One of the next most important objectives for a CRM implementation should be its positive impact on customer service. This can be indirect:
organised, informed staff
realtime and accurate information
seamless interaction between pre- and post- sales functions
But as importantly, should be focused on the direct impact to your customers.
Traditional customer service always centred around happy engaging staff helping customers to spend their money! But these days so much of our relationship with our customers is remote, and it is not just the ‘shop floor’ staff that affect customer relationships. Many organisations never meet a customer! So, everyone in your business has an impact on your customers’ perception of your customer service, direct or indirect.
With the ability to name and shame those companies who we do not feel gave good service through social media, our complainants can reach our entire market easily. We must deliver excellence to stay in the game.
But what is customer service? More and more it is not about value for money because our customers expect that already. It is to do with the level of satisfaction in our sales process and the attitude of the business and its people in dealing with the customer. Equally, the post sales experience is critical: getting the right advice, tips, technical support and follow on service can make or break the deal – even if the customer has already parted with their money and likes the actual product/service they initially received.
Given the growing demand for pre and post sales service and the increasing reach of consumer satisfaction (or otherwise) here are five steps to help your small business deliver excellent customer service:
1. Hire Positive People
If you are hiring, consider the applicant’s disposition as much as their qualifications. After all, skills can be learnt but attitude is much more difficult to change! People who are open, friendly, approachable and generally motivated are more likely to respond positively to customers. You need staff that can take a personal interest in not only getting the job done, but in making sure that the customer feels appreciated and looked after in the process.
2. Train them
When you have built a team of employees who will become the ‘face’ of your business to its external audiences, you need to ensure that they not only understand the products and services you offer, but also the aspirations and goals of the business as a whole. If staff understand why they are required to do certain tasks or aim for certain objectives, they are far more likely to buy into the whole idea than if they are simply told to do them.
Don’t see training as something just for new hires to be carried out by long term employees. Whilst this plays a valuable part, ongoing involvement in the business trends, directions, objectives and changes will ensure your staff remain engaged and committed as they feel responsible for the success of the business as a whole. Understanding the way your business works, and how best to use the tools that you provide for them to do their job will motivate and enthuse your employees, and taking responsibility = taking care.
3. Treat them well
Do you treat your staff with the same regard as you would want them to treat your customers? Think about that. You expect your team to radiate friendly and efficient customer service, yet you may not provide an environment which encourages such behaviour. People unhappy in their role are very unlikely to display a positive and helpful attitude to customers. They will most likely copy the behaviour and outlook they receive from managers. Organisations who adopt a proper review procedure for staff and keep them engaged and motivated will naturally provide a positive atmosphere for customers and other external audiences to benefit from.
4. Ask customers for feedback and act on it
You may think you are delivering excellent customer service, but the only true way to find out is to ask those who are on the receiving end. Don’t be tempted to ask only those you know are satisfied. Equally, don’t ask very basic feedback questions which require only superficial responses. Show that you want honest feedback that you can act on, by asking proper questions which illicit thoughtful and valuable answers. Carefully construct open questions (that cannot be answered by yes/no) so that you can get true insight into the perception of your company and its service.
Then publicise the changes and improvements you make – back to the customer who gave the feedback, and if appropriate, to your wider network so that your customers see the improvement but also your prospects see a company striving to deliver excellence. If negative feedback is delivered to you via social media, don’t be scared to respond via the same medium. Handled appropriately, this could turn into a great opportunity to show the depth and quality of your customer service to others watching.
5. Lead by example
As the business owner or manager responsible for your company’s success, you need to listen to your front line staff to gain a clear understanding of true customer satisfaction levels. Information that moves up the organisation chart tends to become filtered and you may not be getting the true picture. If you want to know what is happening in your business, you need to talk to your employees and your customers. Establish clear channels for communication from everybody in and around your business.
The more accurate information you can glean, the better picture you’ll have of what needs to change. You need to set the example of approachability and positivity throughout your organisation.
If you can install a genuine desire to deliver excellent customer service throughout your entire workforce, you will positively impact your bottom line.