How to Improve Customer Service
Research shows that if we receive good customer service, we will tell two or three people. However, if we get poor service, we will tell ten to twelve others!
Since word of mouth recommendations and referrals are often key drivers of new business, all companies should strive to achieve consistently high service levels. With that in mind, here are 18 practical tips on how to improve customer service in your company:
1. Understand customer needs
The more you know about your customers, the more you are likely to understand customer needs and expectations. Hence, do a little research about your main customers. Then give some thought as to how your product or service could better suit their needs. This will help you find the right ways to meet customer aspirations and achieve outstanding customer service.
2. Seek and analyse customer feedback
Don’t make assumptions; look for ways to find out what your customers think about the organisation. Be radical – invite them in to help you identify what you could be doing better. See meeting customer needs for more information.
3. Delight your customers with WOW! moments
Nothing is more powerful than going out of your way to give a customer something that they were not expecting or anticipating from you. Importantly, this will help to raise your credibility within the local and on-line communities, through positive feedback and referrals. See delighting your customers for help.
4. Invest in customer service training
Choose a training provider who will really get to know your business and who can support your business strategy and service standards. In addition, develop your own short internal customer service training sessions to raise the importance and get your employees involved. For top tips see customer service training ideas.
5. Set and communicate clear standards
Set standards in terms of quality, accuracy, behaviour, appearance and good customer service. Crucially, let staff know what you expect from them. Then ensure that the service is consistently good, in every location, from everyone, every day.
6. Capture and share examples of great service in your organisation
This helps build best practice, whilst giving recognition to the individual who delivered the exceptional service. In addition, it encourages more staff to “go the extra mile”.
7. Build your processes around the customer, not the organisation
Follow your customer’s journey, from finding you to using your service and products, to billing and after sales support. In particular, look for ways of streamlining customer service processes at each stage of their journey.
8. Go ‘back to the floor’
Shadow people in the organisation. For example, see how your systems and processes affect the customer, and identify what obstacles get in the way of good customer service.
9. Track and analyse errors and complaints
Get to the root cause to find out what is going wrong and why. Involve people in improving processes to prevent recurrences. Take a look at our tips for handling customer complaints. Also consider some remedial training and coaching.
10. Send staff out as ‘mystery shoppers’ to your competitors
Let your staff see for themselves what others are doing. Importantly, get them to share their experience and see what best practice you can adopt and what ideas you can purloin with mystery shopping.
11. Have regular internal customer service sessions with cross sections of staff
Your staff are at the “sharp end”, and they’ll have lots of ideas on how things could be improved. Encourage them to think of solutions to provide the “wow factor”. In addition, use the creativity of the group to brainstorm and think outside the box for less obvious suggestions. See tips on developing creativity and facilitating groups, to get the most from these brainstorming sessions.
12. Consider setting up customer service awards
Implement a simple award scheme where individuals, colleagues and customers can nominate team members who demonstrate exceptional customer service.
13. Treat staff as you treat your customers
‘Behaviour breeds behaviour’ and happy staff lead to happy customers. Unfortunately, we have probably all experienced staff that look and sound completely fed up, and they are the worst ambassadors.
Hence, to help change their mindset, give them the opportunity to experience life as one of your customers. As a result, they will feel more highly valued, share great insights and help you improve your customer service. See engaging with customers for help.
14. Pay attention to those who do not serve customers directly
The chances are that if they’re not serving a customer, they’re serving someone who is, and these people are their “internal” customers. Consequently, you should provide opportunities for your support staff to interact with customers, so they provide improved services.
15. Build a team culture
Emphasise that everyone is a link in the chain and that everything they do should be focused on delighting the customer. See our tips on building high performance teams.
16. Set measurable objectives around improved customer service
Be sure to cascade them across the organisation. In addition, ensure every team member has a role to take in improving customer service as part of your business strategy.
17. Review individual performance regularly
Undertake regular performance reviews, not just during the annual appraisal. For example, give feedback about what is going well, as well as offering coaching for areas needing development. For specific help with this, see performance appraisal methods.
18. Recruit the right people
Implement effective selection techniques, and invest in staff training. Above all, remember that to the customer, whomever they are dealing with is your company. Hence, are you measuring the right behaviours and attitudes that achieve high levels of customer service within your selection process?
At KSL Training, we adopt a holistic approach to customer service, helping you to achieve your business strategy and customer service standards.
We offer a practical half-day or one-day customer service training course that will teach you how to improve customer service, at every level of your organisation. Alternatively, contact us to discuss a tailored customer care training programme for your business or organisation.
About the Author
, MCIPD is Company Founder of KSL Training. Kim has 30 years training and HR management experience in the Retail, Hospitality and Pharmaceutical industry.