Saturday, May 9, 2009

Five Customer Service Pitfalls

Sales and service companies rely on new customers and repeat business to expand the profits of their businesses. Optimally they hope each new customer will stay on board. The way to ensure repeated business is through better customer service.

How you treat your customers is vitally important to the success of your business. And repeat business happens when customers are satisfied with the initial transaction, including the level of service, price, and follow-up, such as refunds and guarantees. Part of customer satisfaction derives from confidence in the supplier. As products become more technologically evolved, customers look to sales and service people to be more knowledgeable in the products they sell. Because of this, good customer service continues to be an essential aspect of a successful business.

The following are five customer service pitfalls to avoid:

1. Incompetence: If sales and service staff do not have adequate training and expertise, they may give out antiquated or incorrect information. Most customers are relying on sales and service staff to know the products, including specifications and performance.

2. Disorganization: Messiness and sloppiness are signs of disorganization. When customer service personnel can’t find anything, don’t know anything, and everything is in a constant state of chaos, it is a poor reflection on your business. Customers like to feel that sales and service employees are in control of the situation. A seemingly organized business reassures the customer that you can do the job and provide the sales and service necessary. Providing organized customer service makes customers want to come back. Many computer programs are available to help you better organize your company’s customer service.

3. Unprofessional manner: Language, dress, and basic manners can be important to many of your customers. Many businesses have an expected decorum that you should at least recognize. Of course, bankers dress one way and fitness trainers another; the idea is to dress the part and make your customers feel comfortable and confident in your ability to meet their sales and service needs. Customer service personnel need to be trained in how to handle customers in a professional manner, one that makes the customer’s interaction with your company a positive experience.

4. Lack of a standard policy: Your policy toward your customers should be clearly spelled out and consistently followed. Customers do not like it when one salesperson tells them one thing and another salesperson tells them something completely different. Any discounts, return policies, and guarantees should be spelled out in writing to customers as well as reinforced by your customer service employees at the time of a sale. Generally company policy should be on the customer’s receipt in addition to being posted visibly throughout the business establishment.

5. Delays and unreliability: When deliveries, appointments, and repairs are always late it erodes your customers’ satisfaction and confidence. When customers can’t rely on you to get a product or service to them in a timely manner it is bound to discourage them and stop them from coming back. Granted, sometimes delays do happen and can’t be avoided. When this occurs, make amends to customers and assure them it won’t happen again. Giving the customer a discount because of a late delivery lessens the inconvenience, lets the customer know you are sorry, and increases the chances the customer will continue do business with you in the future.

Source: Barbara Swenson at AllBusiness.

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