I recently took a business flight, which began straightforward enough, sitting at the airport departure gate considering my work-life balance and deciding on whether to answer more work e-mails or watch my latest Netflix download. My flight was cancelled due to hazardous weather and my situation gradually descended into an all too familiar and unfortunate story of poor customer service, exhibiting insensitivity, misdirection and bad communication by airline staff, which left many people angry, frustrated and confused.
It is perhaps now more than at any other time in our recent history that businesses are confronted with difficult political, economic and social challenges. Meeting customer demands and needs presents an essential part in gaining, the edge in competitive markets and in the promotion of sustainable business growth and survival. While some companies seem to be greatly lacking in customer service other companies such as; Amazon, Apple, Samsung, Google, and South-West Airlines are significantly advancing in making their customer experience a top priority.
Good customer service should not be too much to expect and if companies wish to excel and earn loyalty then they require excellent customer service. The customer experience can be hugely improved by adopting a focused approach in conveying relevant information, keeping things simple, following clear procedures and good practice, providing practical solutions, utilizing targeted training and above all possessing a genuine commitment to providing the best possible service for customers.
Here are some basic customer service steps, which can greatly benefit many organizations who deal with tens, hundreds or thousands of people on a daily basis.
Constant and speedy flow of information: This is essential and above all the most important process in managing situations, particularly when something has gone wrong. Provide customers with a clear explanation on the source and impact of the situation, with information on how the situation is being managed and how and when it will be resolved. Giving accurate and regular updates conveys reassurance. Customers need to have confidence that someone is taking responsibility and that action is being taken to address the situation as quickly as possible.
Organized business processes: Ensure that comprehensive and up to date policies and procedures are established, which specify clearly defined regulations and resolution strategies. All relevant parties involved should be made fully aware of these processes, as well as being prepared to manage any necessary “in the moment responses” related to the situation. This means having people and operating systems, which possess adaptable and flexible reactions with a problem-solving approach enabling your business to operate at its optimal level.
Motivated and engaged staff have a huge impact on the customer experience. Recruit and develop employees who positively invest in their work and who are willing to go the extra mile to ensure that customers receive outstanding service.
Match needs with appropriate services or information such as; replacement or return routes, accommodation and transport options, support contact details, special needs and emergency services if necessary. Customers greatly benefit from being supported and cared for through the guidance and resources they are given. When something goes wrong businesses should be committed to getting things back on track as quickly as possible. This contributes to building a strong and positive company image, which customers feel able to trust and respect
Understand your customer’s expectations and respond promptly and appropriately. Most customers expect open, fair and respectful treatment. Some customers may expect the earth and some customers may expect the impossible. Whatever the expectation companies need to listen, acknowledge and give their all to accommodate reasonable expectations and respectfully express what clearly can be done rather than what can’t be done for unmeetable expectations. Offering extras wherever possible can go a long way to appeasing customers
Navigation is necessary, in order to maintain direction and respond successfully to the demands of a situation. Do not insist on sticking to a particular course, recognize when something isn’t working and change direction. Learn and implement changes through good practice, continuous feedback and a clear complaints and corrective measures process
Identify clear roles and responsibilities, in order to ensure staff are able to fulfill their task and to act quickly and appropriately. People perform more effectively when they understand their position and are clear about the resources and strategies available to them
Calm and courteous manner strongly promotes a sense of control and helps ease customers’ frustration and anxiety. Work with your staff to develop this consistent style of interaction through training and your company ethos
Accessible and varied communication resources are vital in conveying information, as well as allowing for maximum connection with customers. Provide clear and up to date information through different mediums, such as Websites, Email, SMS, Leaflets, Announcements, Notice Boards, CHAT, Telephone and forms of Social Media such as; Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube
Trained and competent staff are essential, in order to deal professionally and successfully with demanding situations, particularly where customers may be feeling angry, frustrated, disappointed, confused, anxious or afraid. Investment in your people’s learning and development is vital, in order to build confident, skilled and top performing employees
Empathy is an important part of how you express a genuine understanding and interest in the experience and welfare of others. Acknowledge how the situation could be impacting on the customer and offer consolation
C.O.M.M.U.N.I.C.A.T.E and you earn your customer’s respect and loyalty
Caroline Ribeiro-Nelson is Head of Free Choices. She is an experienced Consultant, Executive Coach, Psychotherapist & Trainer. Free Choices provide a range of Consultancy, Psychological Health & Wellbeing (PHeW) Professional Personal Development Training, Coaching and Mediation services