Just a few days ago, a friend of mine received a call on her mobile phone. At the beginning of the dialogue, it seemed like the caller had either dialed a wrong number or was not clear on the reason for making the call. However the conversation went on for a while and when she finally disconnected the phone she exclaimed, “How do people call without first verifying the details of the customer? She cannot even pronounce my name right!”
That was a call from the customer service department. Reason for the call: to enquire why the customer had discontinued use of their products and services? Fair enough. However they sadly addressed the customer incorrectly and did not offer an apology once the customer gave the correct pronunciation. Having had a reason to discontinue use of their products and services is one thing, but to have your name mispronounced is the bigger crime – surely, they might not even be able to win you back after making such an error.
Just a day after that customer service mishap, I also got a surprising call form my ‘Mama Kuku’, the chicken vendor who supplies the famous road-runners. She had delivered a few pieces over the weekend and this was Wednesday. As I picked up the phone I wondered whether I had paid her for the chicken or if there was a miscalculation on my bill. She spoke animatedly as she addressed me by name, and after exchanging pleasantries and she proceeded to enquire whether I was happy with the chicken, whether or not it was as tender as I had requested and why I had not placed my next order. Waoh! What a surprise? A pleasant surprise indeed because we are conditioned to think that only white collar corporations know and practice customer service and carry out after sale follow up calls.
Customer service is a choice we make in our attitude – an attitude of servitude. Customer service is not a department in an organisation or a function of a select few – customer service is at the core of those who truly value their customers – those who remember the reason they wake up every morning and report to work or to their businesses. There are many dynamics that come together to create and ensure the customer experience is in the very least satisfying or at best surpassing expectations. However we can focus on the factors related to the examples above that will contribute positively to your business or organisation:
The sweetest sound
The sweetest sound to any human being is their NAME. Get it right. I appreciate there are names that are hard to figure out and pronounce. However, you can be strategic about it. Take the scenario of being on phone for example, you could offer your name first and declare where you are calling from. That way you make the person on the other end calm and get them to easily corporate with you. As soon as you are done with the introductions politely request them to help you pronounce their name if it is a hard one to crack. That is the second sweetest sound to any person, asking them to call out their own name. Aha! Be alert and repeat it until you get it right. By the time you are done with the call the customer might even reconsider using the services they had just discontinued.
Do not wait for a-damage-control day
When you call a customer only after they have filed a complaint, then you know that you are fast losing your market niche. Remember that it is very few customers who will give you feedback whether positive or negative. Instead they will be very fast in giving an opinion of your services and products to as large an audience as they can possibly be able to and especially if it is negative. Remember that in the era of social media, your reputation would be going viral at a rate faster than the rate it took to build your business.
Get into the habit of following up with a call, email or whatever communication your customer prefers after completion of the purchase transaction. The best time to create a good impression is to follow up when you know you have outdone yourself in service. It is in the good times that you score the highest and the customer will remember this when there is a mishap and you quickly follow with an apology
Understand your product and be receptive to feedback
A while back some friends were having coffee at a popular café’. They immediately dung into their plates as soon as their orders were placed before them. However one noticed that his chicken pie was not very fresh and requested the waiter to change his order. The petrified waiter hesitated but eventually took away the plate. The owner of the restaurant then walked over to the table and yelled at the customers asking why he had bitten into the pie if he knew it wasn’t fresh? Perturbed the customer asked him how he would have been able to identify without tasting. The owner would hear none of it and demanded that the customer pays for the pie anyway. Sadly, that was the last time the group of friends, and their friends, and friends’ friends and family ever set foot in that café.
Customers may not always be right; however the language and tone of your response will either build or destroy the relationship. Your product knowledge is also key to how you react to certain situations that you encounter with the customer during a transaction. Equip yourself thoroughly.
Give more value than they can pay for
Robin Sharma calls it becoming a merchant of waoh! Remember that customers do not buy your products or services; they buy the experience that comes with that business transaction. Make it an exciting, pain-free experience – one that will have the customer looking forward to, again and again. When you serve with that kind of attitude, not only do you have happy customers but you have satisfying and fulfilling days – it is a win-win situation. Everybody eventually goes home happy!
To your success!