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Customer Service for Pros: Learn From the Best
Every small business should provide outstanding customer service. We base our purchasing decisions on our past interactions with a brand, and it only takes one or two negative experiences for a patron to boycott a company altogether.
The best way to improve your own customer interactions is to learn from the experts - here are some tried and tested approaches from customer service gurus.
Going Above and Beyond
The Disney Approach
Disney are famous for placing customer service at the forefront of everything they do. The company has a notoriously strict policy for all customer-facing staff, and visitors to Disney’s parks are uniformly treated to world-class service.
All park employees are known as ‘Cast Members’, regardless of their actual role. The company has drafted a full Disney-sanctioned response to every imaginable customer query, and employees are expected to follow these guidelines to the letter.
Small business owners don’t necessarily need to write an extensive staff handbook. However, it is wise to outline your customer service expectations to all employees, regardless of their role. Never cut corners when it comes to customer service - you need to assess the skills of each employee, and provide adequate training where necessary.
It’s also advisable to give your employees permission to make decisions in your absence. Provide them with some guidelines for dealing with common issues - no customer enjoys waiting for a manager to arrive and deal with their complaint.
Salvaging a Complaint
Many theme parks impose height restrictions on certain rides, and Disney is no exception. However, rather than being sent away with an apology and a sense of disappointment, under-height children are presented with a special queue-jump certificate to use at a later date. Disney’s aim is to turn every negative customer experience into a positive one, thus protecting the company’s precious brand image.
Handling problems and complaints is a large part of customer service, and it’s important to deal with them effectively. The first step is always to listen to the customer’s concerns - often, a sympathetic ear and a sincere apology are all it takes to placate a frustrated customer.
Solving the problem is the next step. There are a few golden rules - always be courteous and polite, never promise something you can’t deliver, and try your best to fix the issue. You should never just dismiss a complaining customer.
If there’s nothing you can do to resolve their complaint directly, remember that a compensatory gesture can go a long way.
Social Media and Customer Service
As Demonstrated By JetBlue
Social media is a valuable customer service tool, allowing customers to talk directly to brands without entering a physical store.
It’s especially important to give excellent online customer service, as a poor response could potentially be seen by thousands of people, not just the customer you’re dealing with.
One company worth learning from is JetBlue. Their Twitter feed always strikes the right balance between helpfulness and humour, and has endeared them to the online community.
Their social media manager is clearly a disciple of the 80/20 rule. When it comes to social media, only around 20% of your posts should be self-promoting - the rest should be a mix of genuine personality, sincere conversation starters, and reactions to current affairs. Followers don’t want to be bombarded with meaningless marketing, and repeatedly plugging your services will only end in a mass unfollowing.
Their customer service policy is also admirable. They handle all their customer interactions with aplomb, whether they’re responding to criticism or a genuine query:
Generally, the golden rules of customer service apply online as well as offline - you should always be polite, listen fully to the complaint, and provide an effective solution. However, there is another element to online customer interactions - speed. Customers expect a rapid response when dealing with a company on social media, and are quick to voice their frustrations if help fails to materialise.
JetBlue have a dedicated team to manage their social media interactions. However, with the help of monitoring tools like Google Alerts and Social Mention, even small businesses can respond quickly to their customers. These programs remove the hard work by scouring the internet for your brand name, and alerting you as soon as your company is mentioned.
Customer service - both on and offline - can make or break a business. If you own a company, pay attention to the service you receive from other businesses. Try imitating the tactics you like, and avoiding those you don’t. Above all, follow the ultimate golden rule of customer service - always treat your customers the way you’d like to be treated.
About the Author
This page was written exclusively for Skills You Need by Simon Markland. Simon is the director of Voovit, providers of international shipping and excess baggage services.