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Customer Service Reality Check

CHICAGO — As one who has been on both sides of the relationship, I cannot overstate the importance of a sound customer service program. It represents the very foundation of any organization, small or large.

In most cases, the last company you purchased from is likely to be the company you will purchase from again and again. While I think this process eliminates purchasing best value and the state of the art in most circumstances, it is indeed the rule of the road, no matter what industry.

A routine customer that comes to you for a product doesn’t arrive by accident. This regular purchasing is usually generated through excellent customer service. The adage “care for your customer and they shall return” is true.

Customer service is a team concept that involves everyone in the organization. It is essential to sales growth, and the client must remain the top priority at all times, no matter how large or how small their purchase may be.

No matter who in your organization responds to a client’s question, they must always be professional and address them properly (not by their first name). If your client is a member of the military, always address them by their rank. Using common courtesy—“yes, ma’am” and “yes, sir”—actually goes a long way in earning the respect of a customer. Certainly, if you establish a rapport with them over time, you can adjust this point of courtesy, but be careful.

Customer service is a fast, effective way to market an organization’s programs and products, and many organizations strive to perfect these opportunities. Those that have easily accessible programs, especially ones with a proven track record of providing quality and friendly service, can easily differentiate themselves from others in the marketplace.

There are fast, effective ways to interact with a customer base, organizations have discovered. Many have implemented live chat and other unique website programs that are tailored to meet customer needs. Other organizations have implemented the use of multiple computer screens that allow their customer service teams to virtually and simultaneously handle more than two or three customers who have different needs and requirements. The claim is that productivity increases up to 50% with minimal investment.

Good customer care is important, because keeping existing customers is always an easier task than locating new ones. Satisfied customers accommodate your advertising programs. And most companies find that customers do business with them because of another customer’s recommendation. But likewise, an unhappy customer will spread word of their experience to others in the industry, which can certainly threaten any organizational goals.

Thanking a customer for their order by e-mail, no matter if it’s the first time or the hundredth time, can go a long way. Therefore, using an auto responder may be helpful. Developing professional e-mail templates that can address just about any occurrence, good or bad, is probably the best approach. This helps to foster communications and to maintain a customer database. These messages should always include your organization’s point of contact to facilitate continued communication.

First impressions do count. Nothing frustrates a customer more than waiting for someone to answer them. Or, if someone does answer initially, they are then unable to respond again in a timely fashion; nothing should take more than one business day.

Any organization’s objective should be to provide customer service at the highest standards possible and to attempt to be better each and every day.

The client that likes you is likely to do business with you and to recommend your organization to others.

No matter your position, always ask yourself what you can do to improve the service you provide your customers.

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Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].