The wealthiest entrepreneurs are those who have figured out one simple thing: that the best way to get rich is to give people what they want. Not what you want, or what you think they need, but exactly what they want, especially when it comes to customer service. Service is survival!
During my 20+ years in business as a productivity consultant, I've identified four customer needs that we call the Customer Bill of Rights. We make sure we provide them in every interaction.
Customers want a high level of perceived service quality—the difference between what they expect and what they actually get. So figure out what they expect and then strive to exceed it. The Strategic Planning Institute in Cambridge, MA, determined that perceived quality is the single most important factor in a company's long-term profitability. In other words, kindness, responsiveness, and a pleasant attitude beats the heck out of low price. Your competition will always be raising the bar, so kick the service level up a notch. Periodically assess your clients to gauge your customer satisfaction scores and determine where you can improve. Always give something they aren’t expecting.
Attitude is contagious, so make yours worth catching. No one appreciates obviously bored or unhappy employees. If your employees are unhappy, should they expect to be happy doing business with you? There's a reason why Disney World encourages their employees to never drop out of character: they want to help the customers enjoy themselves as much as possible, which results in higher profits. So even when you've turned in a high level of personal service, look for ways to go farther. Be like the minions at the end of the first Despicable Me movie, who dared each other to go just a little farther every time.
Your customers will respond positively when you treat them as nicely as you would a friend. Support them as individuals and make them feel important; they want to feel like they're more than wallets with legs. Never forget they are the source of your income, but they are still people.
It's not that hard—just show you care. Be polite, engage in small talk, pay them lots of attention, create special deals just for them, and remember their names and important dates. Constantly ask yourself how you can do an even better job of making them feel special, because you'll find more answers the more you ask. It’s been said that profit is the applause of happy customers! So the more special you make them feel, the happier they will be, and the more applause you’ll receive.
Even when customers aren’t right, treat them with the utmost respect and kindness. Be careful with what you say, especially if there was a miscommunication or you failed to meet their expectations in some way. Be invariably polite. Don't make excuses, but show sympathy and explain your reasoning—and then try to find ways to help them anyway.
No matter what, treat them with kid gloves and avoid language that may seem to deflect blame onto them. For example, instead of saying, "Your problem is..." say "The challenge we can work through is…" Those phrases give off very different vibes. If someone has entered an order incorrectly in our shopping cart, we never blame it on them but walk them through it and usually give them something for free.
As a customer, I will happily pay a premium for better service for a product. For example, I do most of my shopping online at Amazon.com. Their prices aren’t always the best, but their guaranteed shipping and no-hassle returns make it worth it to me. I’ll also pay more for greater knowledge when purchasing a service. I list several projects a year on elance.com and don’t always award the contract to the person with the lowest price. Most recently, I selected the person who was charging twice as much as my second choice—because of her expertise.
Great customer service builds trust, which builds loyalty, which results in higher profits and growth—reason enough to put the Customer Bill of Rights in the center of your business plan.
Learn more about customer service best practices on our website.