. We all have customers who are difficult or clients that make unreasonable demands. While you shouldn’t feel obligated to give in to every outrageous request a customer proposes, you should make every effort to calmly deal with dissatisfied patrons and tactfully address their concerns. Telling a customer that he’s dead wrong or calling him out for lying is never acceptable.
Money, Money, Money
Some customers may be willing to tolerate an unreturned phone call here or there, an occasionally rude receptionist, or a cancelled meeting once in a while, but no one will stand for you taking advantage of them financially. If you’ve quoted a price or a fee, stick to it. Honoring your financial commitments will go a long way in convincing your customers that you have integrity and that they can trust you. In contrast, hidden fees or surprise invoices will make you appear unreliable.
Work with Your Clients, Not Against Them
Companies that implement policies intended to force the customer’s hand will invariably experience customer dissention. Long-term service contracts, for example, often contain hefty termination fees and other fine print provisions stacked against the consumer. If your routine policies make the customer feel like you’ve trapped them or positioned them so you can milk them for fees, they’ll assume you don’t want a working relationship and they’ll likely search for a better alternative.