When you think of the term customer service, what comes to mind? If you’re like most other managers and business owners, you pictured a company employee interacting with a client or consumer during a sale or just before one. Literally, that mental image is accurate because it depicts a literal version of the term. Unfortunately, most of the hard work that goes into pleasing customers takes place long before merchants and consumers interact with each other. In fact, some of the essential pieces of the customer service puzzle have little to do with point-of-sale interactions.
Instead, they’re about behind the scenes activities, life efficient delivery of goods, offering generous return policies, designating an in-house customer advocate, solid teamwork, building a client-based corporate culture, and more. Most of the time, people who purchase your company’s goods and services have no clue what you’ve already done to make their lives easier and every transaction a smooth one. But, just like every other kind of relationship, the whole process begins with making a good impression. Here are some suggestions for building a top-notch customer service policy.
1. Make All First Contacts Positive
This strategy is a hybrid because it’s only partially behind the scenes. The central idea is identifying first contacts, or encounters between employees and prospective buyers. Whether it’s on a chat line, a live phone call, or at a public expo, you need to have an in-place plan for how to meet and interact with people outside the company. Create a written policy that states how to greet, speak with, and offer help to anyone who inquires about a product or service. In most cases, merchants first deal with future clients via online chat when people ask questions about the things they sell. Make sure your most experienced customer service workers are at the helm on these incoming lines.
2. Use Fleet Management Systems
Fleet management is customer management. When shipments are late, damaged, or delivered to the wrong location, there’s always an unhappy buyer on the other end of the transaction. That’s why the most critical behind the scenes customer service job is fleet management. Managers can use field services when they want a powerful, cost-efficient remedy for delivering the very best customer service. They can use the same system provided by Samsara to maximize ROI and turn every fleet into a profit center. In so many ways, streamlining the delivery of goods is at the very heart of making clients happy. Those shipped goods will ultimately belong to them, which is why transport is such a crucial component of the entire customer service environment.
3. Set Fair Exchange and Return Policies
Consumers gravitate toward companies that make it easy to exchange and return unwanted items. Work to set fair and generous conditions on returns and keep in mind that buyers don’t enjoy filling out surveys when they return something. Ask one or two questions to determine why they’re dissatisfied with the item, but refrain from turning the encounter into a data collection feast.
4. Appoint a Customer Advocate
Savvy merchants have customer advocates or ombudsmen on staff. This strategy is a win-win for owners because it does several things at once. First, you give buyers the chance to use an in-house advocate when they have complaints. Second, the advocate takes the heat off many other departments that aren’t set up to deal directly with the public. Finally, your organization gets credit, in the eyes of the buying public, for hiring a dedicated person to help consumers get their problems solved.
5. Foster Teamwork
By encouraging teamwork between all the company’s departments, clients enjoy a more streamlined experience when they have questions about things like billing, shipping, and product availability. Know what to look for and how to spot a team player so you know which members of your team need to move, or less, develop, in this area. Even if you have an ombudsman in place, it’s essential to build a teamwork-friendly environment so all departments work together to meet buyers’ needs.
6. Play Offense When Necessary
When something goes wrong, that will affect your clients, get ahead of the curve, and inform them as quickly as possible. For example, if a company delivery truck breaks down and runs 12 hours late, contact recipients and let them know what to expect. You’ll still have a few complaints, but not nearly as many as if you sat back and waited for disgruntled people to contact you. Playing offense is a wise technique when you know something has gone awry. Being proactive is an honest, efficient way to deal with these situations.
7. Treat Causes and Symptoms
What happens when a company manager discovers that late deliveries increased by 30 percent in one month? Step one is dealing with unsatisfied consumers and making things right. But the more important task is getting to the root of the problem and learning why there were any late deliveries, and why their quantity jumped so much in a single time period. Your best bet for building a responsive customer service system is to continually search for causes instead of simply putting out fires by making disgruntled clients happy. Unless you attend to the origin of problems, they’ll continue to happen on a regular basis.
8. Build the Right Corporate Culture
No one can build a corporate culture overnight, so expect to spend time working on this step if your company’s culture does not prioritize customers. One way to measure whether you’re currently focusing on clients is to observe what happens in staff meetings. How much time do people spend talking about customer-oriented issues? Some of the world’s most successful corporations begin every meeting with customer service topics, saving in-house issues for last.
That’s one very effective way of creating a culture that takes customer service seriously. Another is to put the topic into corporate literature, website copy, official reports, and mission statements. If you want to be serious about making your business a customer-oriented one, it takes more than lip service and advertising slogans to get the job done. Expect to spend years transitioning to this new way of thinking, but the long-term rewards are well worth the effort.