Image credit: Customer satisfaction from Shutterstock
by Ian Cowley, managing director of cartridgesave.co.uk
Face facts… it can be hard to maintain a consistently sunny, upbeat persona when dealing with customer enquiries and complaints day in, day out.
However, your front line staff are there to ensure that every time a customer interacts with your business, the experience is good.
And that means a culture of ‘loving the customer’ must be inherent in every successful organisation.
Here our are top tips for creating a customer-friendly culture:
1. Recruit empathetic staff.
Recruitment is critical to the success of a ‘loving the customer’ culture. In 2012 The Journal of Service Research revealed that staff who were empathetic found it easier to manage customer relations, as they were more likely to treat others as you would like to be treated.
Therefore when recruiting, look for traits of high emotional intelligence by asking questions that elicit personality traits and reactions to people-based issues. On the job training can then develop these innate qualities through a programme that challenges staff to see every experience through the customer’s eyes.
If you have to pay that little bit more for the right people, then budget for that. Also, don’t try to hire too many people at the one time. By putting a focus on the customer experience, smarter firms hire one or two people at a time, train them right, pay them right and keep them.
Resisting the temptation to outsource will also benefit the development of a healthy workplace culture towards customers. The customer service function cannot be properly valued if it is operated remotely by an outside agency.
2. Customers who are treated better are more likely to let mistakes slide.
We live in an era where the internet has given every customer the power to potentially make or break a business. Therefore, as business owners, we must empower call handlers and sales staff to make it as easy as possible to be nice to every single customer.
We impose a simple rule: say yes as often as possible. If a customer makes a request and it’s something we’re able to do, we do it.
Think of how much time this has the potential to save you. How often has one of your staff got into a 45 minute ‘discussion’ with a customer about an item that might just cost a fiver?
Even if the debate is over a high-value item, is the price really worth more than the value of a happy customer who comes back to you again, tells their friends about you and reviews you favourably online?
3. Be authentic.
The culture of love for customers is never more important than when something goes wrong. This might be an order that has gone astray or arrived damaged or incomplete. When this situation arises, customers need human contact to get the resolution they need.
For this reason, we avoid scripts for our contact centre employees and never set time limits or targets on each call. The only target that matters is resolving the customer’s query fully, however long it takes.
This is empowers and place trust in your frontline staff. You are giving the responsibility for saying and doing the right thing and work towards a resolution by using their instincts, skills and in-built empathy.
4. Say yes.
Of course, a massive part of resolving any situation is listening fully to the problem that is presented before you. It’s a truism of modern life that many people only contact businesses because something’s gone wrong and they’re angry.
We teach that the quickest way to take the wind from the sails of an angry person on the other end of the phone is by saying yes.
Customers may well have their questions written down, they may have researched trading standards laws or consumer rights to arm them in their battle. So before they even get going, saying ‘yes’ to what they want to diffuse the situation and change the entire direction of the call.
5. Lead from the top.
Line managers and department heads should make time each week to listen to a sample of customer calls. The benefits of this are twofold. First, you get real-time examples of how staff are implementing your culture in their interactions with customers. Second, by listening to customer queries and complaints you can identify ways to improve what you do as a business.
Get these areas right and you’ll be well on the way to having happy customers spreading the word about the good work you are doing.
Ian Cowley is the managing director of the UK’s largest dedicated printer cartridge company – www.cartridgesave.co.uk.