by Allan Ung
"When dealing with people, remember you are
not dealing with creatures of logic,
but creatures of emotion.”
In today's highly competitive business environment, delivering excellent customer service has become a necessity for every organization. With increasing customer expectations, providing quality service is no longer a choice, but rather a crucial factor that can make or break a business. By equipping frontline staff with the right skills, companies can differentiate themselves from the competition, enhance customer satisfaction, and improve their overall image.
To achieve service excellence, it's essential to understand what customers want and how they feel. Customers leave for many reasons, and behaviors that turn-off customers must be avoided. Customer service and customer satisfaction are not the same things. Customer service is the process of delivering a service to a customer, while customer satisfaction is the level of contentment a customer feels about that service. Customer satisfaction can be achieved by meeting customer needs and expectations.
Service excellence is characterized by a set of specific behaviors that frontline staff should demonstrate when interacting with customers. These behaviors include empathy, active listening, and clear communication, which are essential for building positive rapport with customers. Positive rapport can help frontline staff to identify customer needs and expectations and make them feel comfortable sharing their concerns.
Let us start by identifying the four common types of customer conditions or emotional states in customer service: comfortable, angry, demanding and indecisive. It is important to recognize the specific cues pertaining to each type of customer condition and provide an appropriate response with the aim of satisfying the customer.
Dealing with Customers who Appear Comfortable
When a customer appears comfortable, they may display cues such as being pleasant, conversational, relaxed, and cooperative. They smile, nod, and make direct eye contact, showing their appreciation for the service. As a service provider, the recommended initial response should be to acknowledge the customer's comfort and show appreciation for their presence. This can help to establish a positive rapport with the customer and create a welcoming environment. By recognizing the customer's comfort, you can help to ensure they feel satisfied with their experience and keep them coming back.
Dealing with Angry Customers
When dealing with an angry customer, it's important to understand the cues that indicate their level of frustration. They may use insulting language, confrontational behavior, or intimidating gestures, which can be challenging to deal with. It's recommended that you respond with validation and allow the customer to express their emotions. Let them know that you understand their anger and that it's okay to feel that way. It's important to listen attentively to their complaints and allow them to vent their frustrations. Once they've calmed down, you can then address their concerns in a professional manner and work towards a resolution.
Dealing with Demanding Customers
When dealing with a demanding or an insistent customer, it's important to respond with immediate action. If possible and appropriate, fulfill the customer's request promptly. Use assertive language and a confident tone of voice to convey your willingness to help. Listen carefully to the customer's demands and ask clarifying questions if necessary. Respond with clear and concise answers and provide helpful suggestions if appropriate. It's important to stay focused on the customer's needs and provide a quick resolution to their issue or request.
Dealing with Indecisive Customers
When dealing with an indecisive customer, it's important to provide reassurance and clarity to help them feel more confident in their decision-making. Start by actively listening to their concerns and questions, and offer clear and concise information to help them better understand their options. Use reassuring language to let them know that it's okay to take their time and that you're there to help. If they seem hesitant or avoiding, try to create a safe and welcoming environment by maintaining a friendly and patient demeanor, and encouraging them to share their thoughts and concerns. Ultimately, your goal is to help them feel more comfortable and confident in making a decision.
The key to identifying customer needs and expectations is to develop excellent observation skills, asking the right types of questions, and displaying empathy. The invisible report card is a tool that can be used to determine the relationship between customer needs, expectations, satisfaction, and dissatisfaction. Effective communication techniques are also essential in delivering excellent customer service. Overcoming communication barriers, using effective telephone, written, and face-to-face communication techniques, can help to build a good relationship with customers.
The Invisible Report Card
The invisible report card in customer service refers to the unspoken assessment that customers make about a business's service quality based on their overall experience. It is "invisible" in the sense that customers may not explicitly communicate their evaluation to the business, but it can still have a significant impact on the success of the business.
This report card is based on a range of factors, including the quality of communication, responsiveness to customer needs, the ease of doing business, the level of personalization, and the speed of problem resolution. Even subtle factors like the tone of voice and body language of customer service representatives can influence a customer's perception of the service quality.
Customers may not always vocalize their satisfaction or dissatisfaction, but their decision to return to a business or recommend it to others is often based on this invisible report card. Therefore, it is crucial for businesses to pay attention to the details of customer service interactions and strive to exceed customer expectations to ensure positive evaluations on the invisible report card.
Skills for Delivering Excellent Customer Service
To meet and exceed customer expectations, frontline staff should focus on explaining, personalizing, and adapting services. They should also ask for an expression of satisfaction, which can help to identify potential issues and address them before they escalate. Instilling trust and confidence is critical to developing customer loyalty.
Explaining is a crucial skill for delivering excellent service as it allows individuals to communicate complex ideas in a clear and concise manner.
When interacting with customers, explaining can help ensure that they fully understand the product or service being provided, as well as any potential issues or limitations. By doing so, it can increase the customer's confidence and satisfaction, leading to a better overall experience.
Effective explaining also allows for a deeper level of engagement and understanding, which can help to build trust and long-lasting relationships with customers. Whether it's through written or verbal communication, being able to explain things clearly and effectively is an essential skill for anyone looking to provide excellent service.
Personalizing your service is an effective way to differentiate your brand and make a lasting impression on your customers. Demonstrating that you think about the customer as an individual shows that you care about their experience and want to go above and beyond to make it memorable. This can be achieved through simple gestures such as using their name, smiling, and making eye contact, or by anticipating their related or future needs and offering additional guidance.
In addition to demonstrating that you care about the customer as an individual, personalizing your service can also help the customer know that it was provided by you or your organization instead of a competitor. This can be achieved by thanking the customer for doing business with you or your organization, using your name or your company’s name, and being appreciative in a genuine way. By doing so, you are telling your customers that you are proud of the service you provide and are willing to put your name on it.
Ultimately, personalizing your service is about creating a memorable experience for your customers and building a relationship of trust and loyalty. By taking the time to think about the customer as an individual and making sure they know that the service was provided by you or your organization, you are showing that you care and are committed to providing the best possible service.
The skill of adapting is essential in providing excellent customer service. Adapting involves making a connection with customers by doing things in ways that are most appropriate to them as individuals. There are two kinds of adapting: adapting the organization to make a better connection with the customer and adapting yourself to make a better connection with the customer.
To know if you are adapting, it's important to ask yourself questions such as, "If I do this, who would be making the adjustment?" and "Would the organization be moving closer to the customer, or am I forcing the customer to move closer to the organization?" This helps to ensure that you are adapting in a way that benefits the customer and makes them feel valued.
To adapt to the customer, you can try doing things in a different order than you normally would, as long as it makes sense and does not compromise the quality of the service being provided. Creating options and alternatives can also be helpful in adapting to the customer. By offering choices and allowing the customer to choose what works best for them, you can show that you are willing to work with them and are focused on meeting their individual needs. Overall, the skill of adapting is crucial in providing exceptional customer service and building strong relationships with customers.
Asking for An Expression of Satisfaction
Asking for an expression of satisfaction is a crucial step in providing excellent customer service. By asking the customer if they are satisfied, you can gain insight into what they are thinking and feeling about the service you have provided. This allows you to make any necessary adjustments to ensure that the customer is happy with their experience.
It is important to follow up on any negative responses by returning to interact with the customer and finding out what you can do to improve their experience. On the other hand, if the customer expresses satisfaction, it is important to reinforce this positive feedback and conclude the interaction on a positive note.
To increase customer satisfaction even further, it can be helpful to ask what else you can do to increase their comfort and satisfaction. Additionally, stating your observation of their satisfaction can help to validate their feelings and make them feel heard and valued. Finally, if their response is inconsistent or unclear, don't be afraid to ask again to ensure that you fully understand their level of satisfaction.
In conclusion, delivering service excellence has become crucial for every organization to thrive in today's highly competitive business environment. To achieve service excellence, frontline staff should demonstrate specific behaviors such as empathy, active listening, and clear communication, essential for building positive rapport with customers. Understanding and identifying customer needs and expectations through excellent observation skills and communication techniques is also critical. Moreover, explaining, personalizing and adapting services to meet customer expectations can help differentiate a brand and create a lasting impression. By instilling trust and confidence, organizations can develop customer loyalty and gain a competitive edge. Overall, delivering excellent customer service is not a choice but a necessity for businesses to succeed.
Article by Allan Ung, Principal Consultant at Operational Excellence Consulting, a Singapore-based management consultancy firm that assists organizations in maximizing customer value and minimizing wastes through adoption of Design Thinking and Lean Thinking practices. For more information, please visit www.oeconsulting.com.sg