We all know there are no two ways about it. If we want our businesses to succeed, our customer service needs to be impeccable. No argument there. But we also all know that’s also easier said than done.
The following research summary has been designed to help you identify the ingredients you need to achieve an outstanding customer service strategy that provides your customers with a memorable experience.
After an extensive search of available literature and analysis of staff jobs with customer contact elements, 9 service skills and 17 competencies were identified as being essential ingredients for care positions.
Nine service skills you need:
- Make your customer feel important, by greeting courteously, showing concern for their needs, asking the right questions, giving compliments.
- Listen and respond, particularly to feelings or moods, attempting to establish empathy with the customer to achieve satisfaction.
- Ask and offer, getting interest, creating conversation, reassessment when customer is overawed or uncertain.
- Acknowledge quickly, using the customer’s name when possible, giving full attention, adjusting to the mood or pace of the customer once a response has been given.
- Clarify details, ask effective questions, get all the details, and give out all the essential information clearly.
- Exceed, rather than simply meet, demands – work to solve problems, suggest additional services, and go out of the way to be helpful.
- Ensure satisfaction – ask, then check again that the customer is satisfied before saying ‘Goodbye’.
- Prepare – know the job, the products, and the services, have everything needed for the job available, be well groomed and attentive, and be trained regularly.
- Follow up – call back or follow up with information, keep everyone informed, work with others to maintain communications, and ensure customers satisfaction.
‘Keeping one jump ahead’
This means knowing both what the customer wants and needs.
He wants a meal in a restaurant, service at a trade counter, knowledge and results over a telephone.
He needs quick service, expertise, clear, sharp instructions.
Seventeen key competencies you need:
- Communication – being able to clearly express oneself when communicating with customers (verbal and written), with no recourse to jargon. Business writing is becoming more conversational and to the point.
- Being customer-sensitive – recognising and showing concern for customers’ needs or feelings or points of view.
- Being decisive – taking action or making quick decisions that address customers’ needs – in other words, don’t dither or blame someone else.
- Have energy – being alert and attentive, playing a major role on the front stage.
- Being flexible – able to quickly change a service style, action or approach to meet a perceived need, personality or disposition, but still remain within the company’s standards and rules.
- Ability to follow-up – delivers what has been promised or committed on time and according to the order.
- Make an impact -a neat appearance, firm bearing, and creates a positive impression on the customer.
- Initiative – consistently tries to meet or exceed the customer’s expectations, to be ‘one jump ahead’.
- Integrity – is open, honest, and ethical, makes no false promises, lets neither the customer, colleagues nor company down.
- Job knowledge – shows a thorough understanding of a company’s products and services as well as the policy or procedure for customer care.
- Judgement – uses available information to address and solve customers’ problems, utilises some empowerment, thinks for themselves to meet needs.
- Motivation to serve – gains job satisfaction and fulfilment from serving to dealing with customers, meeting their needs or handling concerns – not quite born to it, but certainly pleased to perform.
- Persuasiveness – moving a competence in care into the ‘selling mode’, which entails not only obtaining customer acceptance of the solutions to problems, but also convincing them of the benefits of a company’s products and services.
- Planning – prepares and organizes the work so there is time to talk to the customers and a readiness to cope with reactions.
- Resilience – most jobs involving customer contact require patience and tact; there will be an element of unpredictability regarding what is a priority for a particular customer and a need to withstand the pressures and overcome the problems, so it follows that looking after customer’s calls for good health and fitness.
- Ability to analyse and respond – if things go wrong (which they do) – can gather relevant information and facts about a situation, analyse what the best solution will be, then react, plan, and organises a solution to everyone’s benefit.
- Standards – knows, establishes, and maintains high standards of customer care and service, striving always to achieve them or exceed them.
The content of these skills and competencies show us five main strands needed to achieve excellent customer service:
- Common sense – an ability to think clearly and plan ahead – as well as review afterwards – and think on one’s feet in an emergency.
- Good relationships between the server, their manager, and the customer, including trust, integrity, making judgements, and building up support in order to perform effectively.
- A natural ability -including dress sense, speech, bearing, even poise and charm – in essence, something of an actor, putting on a daily or hourly show.
- Good job knowledge – in order to be able to make judgements and decisions, plan effectively with clear boundaries of control.
- Communication – perhaps the most vital, providing the channels to speak, write and show in a non-verbal way how to best serve the needs of the customer.
So to summarise, these are the attributes of an excellent service provider:
A helpful, positive attitude
Being confident in their dealings
A welcoming smile
Having an understanding of the customer’ s needs
Giving good service