Many organizational goals, values, beliefs and missions include statements like, “provide great customer service.” I’ve been thinking a lot about customer service because of some recent, very frustrating experiences as a customer of large for-profit and governmental organizations. I also saw some great customer service. Here’s what I experienced:
- I was misunderstood by employees who repeatedly failed to demonstrate that they had any appreciation for my situation and needs.
- Employees gave me complex information and didn’t ensure I understood what they wanted to communicate, resulting in serious misunderstandings.
- Several times I was told “no,” without being given alternatives or ideas as to what I might do to have my needs met.
- Employees did not respond in a timely manner to my questions and did not apologize for having failed to do so.
- Employees did not follow-through on commitments. They said they would do something, and didn’t. They said something would happene, and it didn’t.
- I was given incorrect instructions by an employee, did what that employee told me to only to discover, from someone else, that what I was told was completely wrong.
So, consider how you treat your customers – the people off the street who come to you for services or products, and the folks in the department down the hall who rely on you to process their paperwork. To ensure you don’t commit the above blunders, do what those who provided great customer service to me in these last weeks did so well:
- Be sure you understand the customer’s needs: restate what your customer says she needs in your words and check with her to ensure you understood correctly.
- Be sure you effectively communicate what you mean in a way the customer hears. Check for understanding after giving someone instructions by asking him to tell you what he heard. Don’t ask, “Do you understand?” He may well answer affirmatively thinking he understood when he didn’t get what you were saying at all.
- Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Keep in touch. Report on progress – even if it’s to say, “I’m still working on it, but don’t have an answer yet.” Then, deliver a consistent and caring message.
- Demonstrate respect, empathy and caring by listening actively for content and feelings, and being timely in all responses.
- Do what you say you’re going to do. If something comes up and you can’t, apologize and let your customer know what’s going on in a timely way. Then talk with her about alternatives and what you’ll do for her instead of what you had originally intended.
- Give accurate information. Check your facts and procedures before informing a customer of them.
Doing these things will go a long way to ensure that you’re providing GREAT customer service to your external and internal customers.
Got tips for great customer service? Share them! ~Daphne Schneider