October 7th, 2019 begins Customer Service Week, a time to celebrate the great customer service you provide and an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of it. Customer service isn’t just you and a buying customer. Even if you don’t have any contact with your company’s clients, or the general buying public, you still have customers. For example, the customers of the Human Resources department are fellow employees at the company. The customers on a factory line are the people at the next station down the line. The customers for the custodian are the people whose areas are cleaned.
We all have “customers” to serve, but how did it become this way and how do we serve them properly to get proper service back?
Customer Service Week is actually an international celebration. In 1992, the U.S. Congress proclaimed that it would be celebrated annually during the first full week in October. From the proclamation:
In a thriving free enterprise system such as ours, which provides consumers with a wide range of goods and services from which to choose, the most successful businesses are those that display a strong commitment to customer satisfaction. Today foreign competition as well as consumer demands are requiring greater corporate efficiency and productivity. If the United States is to remain a leader in the changing global economy, highest quality customer service must be a personal goal of every employee in business and industry.
A business built on customer service understands and anticipates the customer’s needs. It designs goods and services to meet those needs and builds products that perform to customer expectations. It then packages them carefully, labels them correctly, sells them at a fair price, delivers them as scheduled, and follows up, as necessary, to satisfy the customer. This kind of commitment to service leads to customer loyalty and to genuine improvements at the bottom line.
TIPS EVERYONE CAN USE
Most customer service advice is geared toward external customers. But there are some tips everyone can use, regardless of who their customers are:
- Do a good job – correctly: The most important service you can provide to your customers is to do a good job and do it correctly and timely. Don’t skip steps, or think that a problem you notice will be handled by someone else. When you see something that needs to be done, do it.
- Actively listen: Too often, when in a conversation, we’re thinking about what we will say next, instead of focusing on what the other person is saying. Learning to actively listen means that you go into each conversation with the goal of learning something and truly listening to what the other person has to say. When the other person is finished, think about what was said and paraphrase it to be sure you’ve accurately understood the point. (This helps in personal relationships outside of work, too!)
- Empathize and be patient: Empathy is the ability to understand what another person is feeling. Basically, you want to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and ask yourself how you would feel if you were in the same position. You’re trying to see the problem or issue through their eyes in order to truly know what the other person is going through. Also, be patient as the other person describes the issue. Don’t rush unnecessarily just to be finished with the conversation. Give the other person time to make their point. Sometimes, the customer just needs someone to listen and understand.
- Communicate clearly and succinctly: Make sure what you say is clear and that the other person can understand the words and terms you use. Jargon is okay if you’re all familiar with the terms specific to your area or task, but remember that not all your customers may know industry-specific, or even department-specific terms and phrases. Also, since you’re providing the service to the other person, be sure to ask, “Is there anything else you need?” This lets the other person know that you are willing to take extra steps, or help in another way, if there is a need.
- Say thank you: It’s always important to thank your customers for being your customer and for buying your product. It’s also important to thank your internal customers, whether they’re notifying you of an issue down the line, or how something you do impacts them. You should truly be appreciative of the feedback they give you and see it as an opportunity for improvement.
IT’S EVERYONE’S JOB
It’s also important to remember that customer service is everyone’s job. No matter who your customer is, or whether you see or interact with your company’s external customers, every individual thing done in a company contributes to the overall customer experience.
This doesn’t mean that the janitor should be answering sales calls, but it does mean that the janitor should understand how providing a clean working area contributes to the overall product the company is providing. For example, if a company’s restrooms are dirty and trash cans are overflowing, will the customer have a negative or positive impression?
Jan Carlzon, the former CEO of Scandinavia Air, said it best: “If you’re not serving the customer, your job is to be serving someone who is.”
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CUSTOMER SERVICE WEEK
Providing good customer service isn’t just for Customer Service Week. But it is a good time to stop and reflect on the service you are providing to each of your customers.
It’s also a time to thank those who see you as a customer – whether it’s the girl at the McDonald’s drive through who recognizes you and greets you with a smile when you get your morning coffee, or the cleaning staff who empty your garbage cans.
As you think about how you can up your customer service game, be sure to recognize those who provide you with great customer service.