Five Ways to Improve Customer Service: #Blog4Biz Day 17

The Living BRAVE blog re-launches on Aug 1, 2013. During July, however, I accepted the #Blog4Biz daily business blogging challenge. The challenge is designed to help business owners focus on certain aspects of blogging that will expand their skill, boost creativity, and focus their message. If you want to join the challenge, click here.

Today is about improving customer service. One of my favorite subjects from a communications skills stand point. How would yo suggest improving your customer service skills? You might say," Julia, this doesn't apply to me so because I don't have a customer service job." To which I would reply, "Oh yes you do!"

There are two types of customers. External and internal. 

External customers are what we typically think of when we talk customer service. They are the people directly buy or use the product or service of an organization. 

Internal customers are the staff that work in an organization that directly or indirectly contribute to making a product or service. These are your co-workers, your bosses, and your subordinates. 

Now that is cleared up you can see why I say we all have customers. And when it comes to customer services, we need to think about both types of customer. 

Here are my 5 tips for improving both internal and external customer service. relations

1. Listen up!

Customers respond with loyalty when they feel like they have been heard. I recently had a technically issue with my website domain host. I called the help line. I knew this girl and I would have an issue because I had to tell her multiple times what I wanted to do. 
She was more interested in impressing me with her big IT words, than listening for understanding. She didn't come across competent but arrogant. She didn't understand and proceeded to take step by step down the WRONG path. At the end, we had to undo everything because she "misunderstood" me. Make sure you know exactly what your customer wants and why before offering a solution

2. Know when to stop talking!

Most businesses over promise and under deliver. You can improve your customer relations simple by saying what needs to be said and then being quiet. If you don't know. Say so and then point them in the right direction. To do this you must get comfortable in silence. State the issue as you hear it, confirm, state your solution or deliverable and then zip it! Most people are uncomfortable in silence and therefore try to fill the space with...you guessed it...words. When you speak from a place of discomfort, you may not remember your words, but your customers will and they will hold you to. 

I needed my air conditioner serviced recently. I was on the phone with the technician who said he could get to my house 3 days after I needed him to. I asked if he could arrive sooner. A myriad of "Uhs" and other unintelligible sounds came out of his mouth before he halfheartedly committed to arriving the next day. The truth was he really couldn't get to me the next day but the silence was so uncomfortable he needed to fill it with something...and that something was a promise he couldn't keep.

3. Go the extra mile!

There is always room on the extra mile. Customers expect that are going to do what you say you will. By doing this you are just being average. Go the extra mile to leave your customer feeling like you went above what was expected. In my business, the best way I do that is be concentrating on the feeling factors. Your customers will associate a feeling to your business. If that feeling is positive, they will come back. If that feeling is negative, they will look elsewhere to get their needs met. 

4. Ask for and then acknowledge feedback!

Build a feedback process into every client interaction. Ask customers to tell you how you are doing. When they tell you, let them know you heard them. This goes beyond the "thanks for your feedback" page at the end of a survey. Some customers will never take your poll or survey. Have a live person call them and ask for feedback. Then once you have that feedback, if at all possible, contact the customer to tell them how their feedback was used. This reiterates that you listen and that you go the extra mile.

5. Help your customers grow by growing with them!

Life is all about growth. Our customers and clients are always growing so why not grow together. If you are learning a tool that might be helpful to your clients, share it with them and invite them along as you grow. Serving together on a volunteer project, or learning together in a professional development event is a great way to further engage internal and external customers. Take the computer class and invite your customers along with you. Host a training course on....oh gee I don't know.....communication skills let's say...and invite your clients and the community to attend. They will get to see that you are committed to growing. You will show that you aren't just a business but a responsible corporate citizen.

Customers are what keeps us in business. Invest in them and you see the return. What do you think of these suggestions? 

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