How to treat people well is not universally understood.
Sure. It’s 2014, and new trends are emerging about how to improve customer service. On this list, there’s talk of a coming wave of things like “omnichannel service,” “a mobile-first mindset” and “proactive engagement.”
But let’s get down to it. There’s nothing quite like
in-person, outstanding customer service to boost sales, generate referrals and
inspire customer loyalty. But a small business owner can’t be everywhere at
once, so he or she must teach employees the foundations of great customer service, says Dallas/Fort Worth-area business consultant
Susan Steinbrecher, author of Heart-Centered
Leadership: Lead Well, Live Well.
As a former general manager of a national hotel
chain, and with more than 20 years of experience creating customer service
training programs for small businesses and corporate brands, Steinbrecher has
dealt with myriad customer service issues and learned to solve them quickly.
“Most employees want to turn and run or get their backup right away when faced
with an upset customer,” she says. “I encourage employees to view the challenge
as an opportunity to win over a customer for life—if you know how to take
control of the situation.”
Here, Steinbrecher shares tips small business owners
should share with their employees about mastering excellent customer service.
The business world can be isolating, but “to a great extent, we all share these common needs to accomplish something, to be of service, and to be the reason for someone else’s happiness and well-being,” Steinbrecher says. Remind your employees weekly that what they need from you, their boss, is the same things customers need from them: to be respected, cared about, empathized with and listened to. “It’s a ripple effect that starts at the top and trickles down, resulting in outstanding customer care,” says Steinbrecher.
2. Know every
customer is watching and listening.
In today’s 24/7 world of social media, where one tweet can reach millions or a video can go viral in minutes, your employees must be keenly aware of the impact of their words and actions. Anything an employee says in your store—or online—can and will be used against you.
Just ask the former MSNBC employee who was fired in January for a racially charged tweet on the company’s Twitter
account. “Customers observe everything we do and say,” Steinbrecher notes, “as
well as what we don’t do and say.”
It may seem painfully obvious to tell your employees to respect customers—but sometimes, the reality is more difficult, especially when faced with an unpleasant or angry customer. “It costs nothing to be respectful to your customers, clients or guests,” Steinbrecher says, “but a lack of respect can cost you greatly: in complaints, detrimental publicity, lost business and the degradation of your company’s reputation.” To make sure your employees are being respectful, instruct them to mentally ask themselves before every customer interaction, “How am I demonstrating care or concern?” and, “Am I illustrating to customers what I want for myself?”
a disgruntled customer.
To deal with unhappy clients, Steinbrecher formulated the HELP method, which outlines four steps that your employees can follow to resolve a complaint:
the customer out (allow him or her to vent)
· Empathize and apologize—in that order
· Lead the customer to a resolution
· Provide a responsible course of action—follow through on your promises to make things right.