It seems simple doesn’t it? Simply ask your clients and customers what they want. Getting customer feedback on every purchase and every inquiry is an excellent practice. If you care about what the customer wants, you have to ask. But, believe it or not, the next part is more important. After you have asked please remember to:
Listen to the answer – Don’t assume you already know what they want, or even what happened. Don’t interrupt a customer when they are explaining something. Fortunately, with online customer service that has not escalated to the telephone, you have to “listen” to the issues since your customer is typing a response. But, the important thing is to really read it.
Repeat what they said in your own words – Then repeat what you think they have told you, and ask leading questions which need more than a yes or no answer. Truly concentrate on what the customer is saying. Remember that their language may not be the technical jargon you’re used to, so try to realize that when reading their initial issue, question or complaint.
Listen fully to what the customer is saying – You can’t solve any problems without knowing and understanding all the issues. Remember, even if you are completely accurate, their view is different from yours and it’s important for you to listen very carefully. Oftentimes the customer will give you the keys to making them satisfied with the outcome if only you listen to what they say.
Solve the customer’s problem – Once you feel confident that you’ve received all the answers you need from the client, again repeat back to the customer what you thought they said, and then offer a solution that will solve the problem. If you’ve listened carefully enough, your solution will be something they mentioned during the inquiry process.
Customers love giving feedback when they feel like they’re getting something out of it. Send them a survey using a product like SurveyMonkey.com or create a questionnaire using Google Drive Forms and Spreadsheets. Send different surveys to each client based on the service performed or the product purchased. Then offer them a discount or free gift for participating and being honest.
Special Care of the Angry or Irate Customer
It happens. You offer a great product, but something happened to make the customer angry or even irate. Sometimes this is truly your own fault, but sometimes it’s not. However, it is your problem now that you have an angry and/or irate customer. Believe it or not, you can turn this around too. It’s a matter of remembering to:
- Be Positive – Don’t use trigger words such as can’t, won’t or should. Phrase everything you say in a positive way. Use words such as, can, will, absolutely and definitely. Don’t ever make the customer feel like you don’t believe them or that something is their fault.
- Apologize — Even if you don’t think it’s your company’s fault, it’s important to apologize to the client anyway. “I’m so sorry you feel this way,” is a good way to apologize without taking the blame. However, if it was truly your fault, own up to it and apologize profusely.
- Empathize – Put yourself in their shoes. Try stating, “I certainly understand; that would upset me too.” Then, move on toward getting answers that can help you solve the customer’s complaint to their satisfaction. You can empathize without being emotional. While it is personal to them, or they would not be irate, this is business and you should not take anything they say personally.
- Listen – Even if you’re reading a complaint rather than listening on the telephone, take special care to really hear what the customer is saying between the negative words. If you have to, cut and paste what they are saying in a separate document, add in appropriate spaces, take out curse words, and find out what is really the issue by eliminating the extraneous information. If you need to, escalate the issue and call the customer. Phones can be very humanizing.
- Start Small – Once you’ve determined the root problems, take small steps toward rectifying the problems one at a time. If you have to, ask the customer what you can do to make it better. If it’s possible to solve the problem in the manner the customer desires, do it. If not, offer to meet in the middle.
- Draw the Line – Know when to give up. Yes, there are times with some customers that it’s better to simply give up. If you’ve done all the things that you can above, and they’re still irate and have not calmed down, it’s time to consider letting the customer go. Not every customer is going to fit with your vision and that is okay. Calmly return their money, and send them on their way.
While you need to treat the customer as if they’re always right, you don’t have to be abused or walked on. Try to do the right thing, and then move on.
What Do Customers Expect Anyway?
Mary Kay Ash of Mary Kay Cosmetics said about customer service once, “Imagine that every customer is holding up a sign that says, Make me feel important.“ When you get that this is all a customer wants, customer service becomes fun and challenging.
If you can demonstrate the following to your customers, they will stay happy.
- Reliability — Do what you say you will do when you said you’d do it.
- Responsiveness — Answer all tickets within the time frame you said, and at least within 48 hours.
- Value — Your customers want to feel as if you value them as important and they want the products they purchase to be valuable.
- Empathy — Put yourself in their shoes.
- Competency — Show that you know your business.
You want your customer service to always make the customer feel that not only was their problem solved but also that they are better off now than they were before purchasing your product. By keeping in contact with customers before, during and after purchase you’ll eliminate a lot of problems from the get go, because your customer will already feel as if you meet all of the above standards.