By Shep Hyken
National Customer Service Week is coming up soon. Every year it is the first full week in October. This is a week to celebrate and appreciate not only our customers, but also the people who make our customers happy. In fact, the original intent was to focus more on employees than customers, but I’m happy to celebrate both.
In customer service, there are so many ways to do things right. In my speeches, I talk about the right way to manage first impressions, demonstrate knowledge, build rapport, ask the right questions and much, much more. I thought it would be fun to create a list of a few things that everyone should do right. These are some of the basics—they should be common sense. Since National Customer Service Week is five days long, here is a list of five simple ways to create a better experience for your customers and your colleagues at work.
- The Greeting: In-person, look someone in the eye. Shake their hand firmly and with confidence. Dress for success, which means dressing appropriately. When answering the phone, don’t be gruff or short with your greeting. Warmly welcome the customer into the conversation.
- Leaving a Voicemail: If you call someone and get their voicemail, you might as well leave a message. Thanks to caller ID, most of the time they will know you called, so take advantage and leave a good message. Start with your name, then immediately state your phone number. That’s the important part—giving the customer your contact info at the beginning of the message. Then leave the message and end by repeating your phone number and email, if appropriate.
- Responding to Messages: This includes phone, email, social media, and any other messaging app. It’s simple—do it fast! There are different expectations for different modalities, but if you really want to be impressive, respond to your customers—especially their phone messages and emails—“freaky fast.”
- An Apology: When a customer has a complaint, the first thing you want to do is apologize—in the right way. It should be sincere, but beyond that, there must be some acknowledgment of the problem. An empathy statement like, “I’m so sorry. I can understand why you’re upset. I’d be upset if that happened to me,” is a good way to apologize and acknowledge the customer’s problem quickly—in short, a perfect start to resolving the issue.
- Building Rapport: What do customers like to talk about? Themselves! Take a moment to talk about them and their lives, not just business. It can be a five or ten-second interaction, but it helps break the ice. For example, say, “Where are you calling from today?” Or, “I hear a dog barking in the background. What kind of dog do you have?” If you’re talking to a colleague at work, ask about their weekend or their kids. You get the idea. There are many ways to add a little personalization to a conversation.
Now, here’s an idea to make these ideas come to life. Every day throughout the week, focus on just one of these tactics. Have each employee write down one example—just two or three sentences at most—that describes how they used this common-sense customer service tactic with an outside customer or one of their team members. Then, share these with the team.
As I like to say every year, National Customer Service Week is only a week-long, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t practice these tactics—and everything else customer-focused—for the entire year!