From the purchase of a new car to grabbing a quick burger, people are exposed to examples of exceptional and poor customer service every day. As the Client Relations Manager at an Arizona based HR consulting firm, I receive constant compliments about our stellar customer service.
Regardless of compliments, the importance of exceptional service continues to attract my attention. I am confident that each of us can think of numerous times when top notch, friendly, and helpful service enhanced our day. Think back on how that experience made you feel. Did you tell others about it? Probably several times! Now think back to a time when you received poor service. How did that make you feel? Did you go back again? How many people did you tell about that experience? Statistics have shown that “the typical person tells 20 people about a negative experience and tells only 5 people about the positive ones” (Ames, 2006). For those of us in positions that involve many customer interactions, this means that for every bad experience a customer has we have to provide four positive experiences just to break even.
So how do we ensure that our customers are receiving top-notch, friendly service? Simple – here are proven tips that Arizona HR consults suggest.
Responding To the Customer
As an HR consultant, I am frequently called away from the office. Consequently, there are times when a client calls and has to leave me a message. The first thing I do when I return to the office is check both my e-mail and voice mail. No matter what I have on my plate and no matter how important those tasks appear, I make sure that I first return all client calls at my earliest opportunity. I look at it like this: if they took the time to call me, then they obviously think that what they have to say it is important enough to warrant a response. Often I return calls without yet having an answer to their questions. Ultimately what matters most is that these people know that I am taking time to call them back and that their requests will be effectively taken care of in a timely manor.
Give Time Frames and Stick to Them
Have you ever called some place where they put you on hold and there is a recorded voice that repeats, “The next representative will be with you in a moment”? Personally, this drives me up the wall and typically motivates me to hang up because my time is just as valuable as theirs. I don’t expect them to give me an exact time of when they will deal with me, but a rough estimate would certainly be appreciated. The same thing applies to filling client or customer requests. Generally a customer is less concerned about having to wait if they know how long the wait is going to be. At the same time, they expect to be given accurate time frames and, if it is a larger project, reasonable follow up and timely progress reports. For example, I was working on a very detailed employee handbook for a client last month. I originally told this client that the handbook would be done in about three weeks. However, as other more immediate concerns and projects came into play, it ended up taking me longer than I anticipated (about five weeks). All along I stayed in contact with the client. Thus, even though I was two weeks past my originally projected time frame, the client was extremely satisfied with the service. When the project was completed, the client made it a point to tell me how happy he was with the way I kept him posted on the project status. The proof is in the punch and we all appreciate knowing when the punch will be delivered.
This is quite possibly the most important aspect of exceptional customer service. I can barely begin to describe the power of simply listening to an angry client. Clients may be angry at you, at someone else within your organization, at a situation, or even at their own spouse. Whatever the cause of such anger, I can typically diffuse such a situation without saying much of anything. What these clients truly want is an opportunity to vent their frustrations. Regardless of who is at fault in these situations, I first let the clients get excess baggage off of their chests. Once I am confident that they have nothing more to say, only then will I begin to make attempts at rectifying the situation and, without a doubt, this ordering of events can make a world of difference in the level of their satisfaction.
Go the Extra Mile
The other day I placed a carry out order at a local pizza restaurant. When I showed up to pick up my food, I discovered that the order had not yet even been placed. However, the woman behind the counter was very friendly and apologetic. She let me know that they would put the order in right away and that I would have my food as soon as possible. For the most part I was pleased with how she dealt with the situation. However, while I was waiting for my food, this same woman approached me and offered me a free dessert due to the inconvenience that I had experienced. This is a perfect example of “going the extra mile” because her additional effort exceeded my expectations. She did not have to do that. Thus, this single employee made me feel good about her company, as if she genuinely wanted to ensure that I was satisfied when I left the restaurant – and it worked marvelously.
Providing stellar customer service is relatively simple but only when the provider is aware and thoughtful. I am sure that most HR consultants would agree that this all goes back to treating each customer or client with the same respect and courtesy that we expect from others. When we legitimately embody this idea in our day-to-day actions, the customer wins, our organization wins, and ultimately so do we.
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