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Customer Service Is More Than Just Being Nice To People

Many organizations tackle to the issue of customer service by exhorting their employees to speak with a smile. Be polite. Never lose your cool. But isn't that a little like closing the barn door after the horses have gotten out? Good customer service should be about a good customer experience with your product. This begins with the relationship your company cultivates with a customer.

This relationship will be tested by the entire process of the buyer seller relationship.

1. The images and promises of the marketing campaign

People begin to form opinions of your company and products from the messages they receive before they even purchase your product. Often, they receive these images before they have even thought of buying. Will your images match the experience?

2. The ease of ordering/purchasing the product

Once someone has decided to purchase your products or services, how easy do you make it for them to do so. Is there someone to answer the phones or will they get a voice mail message? Actually, many companies lose sales in this way. Some people, who want to act now, will simply hang up and go on to the next company that will answer their call. Also, many leads are not followed up A message is left but no one gets back. When the buyer does reach you, are your systems in place to make the purchasing process as simple as possible? Buyers want to feel that they've made the right decision in choosing your product. By creating an easy process for ordering, you help them feel confident in their decision.

3. How well does the product live up to the expectations of the marketing?

Your customer now has your product in his possession. Will it live up to any hype used in the marketing campaign? Or will there be a letdown when the actual product does not match the expectations? Marketing is a powerful force. It will create expectations that must be fulfilled by the product. When it doesn't, it can create customer satisfaction problems. Make sure your product matches expectations.

4. How well will the product live up to the expectations of the customer?

In addition to the marketing message, a customer usually forms his own expectations based on past experiences with similar products, observations and conversations with others. Will this add to the experience or create a letdown? Product must match expectations or exceed them. Anything less will create a potential customer service problem.

5. When something goes wrong, how is it fixed?

Do you acknowledge that problems can happen? Have you decided how to satisfy customers? Have you looked at the financial ramifications of your solutions? Better yet, look at the product itself. If you find many customers with similar products, perhaps it is most appropriate to address weaknesses in the product itself.

6. What are the procedures?

Even with the best of products, problems can occur. It's best to address these issues beforehand. Decide what processes will be used to satisfy your customers. Think about replacement ? and its cost, discounts, etc. If you are going to replace a product, how quickly can you get it to someone? As a replacement, it must take precedence over new orders. Customers will tell more people when they've had a bad experience then when they've had a good experience. Solving customer problems not only affects that specific customer but many other people as well.

7. Can your organization be easily reached or is the process frustration to most?

Everyone has frustrating stories to tell about voice prompts that go nowhere. They don't cover your problem and they continually loop back into the system without a way to speak to a live operator. Make it easy for people to speak with someone. Test your systems thoroughly. Automation can be a great help and a cost saver for organizations but it must be used judiciously.

8. Can the customer service rep actually help?

Customer services reps must be empowered to solve problems. They must be able to do more than empathize and smile. Nothing is more frustration than a nice customer service rep that is unable to resolve your problem. Give your staff the appropriate information and training. Let them have responsibility and accountability for their actions. Employees tend to rise to the level that is expected of them.

Good customer service requires an ongoing examination of methods. The questions discussed above will start the thought process necessary to truly deliver world class service.

Jo Ann Kirby is president of KRG Communications Group. She has 20 years experience in sales, cusotmer service, telephone sales, management with an extensive background in training and development. Her background also includes extensive b2b telesales management experience. Jo Ann has been published in The Toastmaster, NAPPS Network and Commerce magazines. More can be found at http://www.krgcommunications.com

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