Eyes alert, smile ready, the advisor awaits the arrival of their latest customer, a customer that they will be expected to serve. And do they feel ready? Do they possess a quiet confidence that comes in knowing that they truly understand their customer’s requirements, do they, in all honesty, appreciate what it means to offer excellent customer service in the 21st century?
Customer service is the means by which the customer’s wants and needs are met, the provision of service that determines if the customer returns, the experience provided by employees that either delights or dismays. Now more than ever, flawless customer service is imperative. But how to improve these essential skills and ensure happy customers each and every time?
- Know your customer. The first step to improving customer service comes in an understanding of the customer, why they buy, their motivations and goals. This is rarely as simple as employees might imagine as many purchase decisions are emotional rather than rational. Also bear in mind that the employee may live quite a different life to that of their customer, use training to help them to gain insight and empathy for the customer and their goals.
- Be clear about expectations. Whilst a customer will always expect good service, their expectation level will vary depending upon the brand and its attributes. Generally speaking, the higher end the product, the higher the service expectations. The death-knell of many a customer to company relationship was sounded upon this very point, a lack of understanding between what the customer expected and what they employee thought they expected. Ensure customer expectations, and therefore brand expectations are always clearly communicated.
- Appreciate the process. Whereby once, the ultimate objective may have been the acquisition of goods, the popularity of online shopping means that if a customer chooses bricks over clicks they are doing so because, for one reason or another, they desire the service element. Or, as is increasingly the case today, the customer is buying a service; perhaps a restaurant meal, a holiday, a day out. The process or interactions between employee and customer becomes the customer’s experience. Staff need to appreciate their importance in the service process, and to their customer’s overall satisfaction.
- Offer differentiation through your service. As quality increases across the board, and technological advancements mean that attributes are often similar across products, brands are finding it more difficult to differentiate upon their product. And so, the customer asks ‘what else can you offer, how are you different, why should I choose you amongst the many options at my disposal?’ The only true differentiation comes in customer service- the experience you offer your customer from the moment the first seed is planted about your company, to their first contact, their first visit and if customer experience has been managed correctly, their many subsequent visits.
- From advisors to brand ambassadors. Ambassadors embody the brand that the represent and appreciate that every single customer to employee interaction adds a layer to the overall perceptions that the customer takes away with them. They know that whether these perceptions are positive or negative depends greatly upon the customer service that have delivered. When staff begin to understand their customers’ desires and the service process, the foundations are laid for the transformation from advisor to ambassador.
Providing outstanding customer service is an on-going process that takes commitment from staff at all levels to achieve, it is no good offering good service one day and poor the next. At the heart of flawless customer service is consistency, consistency in delivering flawless service, every single day.
By Paul Russell, co-founder and director of Luxury Academy London