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Business Observer Thursday, May 14, 2015 7 years ago

Ten Tips for Improving Customer Service

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Keeping your customers happy is a key to your business's longevity.
by: Cheryl O’Neill Staff Writer

The way your customers feel toward you is important. The more you show you care about them, the more they'll likely want to continue working with you. Customer service is an integral part of our job and should not be seen as an extension of it. A company's most vital asset is its customers. Without them, we would not and could not exist in business. When you satisfy your customers, they not only help you grow by continuing to do business with you, but will recommend you to friends and associates.

Below are some tips and suggestions for ensuring that you're treating your customers well.

1.) Be a good listener.
Take the time to identify customer needs by asking questions and concentrating on what the customer is really saying. Listen to their words, tone of voice, body language, and most importantly, how they feel. Beware of making assumptions - thinking you intuitively know what the customer wants. Do you know what three things are most important to your customer? Effective listening and undivided attention are particularly important on the show floor where there is a great danger of preoccupation - looking around to see to whom else we could be selling.

2.) Identify and anticipate needs.
Customers don't buy products or services. They buy good feelings and solutions to problems. Most customer needs are emotional rather than logical. The more you know your customers, the better you become at anticipating their needs. Communicate regularly so that you are aware of problems or upcoming needs.

3.) Go the extra mile.
If a customer asks for you to do something that truly won't cost you a lot of time and income, you have the option of going the extra mile and doing it for them. Not only will this result in an indebted and happy customer, it can also go a long way in terms of keeping yourself in their radar for future projects.

4.) Respond to customers as soon as possible
Speed is everything, especially when a customer is requesting something that's time sensitive. Try to reply to your customers as soon as you can. Procrastinating on a response to a customer's email, phone call or voicemail doesn't help anyone; you're going to have to reply eventually, so why not as soon as possible? Even if you can't work on the task they're requesting you to accomplish right away, at least let them know you got their request and then supply them with a timeline of when you're able to get the task completed. If you can't find the time to perform the task, it will be considerate of you to let them know as soon as possible so that they can make alternative arrangements.

5.) Make customers feel important and appreciated.
Treat them as individuals. Always use their name and find ways to compliment them, but be sincere. People value sincerity. It creates good feeling and trust. Think about ways to generate good feelings about doing business with you. Customers are very sensitive and know whether or not you really care about them. Thank them every time you get a chance.

6.) Know how to apologize.
When something goes wrong, apologize. It's easy and customers like it. The customer may not always be right, but the customer must always win. Deal with problems immediately and let customers know what you have done. Make it simple for customers to complain. Value their complaints. As much as we dislike it, it gives us an opportunity to improve. Even if customers are having a bad day, go out of your way to make them feel comfortable.

7.) Keep your promises.
If you say you're going to do something, make sure you do it. It's part of being a professional. If you need more time on something, you should let them know as soon as possible, not after you've already missed the deadline. Honoring your commitments is important.

8.) Be patient.
I've lost count of how many times I've exhausted my patience on my customers. But I've never actually showed them my agitation. If you feel like the customer is overstepping his boundaries, let him know in a cordial and professional manner. You just don't want to start yelling and cursing at people who help you make a living. Maintain professionalism at all times.

9.) Know everything you need to know.
You are a paid expert. People are giving you their hard-earned money to do something they believe you have a high level of mastery of. You need to keep yourself up to date with the profession and always be ready to answer questions your client needs to know. If you exhibit signs that you don't know your craft inside out, you risk the chance of ruining your professional reputation.

10.) Put yourself in their shoes.
If you were in their shoes and were being treated the way you're treating them, would you enjoy that experience? If so, you're doing a good job. If not, you probably want to get a little better. It's important to constantly evaluate the way you communicate with others. Our profession is heavily reliant on communication skills.

Cheryl O'Neill Gowen is president and CEO of Alternative Funding Options. She works with business owners seeking cash flow from non-traditional sources, drawing on more than 30 years' experience in banking, financing and staffing. Contact her at:{encode="cgowe[email protected]" title="[email protected]"}.

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