I just had a recent experience that reinforced the importance of customer service.
A recent trip to our basement found water on the floor by the water heater (How many of you can relate?). The plumber was called. They came out. Upon a brief inspection, they informed my wife that it wasn’t the water heater, our basement walls were leaking. The story is much longer but that’s the main point.
A week later, after examining the walls in several ways, I proceeded to carefully inspect the water heater. The evidence strongly suggested that was the problem. Re-contacted the plumber, they came out, replaced the water heater and no more water.
So in this transaction, where were customer service moments?
Listening to the customer comes first to mind. Now I appreciated the fact that they offered a second opinion and didn’t want to do an expensive job that might not solve the problem. But maybe you need to “go the extra mile.” In my case, it wasn’t easy but my re-inspection of the heater finally found water drops a couple inches off the floor and a line of rust coming down the inner liner.
Next, don’t assume that a nod by the customer that they understand really means “they understand.” If you are dealing in a technical area, you may want to ask them to repeat key parts of your message and help them walk through the issues. When talking with the customer make sure you talk in laymen’s terms and not in technical language.
In my case, another customer service moment was missed when they failed to acknowledge they didn’t get it right the first time. We all understand how life goes. So if you do have to go back, make sure you take the chance to talk about the issue. Some research suggests that customers may have more positive feelings towards the company in those times where you need to return to a job than those who got what they wanted the first time.
Finally, learn from every customer encounter. Replay the situation and see what you might have done differently. If you have employees, you may want to discuss it as a case study with the group. (The first couple of times you may want the example to be something you did to show it can happen to anyone or pull this one out as it is anonymous).
Remember that for every customer service issue you hear about, there are probably 10 more that you never learn about; instead, the customer just disappears.
Customer service is the bedrock of your business. Selling once to a customer makes money. Developing a lifetime relationship based on customer service builds a business.
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Glenn Muske is an independent expert on rural small business, working as GM Consulting – Your partner in achieving small business success. He provides consulting, and writes articles for county extension agents and newspapers across North Dakota. Previously, he was the Rural and Agribusiness Enterprise Development Specialist at the North Dakota State University Extension Service – Center for Community Vitality.