Can you recall the last time you had a bad customer experience? Although it may have been product-related, it was most likely tied to bad customer service.
On a recent trip, I stopped for breakfast at an IHOP. As I walked into the restaurant, I was immediately greeted by the hostess and shown to my table. Shirlay (yes Shirlay, not Shirley) was my waitress. Her customer service was incredible.
She spoke in a very friendly manner, reviewed my options for breakfast, including the specials, took my beverage order and left me with time to make my decision. When she returned, she was equally as friendly and helpful. I ordered from the menu, pancakes of course, and she informed me that I could get the exact same thing for a dollar less from the special that day. I gladly took her up on the offer. She exceeded all of my expectations and when the check arrived, not only did I provide a well-earned tip, I felt compelled to write her a note of thanks. As I was leaving, she stopped me and thanked me for the note. I will be visiting this restaurant again!
Later that day, I checked into my hotel for the evening. When checking in, I asked all of the usual questions. What is the internet code? What time and where is breakfast? Where is the exercise facility? When I asked about the exercise facility, I was informed that it was closed due to renovation. I have stayed in other hotels that have had their exercise room closed for one reason or another and they all offered a pass to a local gym or to a “sister” hotel property. I asked what the options were and she gave no response. I asked the question again and provided a couple of possible responses. Her response was that they did not do that. I told her that when I made the reservation, the site said that they had an exercise room, which was one of the reasons I chose to stay there. Again, no response. As I turned to go to my room, she did inform me that I needed to return my hotel key card upon checkout or that there would be a $2 charge. Needless to say, I will not be staying there, or with this chain again!
Bad customer service can severely hinder the growth of your business. Here are some tips on improving your customer service.
-Commit to excellent customer service. Train your employees on how to deliver a world-class customer experience and treat them in the same manner. Employees tend to treat customers in the same manner they are treated by their employer.
-Ensure employees know your products. We are in the business of providing comfort to customers and this can be accomplished with a variety of products. Know them and be able to describe them effectively.
-Build relationships with the customer. Talk to them about their experiences with your company and the competition. Are they doing something we aren’t? Should we do some things differently? How much will it cost you to lose that customer?
-Treat people with respect and courtesy. I know, we should not even have to say this, but how many times do you hear stories about customers being treated rudely by a service provider? Every time you come in contact with a customer, you make an impression, so make it a positive impression.
-Don’t argue with a customer. Focus on the problem, not who is right and who is wrong. Use your listening skills. If the customer believes you are truly listening, they will appreciate it and calm down.
-Do what you say you will do. We will not always be perfect, but if we say we have an exercise room, we need to have an exercise room. If we say we will be there before noon, we need to be there before noon. If something will prevent you from delivering on a promise, let the customer know right away and try to have an alternative solution.
Continuously train your employees on how to provide excellent service. Make it a part of your daily routine. Role play with them, share success stories and keep them motivated to do their best. Excellent customer service is critical and is the best way to grow your business.
Jeff McLanahan is a seasoned training executive with more than 20 years of proven success with some of the most well-known and highly respected franchise brand. In June 2013, Jeff joined Direct Energy Home Services as the Vice President of Training for Success Academy, the exclusive training partner for the Direct Energy Home Services branded businesses including One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning, Benjamin Franklin – The Punctual Plumber, and Mister Sparky – America’s On Time Electrician. Success Academy, supporting the home services brands of Direct Energy.