There’s a lot more to customer service than simply having a sign on your wall that says ‘the customer is always right’. For any business to be truly customer-focused, everyone from front-line staff to the chief executive should strive to meet and exceed service standards.
Customers are your business
You may offer a quality, well-priced product, but if a customer receives inferior service before, during or after the sale, you can lose future sales. Providing excellent customer service in today's competitive marketplace is crucial. Customers are your business and lost sales through poor service means you will lose money.
To provide quality customer service you need to have a long-term focus. Aim to make quality customer service part of your business culture. Targets for service delivery and customer satisfaction should be included in the business plan and in employee job descriptions. Encourage employees to understand that it's the customers who ultimately pay their wages.
Poor service ...low profit
If the service you provide is poor you are actively driving your customers away. Not only that, it’s estimated that a person with a complaint is likely to tell nine other people about their bad experience and name the company involved.
While they may lodge a complaint with the company involved, Australian customers are highly likely to talk with their friends and ‘talk with their feet’ by taking their business elsewhere.
Providing only mediocre customer service also has its costs. Even when things don’t go badly, it’s estimated that around 12 to 16 percent of customers will still leave, because they were not totally satisfied with the service.
The benefits of quality customer service include:
- increased customer retention
- reduced marketing costs
- stronger position in the marketplace
- offers a competitive advantage
- increased job satisfaction and staff morale
- increased profits.
Role of management
Management must make sure that staff, processes, systems and policies are supportive of each other and focused on meeting customer needs. Consider the following tips for good management practices:
- provide leadership and aim to make quality customer service part of your business culture
- create a customer service focus across your whole business
- display and follow a Customer Service Charter, which clearly outlines the quality of service to be expected by your customers
- ensure your systems and procedures, incentive programs and feedback mechanisms support the provision of quality customer service
- provide quality customer service to the people you rely on to meet customer needs (internal customers) as well as to paying customers (external customers)
- make sure there is a system to capture regular, reliable feedback from customers about their needs and your service
- welcome customer feedback and complaints as an opportunity to build relationships with your customers and improve your product and/or service
- actively encourage quality customer service and continuous improvement in everything your business does.
If you think implementing customer service is too costly or time-consuming, think again. It doesn't have to be. Walk in to any large bookshop and you will find a selection of practical 'how-to' guides on customer service that you can implement easily. Go to the Business Enterprise Centres Australia website for resources and short courses to help you improve customer service.
Communicating with customers
To grow your business, you need to let your customers know what you do. What is your business? What is the product or service you are offering? The information you provide is critical to building a relationship with the customer and must be clear, concise and honest. Information can be in a variety of forms including paper, audio, video or website and must clearly explain what you offer. Here are some useful tips:
- use plain language and simple diagrams
- don't use technical language, abbreviations or jargon
- information should be accurate and concise, clearly displayed and able to be mailed
- update information regularly
- meet all legislative requirements.
Fair trading laws
The Australian Consumer Law sets the rules businesses must follow when selling goods or services to consumers.
Breaking the law could ruin your business reputation in the eyes of your customers, lending institutions and industry organisations.